North Atlanta High: Expect a crowd tonight for APS school chief meeting. And tough questions.

If you plan to attend the meeting at 6 tonight at North Atlanta High School, come early as organizers are predicting a crowd.

Parents are arriving at 5, an hour before APS superintendent Erroll B. Davis is expected to address the abrupt and still unexplained ousting of the principal and the reassignment of four key school leaders Friday.

I am not sure what the school chief will say. It has been suggested to me that Davis will cite “personnel issues” as the motivation behind the actions, and thus be legally precluded from sharing any details.

I am not sure NAHS parents will settle for that explanation. Nor will Mark MyGrant, the retired North Atlanta High principal who was summarily dismissed Friday.

MyGrant retired in June but agreed to come back for three months while APS searched for his replacement. He was due to step down on Oct. 29 when a new principal takes over the reins.(Good luck to that guy, under these circumstances.)

It remains unclear why APS felt such an urgency to get him out the building. MyGrant is going today to deliver copies of documents to APS that he contends will reveal the school board tensions and politics — including unsubstantiated allegations of racism in hiring — that drove this strange series of events.

APS denies it was politics, saying the removal of the four school leaders was planned for quite a while so that the new principal can hire his own team.  Of course, that raises the question of why the transfers were done in such stealth fashion on Friday. And why a similar purge didn’t occur at Maynard Jackson High, which is also getting a new principal.

My main question remains: How can APS rationalize removing four respected school leaders from North Atlanta High at this point in the school year and plugging in eight central office administrators who are only placeholders?

These eight administrators are supposed to stay in these jobs until the new principal hires his own staff, according to the APS spokesman. That could take some time.

If APS can dispatch eight administrators to one high school — to fill jobs previously held by only four people — legitimate questions ought to raised about over staffing.

One of those administrators is the gifted and talented coordinator. Another is World Languages Coordinator. One is the Federal Grants Specialist. Aren’t these critical jobs to APS and its other students?

What happens to their regular job duties and responsibilities? Are the four former NAHS staffers going to jobs that make use of their skills or will they be used to plug holes?

Here is a letter from a parent who also wonders about about the logic of this move at this time.

With her permission, from parent and writer Molly Read Woo to the NAHS community:

This was the absolutely worst time to do something like this in this way, as it affects seniors’ applications to schools and scholarships right when they’re counting on references from the school leaders who were just transferred. This could affect our IB program as well.

I do feel North Atlanta is a great school community because of the people on staff and the parents and the students working together — and we are all stunned by this. I can only speak for myself, but I am. Honest to God, for the past two days, I’ve almost felt like crying because from where I sit, this move seems so unjust and destructive — taking aim at one of the best parts of the Atlanta community I have come to know as positive, hopeful, and hardworking, blessed with people who truly love, respect, and admire each other.

The educators who were transferred were not just role models for my kid — they were role models for me, too. I truly appreciate the inclusiveness and consideration and dedication they all showed to creating an environment that made it possible to learn and to thrive, and to reach to understand not just our own city, but what we can do in the world.

I think of the North Atlanta students who pioneered the water for the world project, (forgot the official name of it right now.) I think of the students who traveled to China and Jordan and France to study through North Atlanta Exchange programs, and I think of the exchange students from around the world who have come to study with us, and the great time they had with our kids here.

I think of the encouraging words I’ve heard so many teachers offer, and the hours they stayed after school to help those kids who for one reason or another needed to make up work or get some clarification.

I think of the fabulous jazz band, the orchestra, the marching band, the dance groups, the hand bell choir even, the drama productions that were so good you’d think they were professional, the super talented students who have grown and blossomed in the cradle of North Atlanta’s community, and have moved on to even greater programs with greater audiences.

I think of all the kids I’ve had the chance to meet and talk to, who are so cool, and interesting, and creative, and thoughtful in ways I find inspiring and promising, because they are all good kids, and they have a chance to grow and know each other and know how to step into a wider world once they leave, thanks to the people who worked so hard to make North Atlanta a high school where everyone could find a path to a place where they wanted to be. Not that their path would be easy. It never is — for kids or adults.

But when there are enough people who care to try to make it right, who give it their all, the chances of being where you want to be and getting to where you want to go multiply a thousand times. It all comes down to the powerful factor of human energy coming together in a good way, with good intent, and I dare say — in the broadest sense — Love. Care and respect for the people we work with, and play with — the people we live with for the better part of the waking day. Care and respect was what made North Atlanta a good school.

And it still does.

I think it was the glaring lack of care and respect in the way APS conducted its business at our a school on Friday that is the most offensive part of it. I am trying to reserve judgement and wait for the explanation I hope to hear from Superintendent Davis on Friday, and, while I can’t imagine he could say anything that could suit me, short of, “Sorry, we made a mistake – we’re going to fix it right away and everybody will be back to work as usual on Wednesday,” I hope against hope to hear something that is more than just a bad excuse for callous recklessness.

But I also am glad to say to you, my friends, parents and the kids I’ve been lucky to meet, and the teachers and other staffers at North Atlanta who have been extraordinary and inspiring in so many ways. I am so glad I know you.

And thank you for all you’ve done and all you do.

-From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

66 comments Add your comment

bootney farnsworth

October 9th, 2012
12:27 pm

how to tell when APS is lying – someone official is talking

jw

October 9th, 2012
12:27 pm

As was suggested above, Davis will probably cite “personnel issues” or some sort of HR hoo-ha and proceed to give non-answers. Wanna bet he doesn’t take questions?

Does anyone know if the meeting will be live blogged somewhere online? I’d like to leave the seats in the auditorium for current students, parents and staff.

Beatings will continue until morale improves

October 9th, 2012
12:33 pm

Maureen Downey

October 9th, 2012
12:35 pm

@beatings. Nope. Third

skipper

October 9th, 2012
12:52 pm

APS…..The laughing stock and cluster of the State; elephant in the room folks: racism can go both ways………….
Last (but certainly not least) the right to vote does not mean the intelligence to do so!

Rick L in ATL

October 9th, 2012
12:59 pm

I’m going to defend Erroll Davis here. He certainly can’t be pleased at having to come in now and clean up the gigantic turd-pile left by his hapless HR staffers, who probably read somewhere on a website that if you have to fire someone, do it on a Friday afternoon at quitting time and no one will notice. Oops!

This episode illustrates two important things: APS continues to show us it can’t do even routine things (like changing staff assignments) with any degree of competency. And the other, more important point is this: having an impressive, moral, high-character guy like Erroll Davis as our super is a mixed blessing, because he hides a multitude of remaining flaws that I would prefer to see exposed and purged. As I like to tell people, he is a righteous dude, but he’s only one dude. He can’t fire everybody in the Trinity building all at once, although a WHOLE lot more people clearly need to be fired. I’d bet money he didn’t know how all of this was going to be (mis)handled. But now he has to go into this meeting and work all his charm to try to pacify these (justifiably) outraged parents.

Conservative Democrat

October 9th, 2012
1:03 pm

Get rid of ‘em all…make ‘em teach children to get a paycheck from the school. Let the teacher’s be the highest paid employees of every school system (superintendents included) in the state. Down with bureaucrats, administrator, principals, superintendents, and the like…up with teachers!!!

Entitlement Society

October 9th, 2012
1:04 pm

Give me a break. All the love and programs in the world don’t count for anything unless the school is producing students with solid educations and that, NAHS is certainly not doing.

http://neighbornewspapers.com/view/full_story/20303018/article-Local-schools%E2%80%99-SAT-scores-drop?instance=buckhead

NAHS average SAT scores are over 200 points lower than Riverwoods! Not to mention down from the previous year. Also, I’ve read on this blog where NAHS hasn’t met AYP standards for many years (I do not have a link to back that up).

Stop worrying about who’s in charge and start worrying about what is being taught and how effectively. That seems to be the problem. You’re all missing the point!

George

October 9th, 2012
1:05 pm

Being an educator for 20 years something happen for dam sure.only Teachers are removed over bull. Something is wrong here it is hard for people to only see race as an issue on both sides of any issue in Georgia,But something is wrong and I mean wrong.We shall see. They were not removed for Nothing and a person would truely be a FOOL to think that.

skipper

October 9th, 2012
1:08 pm

Maureen,
I admire your stance on the issues, even though I often disagree. Your heart is in the right place. But SURELY you see that overall APS is a cluster. And sadly, it is ALWAYS the whites accused of racism, when in many cases (a lot lately) it is the other way around. The school board has demonstrated that (as well as the no-nothings who elected many of them.) Some board members, who shall reamin nameless, have as much business being on a school board as Madonna has leading a march for celibacy…….their incompetance knows no bounds.

Maureen Downey

October 9th, 2012
1:17 pm

@Skipper, The school board members with whom I’ve talked claim to have known nothing of this event. I do think there is incompetence involved that Davis has to address: And that is the lack of any sense of the community outrage that this would provoke. Someone at some level of APS has to know the schools and the climate and the parents. That doesn’t mean hard or unpopular decisions aren’t made, but they are made to minimize damage and instability and prevent the sort of reaction we are seeing now in North Atlanta.
If that failure to consider the reaction falls on his deputy super who showed up at NAHS Friday, so be it. Someone should have known that this was a terrible way to handle this and that there had to be a better approach. APS is led by a former head of a big company. Surely, Davis has experience with removing a whole strata of leaders without setting off hundreds of parents and sending the entire organization into a defensive posture.
Maureen

Kris (beware!)

October 9th, 2012
1:23 pm

bootney and jw..” how to tell when APS is lying – someone official is talking”

“As was suggested above, Davis will probably cite “personnel issues” or some sort of HR hoo-ha and proceed to give non-answers. Wanna bet he doesn’t take questions? ”

Your are both right and when he has spread his lies the meeting will suddenly end.
This is the same gestapo like (notorious for its brutal methods and operations) he pulled when He was Sonny’s BOY at the BOR. I know I worked for the BOR.

But beware of smiling faces this could be a smoking DEAL to hide other things about to come to light…Gambling in Gwenette and Lottery Director…Charter school Scam..just saying…

skipper

October 9th, 2012
1:25 pm

@Maureen,
Very well said!

.human

October 9th, 2012
1:27 pm

WWill someone ask errrol to explain why the ex principal of douglass was welcomed back while a good principal like mygrant was treated this way

.human

October 9th, 2012
1:36 pm

Oh my comment got censored…the current principal of douglass left douglass s few years back after multiple investigations…but now he is back

Entitlement Society

October 9th, 2012
1:38 pm

@Maureen “Someone should have known that this was a terrible way to handle this and that there had to be a better approach.” How very true, but when will APS learn that some PR expertise would help their cause?

aon

October 9th, 2012
1:38 pm

@Entitlement Society – Mr. Entitlement, what exactly do you mean by this, “NAHS average SAT scores are over 200 points lower than Riverwoods!”?

SeasonedVeteran

October 9th, 2012
1:43 pm

Rumor has it that the culture and climate of the school was very racist…..these folks actually put all the white kids on the top floor and the black kids on the bottom floor! They failed black kids and promoted white ones. Every area of the school could be seen as showing favoritism to whites. Wake up people, listen to the facts, listen to your instincts there is more to the story. This issue could end badly for the APS system. They are simply trying to save themselves from the potential discrimmination lawsuits that are on the way. The APS system is beyond repair and my community-Buckhead-should continue it’s quest for the truth and expose them all for who they are really are.

Entitlement Society

October 9th, 2012
1:43 pm

@aon – click on the link – Riverwood average score 1631, North Atlanta average score 1426. 1631 – 1426 = 205. 205 is over 200 points.

Mike

October 9th, 2012
1:53 pm

Could it misappropriation of funds?

The Deal

October 9th, 2012
2:02 pm

I feel for you, APS. I’m sure you felt once you were rid of Beverly, you might be on the road to improvement. That is why I keep telling other DeKalb parents that our (only) problem is not Dr. Atkinson. Almost everything is wrong with DeKalb County schools: the board of education, the superintendent, the size, the history, the meshing with county and state politics, all of it. It needs to be busted up into tiny little districts so each community can handle its own schools.

Maureen Downey

October 9th, 2012
2:02 pm

@Mike, I am beginning to wonder if the main concern by APS management wasn’t that the PTSA had too much influence at the school, which has been a contention in a few comments posted.

Here is one piece of evidence: Over the weekend, APS limited PTSA access to the North Atlanta High web site. According to parents, the PTSA has been authorized by APS to maintain and update the school website since 2010.
Now, parents say, with the exception of one small area of the site, access was revoked over the weekend. As a result, the PTSA says it can no longer able to update the site on behalf of teachers, athletic teams, clubs, art organizations, booster clubs and other school entities.
Maureen

BT

October 9th, 2012
2:05 pm

This was not handled right from the beginning. If you knew he was retiring, you probalby knew it early last year. Why wasn’t someone hired peramantly to replace him then? I can tell you from experience that this event will affect the rest of the school year. It will take the “new team” the rest of the year to figure out where all the bathrooms are!! Lord help the new PAL!!!

indigo

October 9th, 2012
2:05 pm

I have an uneasy feeling that no matter how vigorously the NAHS parents protest this incompetent action, it will fall on the completely deaf ears of Errol B. Davis.

aon

October 9th, 2012
2:06 pm

@Entitlement – I get the math. What’s wrong with Riverwood?

skipper

October 9th, 2012
2:07 pm

@Seasoned Veteran,
Great, so now it can fall back like one of the inner-city nightmare schools? There’s your “progress”…………….

Maureen Downey

October 9th, 2012
2:08 pm

@aon, Not sure, either, of the reason for the Riverwood comparison as the Fulton school has appreciably fewer low-income students.
SAT scores align with socioeconomics.
(Riverwood: 30 percent kids on free, reduced lunch, North Atlanta, 52, according to DOE site.)
Maureen

Entitlement Society

October 9th, 2012
2:12 pm

@aon – Riverwood is great. I’m pointing out just how bad North Atlanta is. Don’t understand why everyone is in such an uproar about a change in admin (granted the way it was accomplished was in very poor taste). Admin at North Atlanta isn’t doing squat in terms of education if it is trailing Riverwood by over 200 points in average SAT scores!! It looks like a change in admin is just what the school needs since MyGrant failed to produce any stellar (or even average!) academic results during his tenure there.

North Atlanta Mom

October 9th, 2012
2:12 pm

“these folks actually put all the white kids on the top floor and the black kids on the bottom floor! ”

Yep, this is true.

North Atlanta Mom

October 9th, 2012
2:17 pm

My daughter got a 96 in her freshman math class and her teacher (a woman well known for making racially insensitive remarks to black students) recommended her for the regular level Math II instead of honor’s level math II.

Well, of course we fought it even though Mr. Ballard initially told us they had to go with the teacher’s recommendation.

My daughter was eventually placed in Honors Math II after much fight from us and earned a grade of 100 in that class and has earned a 100 or better in each subsequent honors level or IB level match class she took.

So to all of the people who claim that IB and honors is open to everyone, that is simply not the case.

Many black kids are tracked into the lower level classes and white ones with lower grades tracked into the higher level ones.

Something needed to happen at NAHS and I am glad that something did.

Whether it will be for the better or not remains to be seen.

North Atlanta Mom

October 9th, 2012
2:19 pm

“Admin at North Atlanta isn’t doing squat in terms of education if it is trailing Riverwood by over 200 points in average SAT scores!! ”

Because the admin has been mostly or only concerned about the children in the IS/IB program.

.human

October 9th, 2012
2:24 pm

BBuckhead white parents….please read the last post from north Atlanta mom….this is what you array against ….run from this district as fast as you can…this school will soon become a Douglas or may if north atl moms have their way with errrol and the board

FJ

October 9th, 2012
2:29 pm

These comments would lead people unfamiliar with the school to believe that it is majority white just because it is in Buckhead. Not the case. From the AJC’s article on the front page today:
North Atlanta High School
Population: 1,233
Racial Makeup: 55 percent African American, 22 percent white, 16 percent Hispanic, 7 percent other.
Average SAT score: 1439

peter parker

October 9th, 2012
2:40 pm

As an educator what a story. We think that children are being taught and that discrimination is out the door in the 21st century however I know and so do the children that many educators are culturally inept. They have no love for themselves let alone the children. Hiring your friends and lovers who are not even qualified goes on in many school systems around the country. How about the teachers who are doing the right thing by the children, those who have doctorates, they are pushed out. It is about time that we as a village do the right thing. Parents STAND up for your child be they white or Black, yellow, red or brown if you don’t who will. FEAR is the enemy do not let a persons position keep you silent it is only by speaking your truth will things change. For teachers and those who do their best. Thank God that I had teachers who cared for me and loved me enough so that I could SHINE.

jw

October 9th, 2012
2:43 pm

Saw someone ask on Twitter if tonight’s meeting will be live blogged….it will. Follow @apsupdate tonight. She usually either tweet the entire meeting, or if she can get the live blog site to work, blogs there. But she’ll tweet the link before the meeting either way.

NA Parent

October 9th, 2012
2:49 pm

Please stop all this negative energy. North Atlanta is a successfully integrated school where kids get along very well with each other. I’ve witnessed acts of great kindness there. This issue is not about race, it is about a poor management decision on the part of APS. On the bright side, they have given us qualified educators to help with the transition. Let’s move on!

NA Parent

October 9th, 2012
2:49 pm

Please stop all this negative energy. North Atlanta is a successfully integrated school where kids get along very well with each other. I’ve witnessed acts of great kindness there. This issue is not about race, it is about a poor management decision on the part of APS. On the bright side, they have given us qualified educators to help with the transition. Let’s move on!

Bob

October 9th, 2012
2:52 pm

Fj, that is because many in the neighborhood are smart enough to send their kids down the rd to the private schools. We don’t have to deal with the Beverly hall’s of APS. We still get stuck paying the bulk of the taxes but our kids do not have to suffer.

Bob

October 9th, 2012
2:52 pm

Fj, that is because many in the neighborhood are smart enough to send their kids down the rd to the private schools. We don’t have to deal with the Beverly hall’s of APS. We still get stuck paying the bulk of the taxes but our kids do not have to suffer.

Old timer

October 9th, 2012
2:57 pm

I wonder why the administrator that retired was not replaced last spring. It has been my experience that the outgoing person works with the incoming person as a team. And then to have ALL the admin team replaces!!! What a hot mess….

NORTH ATL MOM

October 9th, 2012
2:58 pm

I am a parent of a graduate from last year and now a freshman.My kids are biracial but looks africian american,Honesty I have never had problems with the administration however the principal didnt never seem socialable meaning I watch him interact with certain people and groups therefore if there was a problem been made against him I could see WHY.But the others especially the assistant principal always assisting when needed she went out of her way and you could really tell she worked FOR NOT A PAYCHECK BUT WITH HER HEART FOR CHILDREN, the other administration that were removed always showed respect and professional interest.maybe now SOMEONE SHOULD WALK WALK ERROL DAVIS OUT!!!!!!!!!!!

catlady

October 9th, 2012
3:17 pm

If we ever hear the real reason it will be some story!

APS must have a lot of CO personnel who don’t have enough to do, to be able to spare so many.

Poor planning or some terrible judgements or something illegal?

FJ

October 9th, 2012
3:19 pm

Bob – I know – I am one of the Buckhead parents that went private after elementary. Just felt like people were getting the idea that it was a snobby high school full of racist white people, which it is not. I actually graduated from there myself.

Fritz Neumeister

October 9th, 2012
3:25 pm

So many black kids would be put on the first floor because they wouldn’t show up on time, never had supplies, were rude and disrespectful, did not have very many academic skills. I was put into several of these “regular” classes and it was a joke for me to be in it.

Beverly Fraud

October 9th, 2012
3:32 pm

Well it’s nice to know the ClayCo schools don’t have a monopoly on buffoonery!

APS; the charter member of The Four Horsemen of the Incompetence.

Kris

October 9th, 2012
3:42 pm

catlady- “If we ever hear the real reason it will be some story!”

If is the operative word here, Given time the truth will leak out. In this mess I smell a Rat…It would not be surprised if Davis goes missing as a political ploy to sell the charter school SCAM. after all Davis left the board of Regents when Dirty Deal was elected and then shady Deal brought him back ti be the hatchet man i the APS mess….( Sonny dodo changed the laws where the Chancellor was chosen by the Governor (term loosely used) nt the BOR..Think About it..

Smoke screen …Gambling in Gwenette , charter school scam, Under qualified Lottery director…It all adds up.

TheGoldenRam

October 9th, 2012
3:48 pm

As Maureen states above, “Good luck to that guy, under these circumstances”.

Yes, good luck indeed.

I learned many, many years ago about why you do not handle personnel matters in this fashion. Outside of some gross malfeasance(i.e. the target is a very large & imminent threat), you just do not implement a ‘perp walk’ in changing management & staff. Naive and ignorant managers that engage in this behavior quite literally create threats to their own professional lives, and sometimes tragically, to even their personal lives. An effective leader minimizes conflict and the creation of adversaries. It would seem to be such a remedial concept, but I’m still surprised by how often I see these mistakes.

I went to work for a local business right out of college. They were owned by a national corporation. This local business was very successful, had great relations with clientele and a wonderful climate of cooperation amongst all of the on-site staff and management. Most of our staff was young. Almost all 20-somethings. Then one day, we had our management ‘perp-walked’ out of the buildings as we all watched in horror. Apparently, there had been a conflict with the corporate office about the implementation of some inane and poorly thought out policies that would have harmed the business. They could have done that completely differently, but they chose to make it a display of power. So began the era of sabotage.

The existing staff went into guerrilla warfare mode against the newly installed leadership that came down from corporate. Misdirection, misinformation, character assassination, lies, innuendos, etc, etc.. When we found out the lead manager was planning to be out on maternity leave & wouldn’t be around to defend herself, we devised an elaborate scheme to attack her character and reputation. She never returned and later rumor had that she experienced some kind of break-down. All of it was bad. Really bad. Our group of employees felt like we had been personally attacked, our friends in management had been profoundly wronged and we became insurgents against a power structure we had quickly come to despise. There is no telling how many reputations were damaged, careers derailed, millions of dollars lost or wasted and therapist practices expanded by our efforts over the two years that followed that ill-chosen personnel decision. Corporate poisoned their own well, but we made them drink from it.

APS officials are building a hornet’s nest here. They are going to create well-resourced, motivated and determined adversaries that will cause them headaches and complications that will be many times greater than whatever problem they perceived at that school. The irony is that APS would provoke more internal conflict when it is already suffering from such profound institutional deficiencies. APS is THE NATIONAL POSTER CHILD for failure and incompetency in public school oversight. Take a survey. Ask people across the entire country, “What comes to mind when you hear the words…Atlanta Public Schools”.

Yes, good luck indeed.

Brandy

October 9th, 2012
3:55 pm

@Maureen,

Yesterday reporters/commentators on the local NPR affiliate (which I believe is financed by APS?) claimed that the real reason was the drastic decline in graduation rate at NAHS when the formula was applied. Is this correct?

bu2

October 9th, 2012
3:58 pm

@ NA Mom
Have you considered it might be incompetence instead of racism that your daughter didn’t get in the advanced classes? After all, this IS APS. When I moved into a school in 8th grade (not APS), despite my Mother’s protest, I couldn’t get into the advanced math class. I was the top math student in my previous school. I later discovered I was put in the bottom track (when tracking was done). No wonder our 8th grade math teacher was beaming when 3 of the top 5 in the district 9th grade math competition were kids from her class. It was simply an incompetent counselor (all 3 of us were pretty bored in class in 8th grade).

JD

October 9th, 2012
3:59 pm

@ Maureen, will you be at tonight’s meeting? Do you know whether the ousted administrators and/or the new transition team members will be there?