North Atlanta drama continues. Parents now alarmed over teacher resignation.

I am getting copied on emails between parents at North Atlanta High School and APS, and it doesn’t sound like detente has been reached over the purge of the school’s leadership team a week ago.

I am also getting calls now on the resignation of an English/journalism teacher whose hiring created tensions between principal Mark MyGrant and APS, although it remains unclear why.

The resignation of Amy Durham, coupled with the reassignment of Laura Brazil, academy leader for North Atlanta High’s Global Broadcasting and Journalism, has alarmed many parents with children in the program. One parent said her child is a finalist for a $200,000 scholarship but needs recommendations that he now can’t get.

You can read Durham’s resignation letter here. (She actually does not resign in the letter, but retracts her pledge of employment since she was never approved by the board.)

Durham and school board member Nancy Meister were middle school PTA co-presidents together and remain friends.  When I asked Meister last week about why APS was dragging its feet approving Durham’s contract, she declined comment, saying it was a personnel matter.

MyGrant said he has been frustrated and upset by the board’s inaction on Durham and vague allegations against her that have never been formally outlined or ever substantiated.

He told me last week: “In August, I was contacted by Deputy Superintendent Karen Waldon on three 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. “

Many parents believe Durham was the casualty of a school board dispute. I can’t speak to what concerns APS may have about Durham’s hiring, but I can say that many parents spoke highly of her teaching  to me this week.

A second point of contention has been the counselors that APS school chief Erroll Davis promised to the the North Atlanta High audience Tuesday.

But, in an email copied to me, a parent wrote:

Frankly, in light of the precipitous removal of the respected administrators, I considered Mr. Davis’ offer of outside grief counselors to be both a recognition of the injustice the students felt (which is traumatic), and an appropriate attempt at reconciliation. I am sorry that many students were told their were no grief counselors and were unable to access the services.

North Atlanta interim principal Sidney Baker responded:

Yes, there were four additional counselors on site in the media center. I am sorry for the confusion. Also, the NAHS counselor team was also available for any student as well.

Someone on the blog suggested that North Atlanta High was probably returning to normal.  I don’t think that is the case, yet.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

182 comments Add your comment

Pride and Joy

October 13th, 2012
5:08 pm

I’ve never ever heard of so much negative drama in all my life over a school system.
APS and dekald are a disgrace to this nation.

Ole Guy

October 13th, 2012
5:23 pm

It should come as no mystery that some (perhaps many) talented people choose to “jump ship”; to leave an apparently rudderless educational boat. Many (myself included) are neither aware of, nor care about the inner political influences which lie behind these decisions. Many (like me) simply care about results; if these people cannot achieve these results, get rid of THEIR leadership and THEIR leadership. The root of these problems lie, not within the “indian camp”, but at the executive levels of leadership. If these people can’t influence and control their subordinates in a costructive manner, THEY need to feel the fires. If they have managed to surround themselves with mediocrity, the source of the problems is quite apparent…NOT the indians, but the senior leadership.

Of course, this type of house-cleaning would be both cumbersome and politically…un-pc…both of which education land has been, obviously, too damn timid to even ponder. It’s a whole lot easier to dump this _hit on the shoulders of (presumably) good people who, in return, either flight, fight…or simply leave.

Prof

October 13th, 2012
5:37 pm

@ Maureen. Your link to the teacher’s resignation letter is faulty, leading to “404-page not found.”

Ole Guy, you may not “nor care about the inner political influences which lie behind these decisions,” but a lot of the rest of us do, for they lead back to the leadership of APS and have some very messy, and possibly racial, legal implications.

Ed Johnson

October 13th, 2012
6:02 pm

Best wishes, Amy Durham.

Maureen Downey

October 13th, 2012
6:08 pm

@prof, Just tried it and it worked when I clicked on it

Try using the link directly:

https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B4ni2jH9ge1SZWsyVnNQb19wLVU

Point/Counterpoint

October 13th, 2012
6:17 pm

Just wondering how you got a copy of her retraction letter to the pricipal?

catlady

October 13th, 2012
6:28 pm

Did this “leadership” come from Clayton? Look for APS to have significant liability when the lawsuits start flying. More “great” use of money from Bev Hall Central. I feel for the people of APS–the teachers and students who are giving their best, and the taxpayers who are footing the (massive) bills.

IMHO, the worst political shenannigans happen in schools and churches.

living in an outdated ed system

October 13th, 2012
6:33 pm

Seems that this letter should NOT have been divulged to the public at this time. When can a journalist publicize such a letter, if the recipient had not originally intended it to be publicized? Whoever forwarded it to @Maureen should be ashamed of themselves.

Having said that, I am appalled at how APS has treated Ms. Durham. She is an innocent casualty of a woefully dysfunctional public education system. APS has SERIOUS communication issues and they have no idea how to run a school system. And I feel just as bad, if not more so, for the students of Ms. Durham.

living in an outdated ed system

October 13th, 2012
6:37 pm

I also think Ms. Durham should talk to that labor lawyer again and see if she has grounds for a lawsuit.

appalled

October 13th, 2012
6:38 pm

Holy Mackerel! The kids HAVE in fact moved on. They were all feeling just fine on Friday when I was there…ALL day. I even spoke to the grief counselors, myself and they were wonderful. Let’s start talking about how to move forward and get back on track for these children.

phil

October 13th, 2012
6:40 pm

Reading, writing, math, science, history, some P.E…..

Everywhere you look, education has gone awry.

None of this is the rocket science that so many act like it is or should be.

Prof

October 13th, 2012
7:02 pm

Don’t miss the last sentence of Laura Durham’s resignation letter where she asks permission to say good-bye to her class and promises to be professional in doing so. She must be afraid of getting the “perp’s walk” herself. What does this say about APS?!

Cedric

October 13th, 2012
7:09 pm

Did this also happen at Jackson High, where they too are recieving a new principal, if it didn’t it could explain alot

Point/Counterpoint

October 13th, 2012
7:15 pm

@catlady…liability for what?

Point/Counterpoint

October 13th, 2012
7:17 pm

How the newspaper got a copy of the retraction will explain even more.

Carl

October 13th, 2012
7:20 pm

Please remember all of this when you vote in November regarding charter schools.

Wondering

October 13th, 2012
7:21 pm

Why is anyone surprised?

This is Atlanta Public Schools after all.

justbrowsing

October 13th, 2012
7:22 pm

APS has not typically been a district that investigated claims. So much has been swept under the rug through politicking and buddy systems for so many years, that when people are questioned regarding their hiring practices, many become indignant. I hope that all claims are investigated to this extent. Do not stop at Northside, keep going until effective leadership is in all schools. Only then can APS move forward. APS has been an abyss for so long and has trampled over the rightsinitiated this transition. While they are not at liberty to speak about it, I do not think it was arbitrarily done. North Atlanta schools have always been in their own little world.

justbrowsing

October 13th, 2012
7:23 pm

rights of so many-.

Pompano

October 13th, 2012
7:38 pm

Grief Counselors because a retiring Principal was replaced??? This has to be the most weak addle-minded student body in existence.

I'm just sayin

October 13th, 2012
7:44 pm

Seems more dramatic than traumatic

Tony

October 13th, 2012
7:51 pm

There is always more to the story regarding personnel matters and this situation is no exception.

living in an outdated ed system

October 13th, 2012
7:57 pm

We need public charter schools. Vote YES on Election Day!

Carl

October 13th, 2012
8:15 pm

Vouchers are the answer.

BehindEnemyLines

October 13th, 2012
8:31 pm

Amen Pompano.

Maureen Downey

October 13th, 2012
8:48 pm

@living. The writer allowed it to be published, not the recipient, which is APS. This is a unique situation in that many of the people are speaking out because they feel they have been tarnished by innuendo.
To that end, former North Atlanta principal. MyGrant just sent me this note:

I believe that the Open Records Request documents that I delivered to APS will indeed help to connect the dots. Although I was told on “Bloody Friday” that my involvement with this ORR was no longer needed” and that “it would be handled from the central office” I felt it was my legal and ethical duty to deliver these documents. Also in August, I was receiving information from cluster PTA presidents that Board Chair Reuben McDaniel had accused North Atlanta of “racial institutionalism” If this was the case, why weren’t we (admin team) part of this discussion. I was also told that on July 25, 2012, during a lunch meeting between a certain board member and president of NAPPS that the board member spoke disparaging about these hires

.

Maureen

Ron F.

October 13th, 2012
8:55 pm

Pompan and Behind: Having lived through a contentious forced retirement of a respected principal, I can tell you kids do get attached to administrators that interact with them. We have a very public board meeting attended by a huge portion of the student body, many of whom applied to speak and prepared speeches. Kids rely on the familiarity and consistency of administrators and teachers, and do get emotionally involved (imagine teenage emotions with an issue to get upset about). They will overreact and get upset, but they have that right- that’s where they are as teens. Their response in this case speaks to the respect and regard they had for their administration, which says a LOT about how a school is functioning beyond test scores. They should have had access to counselors.

Ron F.

October 13th, 2012
8:58 pm

As many said when this was first announced, there’s a LOT more to this than test scores and need for change. This is clearly retribution for something, and I’ll be looking forward to the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say. I see a scandal afoot here!

Dr. Proud Black Man

October 13th, 2012
9:07 pm

@Ron F

Pompan is correct in his observation. I would hate to see how the students react to a REAL tragedy. Such delicate sisters…..

Dr. Proud Black Man

October 13th, 2012
9:09 pm

@Ron F

Pompano is correct in his observation. I would hate to see how the students react to a REAL tragedy. Such delicate sisters…..

bootney farnsworth

October 13th, 2012
9:14 pm

having seen this firsthand many times when Davis was chancellor, if somebody stood up to the system, they go Sicilian. not only do they destroy you, they kill as many of your friends and associates as possible to send a message.

bootney farnsworth

October 13th, 2012
9:20 pm

@ point,

even in a right to harass/fire state like Georgia, state agencies are still obliged to follow specific rules and procedures when removing an employee. plus federal law protects (allegedly) from witch hunts.

I know more than a few of the GPC 282 who are in some state or other of filing complaints and suits against the USG for improper dismissal. its an open secret GPC intensely studied race & gender ratios when destroying so many careers to keep its actions off the radar.

bootney farnsworth

October 13th, 2012
9:21 pm

@ Pomp

Davis doesn’t care two figs for how this charade effects the students. its his classic misdirection tactic.
get people talking about this, so they don’t focus as much on his more inflammatory actions

Prof

October 13th, 2012
9:25 pm

I think folks here should be careful about what’s said about the teacher involved, Amy Durham, including ex-principal MyGrant, for some of the unproved charges being thrown around involve her professional reputation, which could be the basis of libel.

There’s also the legal and very American presumption of innocence till proven guilty……….

bootney farnsworth

October 13th, 2012
9:32 pm

@ amy durham- or anyone who knows how to reach her,

you don’t need a labor lawyer, you need an employment lawyer. big difference.
you are entitled to dispute the dismissal – do so.
you also need to file and EEOC complaint with the fed, as their rules are different.
lastly, if you know one contact a civil rights lawyer.

here are the two tough realities in dealing with the government
-1: they got the money to bleed you dry, and will. you need a lawyer/firm who has deep pockets or a personal beef with the gov’t who can carry you
-2: when the gov’t actually has to defend these cases, they usually lose.

another idea might be to reach out to over educators (city, state, county, ect) to see about a class action lawsuit against the State and city for endorsing Davis questionable actions.

Prof

October 13th, 2012
9:38 pm

This is just an outsider’s guess, but from all that has been revealed here so far I suspect that teacher Amy Durham has filed either a slander (spoken words) or a libel (printed words) suit against certain highly placed APS officials.

Dr. Proud Black Man

October 13th, 2012
9:39 pm

@Bootney

Maybey I read the letter wrong but didn’t she effectively resign or quit? What rights would she have? You’re right about one thing; the guvmint has DEEP pockets and MANY lawyers.

Prof

October 13th, 2012
10:05 pm

@ Dr. Proud Black Man.

Amy Durham’s letter tells us quite a bit. If she taught but received no contract because, as Deputy Superintendent Waldon reported, she had received anonymous allegations that Ms. Durham was racist, I should think that would prove Ms. Durham’s professional reputation had been damaged. This is the important criterion for either libel or slander: false statements that damage a person’s professional reputation. Why did Deputy Superintendent Waldon hold up her contract over anonymous allegations? SHE became guilty for acting as if the allegations were true.

Pompano

October 13th, 2012
10:25 pm

The fact that MyGrant would show up at an Assembly for the sole purpose of inciting the students and drawing them into his personnel issue is rather shameful. Perhaps Davis had more insight into this guys character (or lack thereof) than given credit.

MissTrippy

October 13th, 2012
10:47 pm

Add Newton County to your list all you above. I have no idea why Maureen has not looked into the radical Alcovy High School situation of LaQuanda Carpenter suring teachers and anonymous commenters and a board member. An attorney got close to her schools money sheets and asked for alcohol records and suddenly poof she dismisses the lawsuit knowing it was frivolous all along. Maureen expose this principal.

Point/Counterpoint

October 13th, 2012
10:52 pm

This is all so bizarre, so I did a little investigating. I looked up Ms. Durham’s certification on GA Professional Standards Commission website. Her NNT certificate was issued 8/20/2012. It is retroactive to July 1, 2012, but first issued 8/20/2012. I looked on the APS website and it listed August 13 as the board meeting date, which is 7 days before her teaching certificate was issued. Maybe that’s the reason her name was removed?

Pompano

October 13th, 2012
11:34 pm

@Mom for Ed provides some pretty good insight here.

Often, lame-duck employees can be difficult or problematic. In +35 years of management, I have on occasion had to escort an employee out prior to their scheduled departure date due to issues they caused. These generally were previously good employees – but once no longer accountable decided to go off the rails. Likely what Davis was confronted with and had to address.

bootney farnsworth

October 13th, 2012
11:57 pm

@ Dr Proud

just guessing, since I’m sure there is more to this than is known, if she was forced out due to race/gender/orientation harassment the law still provides remedy if proven.

which becomes the $64,000 issue.

bootney farnsworth

October 14th, 2012
12:01 am

one thing is certain:

where Davis goes, dissention and harassment seem to follow.

Private Citizen

October 14th, 2012
12:44 am

Pompano, Is not the collective nature of the action conspicuous? You refer to a single employee having gone off the rails, etc. That’s not what happened here. They displaced the principal and all of the APs. What was it, four people total?

The other thing is, I do not instinctually resonate with the Race Card Emergency. There is no one making a Race Card Emergency over latinos or asians or people from India or the dreaded white people. If this radical move of collectively and abruptly displacing staff is rationalized due to complaint of racism, I’d call that a case of Identity Politics. I’ve also seen in university a conference on White Privilege. I swore to myself if I ever saw any more of that promoted I would require the university ethics office to do an inquiry, because it is racism, plain and simple. Lest you think I am a crazy person, allow me to look this up for you. Oh, my. It is still up and running. http://www.whiteprivilegeconference.com/

If there is action of the school admin. etc. doing something incorrect, this has to be laid out, substantiated, a reasonably judgment made. It might even include correcting the person and telling them what they should do instead. I once had a class of decidedly un-urban kids tell me, “YOU RACIST!” I went home and thought about it and came back and said, “Oh, okay. I get it. If I give you work to do, then I’m racist?” And then we were over it and could move on. Now, I am not saying this has anything to do with what are likely the more real complaints at the high school (?) perhaps involving access to classes(?) or grading(?) or something(?) or who knows what? and I apply every importance to addressing or fixing any concerns of this type.

However, I think playing the Racism Emergency Card perpetuates and promotes racism. I’ve also had students who thought it was a fine idea to go locate a homosexual person and beat them to within an inch of their life and then laugh about it because of course it is just. When this type of thing was expressed among the list of “Good things to do” over time I made effort to confront it. I do not think it is okay to ambush people. I wish people would get over racism.

L.M. Entry

October 14th, 2012
12:48 am

Let me see if I have this straight. Innuendo that you disagree with is labeled gossip and Innuendo you don’t agree with is labeled truth, check. I appears to me that there is a lot of smoke blowing around here from all including the superintendent. No one is forthcoming with too many facts especially given the odd timing and public grandstanding involved in the ouster.

Top School

October 14th, 2012
4:03 am

The research on this topic has been reported.
Top School gave this report long ago.

Buckhead manipulates this just as they have over the last 50 years …and the celebration of the integration of GRADY HIGH SCHOOL.
They acted like it never happened. And they went underground to manipulate the attendance of Atlanta’s Northside white schools and chose the minorities they wished to attend their public schools. When they could not control the increased population of minorities…they divided their classes up UNDER A DISGUISE OF “TEAMS” …sEgReGaTiOn within the walls of the school.

Black parents that were able to keep their children on the “RIGHT TEAM” were willing to turn a blind eye to the discriminating system to the benefit of their child.

This is the SECRET in APS…the School Board knows it…the administrators and teachers at the schools know it…the parents know it…and ask any child that attends these schools and they will TELL IT.

I told it all the way to the FEDERAL COURT HOUSE.
Until someone in the media…is willing to do the proper research…and buck the BUCKHEAD WAY…

THE BEAT GOES ON…and these news articles keep BEATING AROUND THE BUSH.

Beverly Fraud

October 14th, 2012
5:57 am

“When can a journalist publicize such a letter, if the recipient had not originally intended it to be publicized?

@living are you saying a person who WRITES a letter doesn’t have the right to decide who sees it?

Sorry, Georgia may be an “at will” state as far as employment, but since when does APS have a right to CENSOR a citizen (not employee, but CITIZEN) of the United States of America?

Beverly Fraud

October 14th, 2012
6:06 am

“The fact that MyGrant would show up at an Assembly for the sole purpose of inciting the students”

Well if Errol Davis and APS did NOTHING WRONG, there wouldn’t be anything for the students to be “incited” about would there?

There was NOTHING inappropriate about MyGrant showing up to a PUBLIC meeting at a PUBLIC school. That the students (and TAXPAYING parents) reacted in a way that Davis didn’t like should in no way, shape or form limit a citizen’s right to attend a public meeting.

Beverly Fraud

October 14th, 2012
6:13 am

@Mom for Ed provides some pretty good insight here.

Often, lame-duck employees can be difficult or problematic

They sure can Pompano; especially if they have EVIDENCE OF WRONGDOING, and (because they are retiring) the system has no leverage to BULLY, INTIMIDATE, and HARASS.

Is what is upsetting APS is that MyGrant did something wrong, or that APS can’t CONTROL him?