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