On the day before the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education faces a state hearing, the Georgia attorney general sanctioned members for open records violations and announced plans to monitor the group over the next year to assure compliance.
The extraordinary oversight agreed to by the board stems from a series of complaints from city residents and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about both the board and the administration of ex-schools chief Beverly Hall.
State investigators earlier this month released a searing report that said Hall ignored a culture of cover-ups and obstruction that blossomed during her 12-year tenure. It also detailed extensive cheating by educators on state tests.
Among the most serious of the public records violations, investigators said Hall — who left the system June 30 — and former Deputy Superintendent Kathy Augustine illegally suppressed a report by a testing expert last year that largely confirmed an AJC analysis that suggested test cheating occurred. The district withheld that report from the media and public.
Among the most serious of the open meetings violations happened in April,when Gov. Nathan Deal summoned the board, Hall and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to the Capitol for a private meeting. It came on the heels of Deal signing legislation giving him the power to remove board members if they did not make sufficient progress by midsummer toward regaining full accreditation.
The meeting was held despite objections from the AJC that the Georgia Open Meetings Act requires such meetings to be open to the public, because a quorum of the board was present. Senate Democratic whip Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, also filed a formal complaint with the attorney general.
(I do have to note that the governor’s office also did not seem inclined to open that meeting to the public.)
In other APS news:
–The board called for a special election Nov. 8 to fill the seat vacated earlier this month by former Chairman Khaatim Sherrer El who is moving to New Jersey for a job.
–District officials said 41 of the 179 educators suspected of cheating have vacated their positions. They plan to move ahead with termination proceedings against the rest.
–The 13-member state Board of Education starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday will hold a courtroom-style one-day hearing on whether to recommend their removal for running afoul of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the primary accrediting agency in Georgia. An immediate ruling is not expected. The state board has 15 days to make a recommendation to Deal, who by law makes the final decision.
–In Texas, the Board of Trustees of DeSoto Independent School District is meeting now to discuss a possible voluntary exit agreement with Kathy Augustine, a former APS deputy superintendent. Augustine spent only one day at work in her new post before the DeSoto school board placed her on leave with pay while they researched her involvement in cheating on state exams at APS.
Board members will discuss a “voluntary exit agreement” behind closed doors during tonight’s DeSoto ISD board meeting. Augustine has been on paid leave for two weeks as fallout from a report detailing a yearlong state of Georgia investigation found she served as second-in-command in Atlanta schools during pervasive cheating. According to Monday’s board agenda, trustees will discuss with district legal counsel issues “concerning Superintendent’s employment and possible voluntary exit agreement, and duties and responsibilities of Acting Superintendent.”
UPDATE Tuesday morning: The DeSoto board took no action because only four of the board’s seven members attended the meeting. So, Augustine remains on leave, pending the board’s action.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled