UPDATED Saturday with a comment from principal:
Atlanta Public Schools ousted North Atlanta High School interim principal Mark MyGrant — enticed out of retirement by APS to run the school for three months until a permanent leader could be hired — in dramatic fashion Friday afternoon.
Not only is MyGrant gone, but APS replaced the entire leadership team at the Buckhead high school, reassigning them throughout the system.
In a 30 minute telephone interview today, MyGrant detailed Friday’s events:
Deputy Superintendent Karen Waldon and the interim HR director, accompanied by APS security officers, showed up at the high school at dismissal Friday, intercepting MyGrant as he was about to make the end-of-the day bus announcements. He said he was told to pack and leave North Atlanta High School immediately.
Teachers were assembled and then told that the entire administrative team and the heads of the Small Learning Communities — specialized areas of student interest including arts, journalism, international business and international relations — were being reassigned.
“I was at work when Karen Walden and the interim HR director came in and informed me that my services were no longer needed. I asked if I should move the buses and they told me ‘no,’ that I should leave right now,” said MyGrant. “They started bringing in loads of security and the transition team and they called the teachers to the auditorium. I just gathered my things — l didn’t have much because I had already cleaned out my office when I retired in June.
“Within 15 or 20 minutes, I was done,” said MyGrant. “They didn’t walk me out. Security may have been waiting to walk me out, but I walked out the back door, got in my my car and and went. I would have been happy to leave any time. I was retired. They had announced a new principal. They did not need to do it this way.”
MyGrant is willing to talk about what happened because he wants to clear not only his name, but those of all the educators reassigned Friday. (No word yet from APS.)
“I would be happy to ride off into the sunset. But with all these administrators, hardworking administrators, being reassigned, people are going to say ‘God, there must have been something really corrupt there.’ I owe it to them and myself to let people know there wasn’t anything.”
Meeting with his attorney later today, MyGrant is prepared to present evidence that this episode grew out of what he considers politically motivated and baseless allegations that two of his recommended hires – a graduation coach and English teacher — were racists. “I feel when the community gets the information that I am prepared to present, they will demand the educators who were reassigned be brought back,” he said.
“Regardless of what anyone thinks of my leadership, many other hard working educators were treated unfairly yesterday. Including Melissa Gautreaux, Reginald Colbert, Laura Brazil and John Denine. I was very excited in June to retire and had some exciting plans, which I put on hold after being contacted by APS three times to return. This followed a very botched first attempt to hire a principal in June. In the meantime, students will return to school next week after a fall break to celebrate NAHS Homecoming. This group of kids is a terrific mix of students from all walks of life and are led by a hardworking group of teachers. I wish them all the best.”
He detailed the history of the allegations in an email:
In August I was contacted by Deputy Superintendent Karen Waldon on 3 separate occasions reporting anonymous allegations alleging that I was planning to fire a employee leaving for maternity leave, and was hiring two new teachers that were “racist.” I did all I could do to investigate these claims with the very limited information I received, but one of the teachers never got processed and the one that signed a contract and is currently working has never been approved by the board. Her name was taken off the gains report in August and didn’t return in September or October. I tried for weeks to get answers from the very top on down, but was completely stonewalled. In September, my attorney sent an email to Errol Davis detailing my concerns and asking about the investigation. Later in September, I received from Davis a letter informing me that I was not part of any investigation. An open records request was sent to APS last week from one of the teachers in question. I was asked to submit documents related to this case and prepared approximately 25 documents.
MyGrant retired in June from North Atlanta but was asked by APS to return to oversee the school until the end of October when a permanent principal would take over. Prior to his retirement, MyGrant led North Atlanta for five years and Sutton Middle school for 10. He was a well respected principal in the Buckhead community.
A letter on the North Atlanta High site from APS school chief Erroll B. Davis offers parents no explanation for the sudden removal of MyGrant and the mass reassignment of school leaders, saying only that the high school underwent a “total leadership transition.”
The letter lacks the obligatory expression of gratitude to MyGrant for serving as interim, clearly indicating that this was not a pleasant parting. (You can read the letter and a news story on the high school’s newspaper, the Northerner online.)
Davis says the former principal of Sarah Smith Elementary, Sid Baker, will run the show until the new North Atlanta principal, Howard Taylor of Gwinnett, officially takes command on Oct. 29. Davis also lists eight other “transition” academy leaders and a transition assistant principal.
The dramatic removal of MyGrant has upset many parents, some of whom are contacting the AJC with their questions and concerns. Among the comments from parents:
Today at the closing bell our beloved principal and most of his leadership team were escorted out of the school by a group of APS staffers from downtown. Just three weeks before the end of his contract and two weeks before our IB accreditation, Mark MyGrant and his staff were publicly humiliated in front of teachers and students alike. The “party line” is the new principal wants a clean slate. There’s a lot more to the story than that. What is the real agenda? Obviously, no one is thinking about the disruption this will cause for our children and our IB program.
Parents are asking how Davis can gut the leadership ranks of their school, march in a brand new team of temps and expect the community to support the decision without more information.
Davis closes his letter to North Atlanta parents by saying, “We understand that this will be a time of excitement, as well as a major transition at NAHS…”It’s a new day at North Atlanta.”
The problem may be that parents won’t think it’s a better day.
The AJC will be following up on this situation. I have sent a note to APS for a comment. If I get it, I will post.
–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog