APS: On the hot seat this week over open meetings and SACS concerns

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.

According to the AJC:

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.

According to the Dallas Morning News:

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

74 comments Add your comment

catlady

July 25th, 2011
9:28 pm

Why isn’t the Gov on the hotseat about calling the closed meeting, thus enticing the board to break the law?

Maureen Downey

July 25th, 2011
9:34 pm

@Catlady, Good question. Along with Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was also there to meet with Superintendent Beverly Hall and APS board members.

FBT

July 25th, 2011
9:39 pm

It just gets more ridiculous by the minute.

Another Mom

July 25th, 2011
9:40 pm

@catlady and Maureen – My thoughts exactly!

Greg

July 25th, 2011
9:40 pm

Once again the focus is on the board and not the children. I’ve repeatedly called upon the parents of APS elementary schools to file a class action suit. This is the only way an image concious establishment will address the real issues. Your tax dollars were stolen based upon a false premise and the only thing that will get the attention of the power structure is a lawsuit. The dog and pony show must end immediately and there is only one way to end it.

Atlanta mom

July 25th, 2011
9:54 pm

Maureen
“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)”

Where is this meeting being held and is it open to the public?

catlady

July 25th, 2011
10:01 pm

I just thought there was a law against enticing other people to break a law. I know our BOE members apparently check with each other about anywhere they might go and all be together. I suspect they even check to see if a quorum is going to the Baptist Church’s special Easter program that 70% of the churchgoing public attends! I’m pretty sure they don’t all come to graduation.

Casandra Johnson

July 25th, 2011
10:19 pm

@Atlanta mom – Yes, State Board of Education meetings are opened to the public, as I have attended them in the past. They are held in the twin towers building directly across from the State Capital building. Address is 2070 Twin Towers East, 205 Jesse Hill Drive SE, Atlanta, GA 30334. I encourage you and other parents to go if you can.

Casandra Johnson

July 25th, 2011
10:29 pm

This is clearly a story of the corrupt fighting against the corrupt, and it’s the children who are suffering as a result. Woe to Atlanta-God is not pleased and His judgment against this wicked and perverse city has only just begun!

Dr. John Trotter

July 25th, 2011
10:44 pm

I stated on this blog at the time that the meeting in the Governor’s Office was illegal, but I also said at the time that the Governor and “the Big Boys” must think that the law applies to everyone else and only to them when it is convenient.

SACS’s Mark Elgart, school board attorney Glenn Brock, and then State Board members James Bostic and Brad Bryant met illegally with the Clayton County School Board members behind closed doors.

Erroll Davis and the Atlanta Board of Education will violate OCGA 20-2-940(g). Mark my words. This law is simply not convenient to them. Will SACS, the Governor, or the State Attorneys General give a hoot about this violation? From what has already been said in the media, I KNOW that this fundamental due process provision will be violated.

I have been predicting Erroll Davis’s and the Atlanta Board’s violation of the accused’s due process right for the last two weeks.

http://www.georgiateachersspeakout.com

Dr. John Trotter

July 25th, 2011
10:49 pm

What about the Cobb County Board of Education? Fifty-seven (57) illegal board meetings. Admitted. Oh, I forgot. Doesn’t Glenn Brock work closely with Mark Elgart? What does SACS stand for? Surely Ain’t Committed to Standards (SACS)?

David Sims

July 25th, 2011
10:50 pm

Why is it that the governor of Georgia believes that he can choose whether or not to obey Georgia’s laws? If a closed meeting is illegal, then is holding one a misdemeanor or a felony? (Does he run stop signs too?) What did Deal expect to gain by holding a closed meeting? Since we didn’t hear the meeting ourselves, we don’t even know whether his intentions were good.

Curious One

July 25th, 2011
11:03 pm

APS, AG, Egghead and Brock and Clay – now that group can’t be up anything legal or righteous ! Bet the students will be the losers !

Dr. John Trotter

July 25th, 2011
11:05 pm

I will laugh big time if ole Glenn Brock is put in charge of “training” Atlanta School Board members! Ha! (I see that he was conferring with a State Attorney General at this big meeting. Follow the money, folks. Follow the money. This is about money,not the children.) His firm seems to get it wrong constantly for screwing up things up in Cobb County. Even recently his firm was again castigated by the Marietta Daily Journal for apparently giving the wrong advice to board members about whether the school board had to disclose names of administrators on whom they were voting in personnel action items. Again, I repeat…the Cobb County Board of Education admitted in the last year or two that it had violated the Open Meetings Law 57 times over the course of the last few years.

Glenn Brock is the principal partner, along with Chuck Clay, of this law firm. Putting a single nickel into the coffers of Brock, Clayton, Calhoun, and Rodgers to train the Atlanta School Board members will be a wasted nickel. Would you hire Pete Rose to lecture the players against gambling? Glenn Brock and the gentlemen stated above met illegally with the Clayton Board of Education. When Brock was either forced out or volunatarily resigned down in Clayton County as school board attorney (depending on whom you believe), the next day he blasted the entire Clayton County Board of Education (including headlines in the AJC) in the media. Hmm. It seems to me that this might be a violation of the Bar’s Code of Ethics. Can a lawyer even do this if he is terminated or resigns from being the attorney of a person accused of murder? Hmm. I don’t know.

Dr. John Trotter

July 25th, 2011
11:07 pm

Who died and made Glenn Brock the expert on school law? Ha! What a schemer! He needs to stay up there by the Big Chicken!

Sharon Pitts must Go

July 25th, 2011
11:32 pm

Like it or not, Trotter is and was right this time… I remember reading his warning

Maureen Downey

July 25th, 2011
11:33 pm

@mom, It is being held in the state board offices, which are in the Sloppy Floyd building across from the Capitol.
It is a public meeting.
State Board of Education 2070 Twin Towers East
Atlanta, Georgia

Sharon Pitts must Go

July 25th, 2011
11:36 pm

wasn’t this the same meeting that mayor reed said that he wouldn’t support any superintendent candidate that the board selected if Kashim El was still the board chair????
the mayor is a bully and needs to apologize to El

Steve Perry on CNN says

July 26th, 2011
12:01 am

The only folks who get fired for breaking the law—-drum roll—-the TEACHERS!

Erroll Davis “does not” admit nor reject guilt for the BOE but promises not to do it again!!! ……Give the teachers that option also

Dr. John Trotter

July 26th, 2011
12:04 am

@ Sharon Pitts must Go: All modesty aside (besides, it gets in the way! Ha!), I’ve been right on a number of things. In fact, WHAT things on this blog have I been WRONG on? Really. Which ones?

Let’s see now…Right on Beverly Hall. Right on Systematic Cheating in Atlanta and DeKalb (very public on this). Right on corruption to the core — in fact, called both publicly in several media, “Gangsta School Systems.” This was done long before the traditional media got involved. Right on Mark Elgart and SACS. Phony as can be. SACS stands for Surely Ain’t Committed to Standards, right? Right about the Chamber of Commerce/Piedmont Driving Club folk running the show in Atlanta and propping up Hall. Right about Edmond Heatley being an educational disaster in Clayton County even before he left Chino Valley, California. I will be proven right about Michael Hinojosa in Cobb. Just wait and see. I am also right on Glenn Brock. I think that his firm is terrible on transparency. I think that his firm is also wrong on its apparent advice to school boards on the Complaints Law (O.C.G.A. 20-2-989.5). Hey, don’t forget Michelle Rhee. It appears that I was right all along about this Educational Hypocrite too.

Now I wasn’t just right about these people. I was talking openly about them and their actions or lack of actions long before the rest of the public chimed in. But, hey, who’s keeping score?

I am right that most of the hoopla in public education these days is about money. The Educational Industrial Complex involves billions of dollars, and Big Business now sees clearly that there is big money to be made off the largess of the public’s budgets for school systems. Public education has become a racket. It is sad. But, it is ever so true. If the business magnates and foundations and educrats would forget about the money and just let teachers teach (and support the teachers when it comes to defiant and disruptive students), then we would go a long way in solving so much of the mess in the public schooling process. But, this may not be what the business magnates want. It seems that they can make more money when there is a mess. All of tinkering from Bill and Melinda Gates and Eli and Edyth Broad and the Walton Family and the Federal Government (and in many instances, the State Government) have made the public schooling process in the United States even worse. Tell me one problem that this tinkering has resolved. Just one, OK?

Chris

July 26th, 2011
12:30 am

I wholeheartedly agree with your point about the racket of education. It has become a billion dollar industry and we are only getting pennies on the dollar of our tax money funneled back to the local level.

Go Panthers!

July 26th, 2011
1:14 am

Ok. Did anybody else just deduce the same thing that I did? The BOE just voted to have a November special election to fill the seat that is currently vacant, BUT they could all be recommended for removal within 15 days from tomorrow’s hearing and their seats vacated by termination by Deal? Hence, they just agreed to a special election to elect their successors after they possibly get fired?

Karma is a mighty big…trick.

@ Maureen: Am I interpreting this correctly?

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

July 26th, 2011
2:08 am

Dr. John,

Sounds like Mr. Brock considers himself above the fray and the law. Is such a perspective unique to schoolboard attorneys? We have one in our part of the state who must be blood-kin to Brock. Of course, both are laughing at taxpayers expense all the way to their respective banks.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

July 26th, 2011
2:10 am

OOPS: taxpayers’ not taxpayers.

RWPatrick

July 26th, 2011
2:34 am

What mendacity? Pervarication? Folly? Since money talks and might makes right, just
follow the money and the mighty hand that has it. There lies the end of the rainbow of
deception and deceit. It is about the children. Come on. Take your head out of the sand.
What children? What an after throught? It is about the money! It is about the power and
control! Caesar demands both!

Elizabeth

July 26th, 2011
6:07 am

I have tried not to comment too much on the APS cheating debacle because it has all been said. However, 3 vents in the AJC this morning made me decide to write this. The first stated that the Washington politicians “learned their math skills” in APS schools. The second suggested that those parents who are upset about it “spend the day in their child’s classroom and see what the teachers have to deal with every day”. The third said that “teachers cheated so your little darlings could make AYP”.

The sad truth is that the ones who cheated– teachers, administrators, etc., have caused every teacher in this state, if not the nation, to be placed under a blinding light that will not fade for many years. Most teachers do not cheat, nor do most administrators. Yet education, already under fire form all sorts of pressures, is now in a place where every success or failure is going to be questioned. Now teachers will not only have to prove that they did all they could to help students learn, they will also have to prove that these gains were made legitimately. Schools under pressure to do what no other profession is required to do– have 100 per cent success with every client every day– will now be under even more pressure.

Doctors are not required to heal every patient. Lawyers are not required to win every case. Chipper Jones is not required to hit a home run every time he comes to bat. Yet schools are expected make every child meet an arbitrary and impossible goal– make every student be on “grade level” using an arbitrary and inflexible standardized test. ONE test. One at bat. One trial. One miracle cure .Everyone knows it can’t be done. Everyone knows it is not that easy. But no one listens.

So we begin another school year as teachers go back to work this week in my system (not APS).
Pray for all the educators who did, and continue to do, the right thing , not the wrong thing. Pray for the ones for whom cheating is not an option and who will have to do even more to prove that they really do TEACH, not CHEAT. Most of us work long hours and agonize over our students ( not just their test scores) every day. I for one do not know if I can take any more pressure. I know that there are many like me. We do the best we can to teach the children under conditions that no doctor, lawyer, or ballplayer would tolerate for five minutes. We need support, not blanket condemnation. I wish I thought we would get it.

Carla

July 26th, 2011
6:53 am

Removal of the current APS school board will allow healing to begin in this broken system. The members have failed the students, taxpayers, and violated the law. Public trust has been damaged and the lives of many students damaged. The focus should be on restoring public trust and critical process changes that will make education and students a priority. I am appalled that the members would not follow Mr. El and voluntarily step down for the good of the students that they let down.

JB

July 26th, 2011
7:03 am

At this point, why don’t we just dissolve the Atlanta Public Schools system and absorb everyone into the respective counties that they are in? Is there really a need for a separate school system? I know people don’t care for Fulton County much, but you have to admit, they aren’t currently having all of these issues.

Dondee

July 26th, 2011
7:05 am

@Elizabeth…well said. And for any of us teachers who are in systems that signed up for RTTT funds, we can know be thrilled to know that our pay will be linked to our student achievement. Not saying that I do not expect all of my students to make gains throughout the year, because I do. However, with the nature of humans and all the baggage they bring to school, some are going to achieve more than others. I am not a miracle worker, just a teacher, who does want every child in my class to succeed to the best of his/her ability.

Dondee

July 26th, 2011
7:06 am

now be thrilled….brain not in gear, yet!

Mandy

July 26th, 2011
7:20 am

They need to fire the whole board and start fresh with new people. Hands down. I talked to a friend that said cheating has been going on for years. That when she was in school teachers and other educators cheated to keep schools opened. Then it got out of hand for the all mighty dollar.

Matthew

July 26th, 2011
7:26 am

Kasim Reed is a bully and he ran Khaatim El out of town for daring to ask questions of Dr. Hall. Reed’s shady ways will catch up with him very soon.

Dr NO

July 26th, 2011
7:45 am

You can attempt to drag Deal and Kasim in this all you want but that ole “bait and switch” routine doesnt play this time. Also Im sure many will cry out in anguish…”SACS, its SACS fault” and that too is laughable.

One thing for sure, that keeps getting mentioned is “its cultural.” I have no doubt thats is one fact here that is fact.

Check Philly!! They are uncovering cheating issues there now. LMAO!!

Just keeps getting better and better.

Watch And LEARN!!!

Dr NO

July 26th, 2011
7:47 am

JB

July 26th, 2011
7:03 am

Best idea yet. APS is nothing more than a group of “hip hop showboats”. All flash no substance. All styling and profilin.

Dr NO

July 26th, 2011
7:49 am

“Woe to Atlanta-God is not pleased and His judgment against this wicked and perverse city has only just begun!”

Glad I dont live in the Atlant HellHole…lol.

Sharon Pitts must Go

July 26th, 2011
7:55 am

ok Trotter…I am slowly becoming a convert

Doris M

July 26th, 2011
8:04 am

I wholeheartedly agree with statements made by John Trotter. Education is a BIG business. And truly, you’ve got to follow the money. Another blogger advised that APS should be incorporated into Fulton County Schools; that might make more sense to taxpayers.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

July 26th, 2011
9:13 am

Sharon Pitts must go,

Our kids, schools, communities and state would be better off if a majority of our public school teachers were converted to The Education Gospel According to Dr. John.

Kira Willis

July 26th, 2011
9:20 am

I think that we would all be better off if we separated ourselves from the US DOE. The strings that come with the money far outweigh the money.

APS Parent #2

July 26th, 2011
9:33 am

With all due respect Dr. Trotter, there are many of us who have seen through the APS veil of secrecy for some time. Go back and read my posts.

The AJC uncovered the cheating in late 2008. The board took their seats under “seasoned” leadership of Butler-Burks and Harsh-Kinnane, Dr. Hall’s chosen stoolies. Everything that happened with the board, the CRCT investigation, SACS’ involvement, the Mayor’s involvement, the StepUp parent group pressure against the 5 and the concerted ethics complaints against “select board members” – all of it is related to the Chamber of Commerce & Atlanta business community’s relationship with Dr. Hall and control of the system through the 4 board members. (I still would like to know who paid for the lawyers of the 4 to initiate the lawsuit against the 5!! Follow the money.)

Remember the recording of Dr. Augustine that “select” parents would be called in to help “erase” board members? Those parents would be APS loyalists. I think we should ask Harsh-Kinanne who among the StepUp crowd are her friends, I think we should also ask the Grady High School principal who among that group got favors from Dr. Augustine over the years so that when Dr. Augustine called her parent hitmob in they would respond so ruthlessly using their contacts in the press and the Grady mother who works in the Mayor’s office.

APS is a public school. Unfortunately, over the past 11 years, it did not operate first and foremost as a school. It became about developing and marketing efforts of the business community and Dr. Hall and personal members of her staff. Short cuts were taken for the high glossy brochures and the pr value of large grant funds.

With the help and support of Atlanta business, the Atlanta political machine and APS parents who were well-connected to the press, APS decided it was above the law and did not need to comply with any of it. If they needed an opinion, then they also had the Attorney General in their pocket to cause chaos and confusion.

Fortunately for the vast majority of APS students, teachers, staff and parents who were NOT part of the APS mob machine, THE OFFICIALS WHO ARE STATE-ELECTED – the Governor, the State’s Attorney General and the Georgia Department of Education – SAVED THE DAY.

For those of you who continue to want Mayor Reed to appoint the ABOE replacements if they are booted, please keep in mind what his mission was when he met behind closed doors with the board members and the Governor. Atlanta big business had a noose around Reed’s neck and told him he better “fix” the board and get them to do what they wanted (which was to replace El and disarm the 5 votes they could not control). Reed did as he was asked with NO regard to the children.

But for the state report, the Atlanta officials and business community would likely have gotten away with sweeping the CRCT mess under the rug. SACS was just part of their strategy. It really doesn’t matter who sits on the board as long as the business community learns they are to blame for the educational mess of our students and the international embarrassment of our educational system.

APS Parent #2

July 26th, 2011
9:43 am

I only say it doesn’t matter who sits on ABE because I fear the Chamber and business claws are too deeply imbedded in the public works contracts.

This really is no different than mobs being entrenched into sanitation contracts up north or in transportation contracts. People die and are killed for money all of the time, so I guess this could be worse because I don’t think that there have been any APS killings yet.

In an ideal world, it would be great though to have board members act as a board and be the balance to the superintendent. Vetting reforms before they are put in place and then doing benchmarks and analysis to see if reforms are working. APS is flash and show with their reforms.

Take a look at the high schools on the list and you’ll see that if the AJC wants to uncover more APS mess, then it needs to head out of the CRCT mess in grades K-8 and up to high school. They’ve danced around the issues, but haven’t done their full investigation.

Does anyone really think APS was dysfunctionally run only on the bottom layers of their foundation? Because the problems are in the foundation, then the top floors built on this foundation should be falling too.

If we are taking the time to fix the system, then let’s take the time to fix all of the problems.

@APS Parent #2

July 26th, 2011
9:48 am

Amen.

Kasim Reed, the Business Community and SACS were all content with acting like the cheating tragedy never happened. The Mayor gave Beverly Hall complete power over the schools and ran Khaatim El out of town when we refused to carry the Chamber’s water.

PJ

July 26th, 2011
9:50 am

For every official who steps down/is removed from his/her position, there is another waiting in the wings who believes he can step in and reap the same or better financial benefits despite what happened to his predecessor. It will be up to those who truly, truly care about what happens to children and their/our futures to guarantee that this doesn’t happen. Keep fixing it until it doesn’t need fixing anymore.

APS Parent #2

July 26th, 2011
10:09 am

Enter your comments here

APS Parent #2

July 26th, 2011
10:15 am

Those who truly care must include at the forefront the parents.

The struggles differ in the various parts of the city. The northside parents have more time to focus on the educational matters in their schools because for the most part they are living in safe situations without gang influences or daily violence. When they get home at night, they will have food on the table, resources for their children and a routine.

Many southside parents have some of this mix, but most don’t to the same level. When you are unemployed, living with government assistance, in unsafe neighborhoods with gangs, your daily focus is on getting your kids to a safe place first with education perhaps being the benefit.

APS needs to do its job and deliver a good education for all children. The education a child receives should not depend on the circumstances of what kind of parent/family the chiild lives with. Haven’t we learned anything from all of the movies and documentaries that have been made about this? Waiting for Superman for example.

How about waiting for teaching and learning in the form of a qualified teacher who is supported by his or her parents and his or her administration without fear of retatiation?

BCR

July 26th, 2011
10:17 am

The voters in these districts keep electing these incompetents. Until each parent/citizen takes personal responsibility to become informed and involved, nothing will ever change. Sadly, too many elections are popularity contests.

catlady

July 26th, 2011
10:18 am

It’s sad that that system in Texas might be the only one with the (testicular fortitude)
to put the kabosh on Ms. Augustine. Here in Atlanta, where she wronged so many adults and children, we seem content to sit on our hands. Why is that? Will the folks who have adored B Hall in Washington and elsewhere call her to accounts? Will anyone in Georgia?

Will the Attorney General investigate the Governor’s office for calling an illegal meeting (or, rather, demanding that the APS board have an illegal meeting in his office?)

When will the AG move on indictments for RICO, perjury, and theft against those named in the Bowers report?

When will the C of C cabal be called to account for the same?

Teachers are always held accountable for everything. Past high time for some of the others to be hauled into judgement as well!

catlady

July 26th, 2011
10:21 am

And anyone surprised this morning by the limp-wristed response by the state BOE? “We’ll give you one more chance, one more chance, one MORE chance. Please?”

joe

July 26th, 2011
10:29 am

How these people got to keep their jobs is a travishamockery. Nothing like inmates running the asylum…

Trotter is ..... RIGHT?

July 26th, 2011
10:31 am

Though he’s usually full of bluster (and himself), Trotter is spot on with his assessment of Brock and SACS.

Why is NO ONE pressing SACS on its decision to basically IGNORE the dysfunctional situation with the Cobb County School Board??

As a Black man, I literally cringe when I hear and read other African Americans attaching race to a situation without merit. HOWEVER, though I don’t know if race has anything to do with SACS’s inactivity in Cobb County, it certainly does beg the question and adds fuel to the fire of those who believe that race does indeed play a role here.

Unfortunately, unless Gov. Deal steps in (and I highly doubt that he will), only the MEDIA can hold SACS’s feet to the fire in Cobb County.