Atlanta school board needs to act as adults

Trying to delve into the inner workings of the deeply divided Atlanta school board is an exercise in futility and confusion.

That’s OK, though, because the board members’ simmering jealousies, resentments and suspicions of each other don’t really matter much to anybody but the members themselves.

On the issues that matter, achieving clarity is actually pretty simple.

For example:

– The board clearly isn’t divided by issues regarding education or policy or the welfare of students; it’s torn by disputes about who gets to be in charge, who said what to whom when, who gets the blame and who gets to say “I told you so.”

That’s bad enough. Trying to resolve that kind of internal, personal dispute through a lawsuit, as some board members are now threatening, would only cement the animosities now dividing the board. It would be an admission of failure, not a step toward resolution.

– The recent vote by a five-member board majority to toss aside the board’s duly elected leadership and install a new chairman was a clear violation of state law. The board has been informed of that fact by the state attorney general and by its own lawyer.

– If the board’s five-member majority continues to defy the attorney general’s opinion, it invites a loss of accreditation. Mark Elgart, president and CEO of the agency that accredits the district’s high schools, made the situation as explicit as possible in this week’s marathon board meeting.

“If you violate the state charter and you stay the course, it will cause problems with your accreditation,” he warned board members.

– If the district nonetheless continues on this course and is threatened with loss of accreditation, APS board members would almost certainly be stripped of their positions.

Earlier this year, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed Senate Bill 84, a school-board reform bill that gives him the power to intervene directly if a school or school district is threatened with loss of accreditation.

Under that new law, the governor has the power to suspend or permanently remove board members of such a district and replace them with his own appointees. Any Atlanta school board members who doubt the willingness, perhaps eagerness, of state officials to intervene in district affairs might want to think again in light of state GBI investigators now questioning district personnel regarding the CRCT cheating scandal.

(<strong>CORRECTION</strong>: <em>The provisions of SB84 cited above apply only to board members appointed or elected after July 1, 2010, which would exclude current members of the APS board. However, previous law also gives the governor authority to remove school board members after hearings before an administrative law judge. Perdue has used that power to remove school board members in Clayton and Warren counties</em>.)

– The contract of Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall expires next June, and given all that has transpired, it seems likely that one way or another, her largely successful tenure as head of the Atlanta system will be coming to an end.

If that occurs, the board will soon find itself trying to find a replacement for Hall. No top-notch professional of Hall’s caliber is going to be drawn to a district with a deeply divided and thus unpredictable board.

In other words, the stakes are very high for the district, its employees, the children in its care and for the members of the board. If they cannot bring themselves to repair the damage they have done by their internal bickering, they jeopardize a decade’s worth of hard-won academic progress.

According to the five-member majority that installed Khaatim Sherrer El as the new chairman, the change was motivated by unhappiness with the previous board leadership’s handling of the CRCT cheating scandal.

On the surface, that’s a valid concern. For too long, Hall and the board did not seem to fully grasp the gravity of the threat that the scandal posed to the district and its reputation; as a result, they have lost control of the investigation and its outcome.

Under such a situation, board discontent was probably inevitable and even necessary.

However, El and others now in the board majority voiced no strong public dissent to that approach. Their discontent seems more driven by concerns about process — how decisions were made, and by whom — than the decisions themselves. In particular, El and his colleagues claim they were excluded from the creation of an outside commission to investigate the cheating scandal, a step that previous board leaders negotiated with the private, nonprofit Atlanta Education Fund.

Is their resentment justified? The answer is, it doesn’t matter, not with so much at stake. Get over it, follow the law, act as leaders, do your job.

53 comments Add your comment

Bud Wiser

October 22nd, 2010
8:15 am

Gotta have adults with fully functional brains before they can TRY to act as adults.

Bud Wiser

October 22nd, 2010
8:16 am

Oh by the way, first and second.

Eat my dust, losers.

carlosgvv

October 22nd, 2010
8:21 am

When we finally get the full results of the CRCT cheating scandal, maybe things will change for the better, but don’t bet too much on it.

@@

October 22nd, 2010
8:22 am

The board clearly isn’t divided by issues regarding education or policy or the welfare of students; it’s torn by disputes about who gets to be in charge, who said what to whom when, who gets the blame and who gets to say “I told you so.”

For a minute there, I thought you were talking about Clayton County’s BoE.

Deja vous!

Good luck to APS. Learn from our mistakes

Independent

October 22nd, 2010
8:37 am

Jay, if Marta can have as board chair a career welfare recipient then the school board can have children masquarading as adults and competent concerned citizens. Same goes for city council. You get what the people and the power brokers want.

Southern Comfort

October 22nd, 2010
8:38 am

Under that new law, the governor has the power to suspend or permanently remove board members of such a district and replace them with his own appointees. Any Atlanta school board members who doubt the willingness, perhaps eagerness, of state officials to intervene in district affairs might want to think again in light of state GBI investigators now questioning district personnel regarding the CRCT cheating scandal.

I’d wait and see if “No-Action-Jackson” Perdue pulled the plug on the board. When it comes to big decisions, he has not built himself quite the stellar record on action yet. I don’t have a dog in the fight, but if giving the board the ol’ “heave-ho” will help the children, I say get rid of them yesterday. It’s a shame when the children have to suffer because of the actions of grown ups who have already gotten their diplomas.

This is another example of useless repetition. There’s APS BOE, then Georgia’s BOE, and then the Fed Dept of E. Get rid of two of those, and we might see a thing or two accomplished by the education system.

Marie

October 22nd, 2010
8:41 am

Jay are you really serious when you said, “The contract of Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall expires next June, and given all that has transpired, it seems likely that one way or another, her largely successful tenure as head of the Atlanta system will be coming to an end.”??? I couldn’t read any further because I said to myself, self either Jay is playing a Friday joke on his audience, he was a bit sleepy when he wrote this, or maybe he is DEAD serious.

Do you read your own paper or do you just write editorials for the paper? If you consider this woman’s tenure a success then I really question your standards for success? Under this woman’s tenure any “supposed success” is very dubious at best with the APS resorting to schemes, tricks, and out and out cheating in order to game the system. They are now the target of a statewide cheating scandal regarding the CRCT and as the AJC noted recently the APS routinely re-routes students to already failing schools in order to inflate the graduate rates at others. In some instances they have not accurately reported the drop out rate because no follow-up is being done on students to find out what happened. They are just stating the student transferred to another school district.

As far as your assessment of the school board I heartily agree. However when you look at the make-up of that board what do you expect?

Deep Throat

October 22nd, 2010
8:43 am

What you have is not a group of people interested in giving kids an education but a bunch of Gold Diggers working a government job trying to beat the system for their own benefit.

Redneck Convert (R--and proud of it)

October 22nd, 2010
8:46 am

What kind of name is Khaatim Sherrer El? We got Towelheads in charge of Atlanta schools? No wonder they’re so messed up. I’m sure glad we got good Americans in charge of our schools up here in Forsyth County, with good American names like Billy Jack and Betty Lou. The schools ain’t much to speak of, but they got great football teams. We can go around hearing people say our students are dumb as a box of rocks, but we can tell them they kicked their butts on the field last Friday.

Have a good day everybody.

Jay

October 22nd, 2010
8:54 am

Marie, what is it EXACTLY about “the makeup of that board” that you find so troubling?

Please, tell us in detail what you know about them, so we can share in your wisdom.

Normal

October 22nd, 2010
8:56 am

What’s a matter? Ain’t they got no learning?

Jay

October 22nd, 2010
9:00 am

And Independent, how long ago did that Marta chair hold office? And what on earth does it have to do with this situation, other than give you another chance to make snide insinuations?

Amazing. And deeply discouraging.

Union

October 22nd, 2010
9:03 am

i bet maris means they are all democrats?

aps is typical of atl.. every good thing has been squandered or ruined to pander to a group.. the atl airport is a prime example.. you may not read the ajc bookman.. but your paper did a nice story on lost revenue for a “friends and family” discount.. same a few years ago for rent concessions.. billions in revenue lost. same for aps… over the years.. billions misspent and wasted.. and you are just not understanding this?

Southern Comfort

October 22nd, 2010
9:04 am

and the cricket continue to chirp…..

Southern Comfort

October 22nd, 2010
9:07 am

http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/18611010817935940/site/default.asp?1861Nav=|&NodeID=655

Jay

Maybe she’s saying that Nancy Meister and Cecily Harsch-Kinnane don’t belong on the board. :D

Jay

October 22nd, 2010
9:08 am

The Atlanta airport is a fine example?

You mean, a fine example of how the city of Atlanta built the largest, busiest, most successful airport on the planet?

Bosch

October 22nd, 2010
9:09 am

Union,

Isn’t the ATL airport like the biggest and best airport in the country? Do you have another example, that makes your argument valid?

Union

October 22nd, 2010
9:13 am

well.. yes and no.. jay.. i guess by your tone you accept the fact that waste.. billions of dollars lost revenue as a success story? odd….

Southern Comfort

October 22nd, 2010
9:20 am

this is going to be a good thread. I can just see it now. :lol:

Union

October 22nd, 2010
9:21 am

one other “small” item that may want to be considered.. other travelers hate the atl airport.. biggest complaint is the food and level of service. jd power did an airport study.. the “busiest” airport in the country didnt rank too well.

Union

October 22nd, 2010
9:22 am

soco.. i have not even begun yet.. im still at the hotel packing.. wait til i get some free time. :)

Scout

October 22nd, 2010
9:24 am

Ah ………………… not possible. Most of them are liberals.

Palin fan

October 22nd, 2010
9:26 am

I for one, and like others here, are very concerned about the Khaatim Sherrer El, the Education Board’s “Imam” and the other Muslims on the board that are indoctrinating our Children with Islam and replacing schools with mosks like those at the holy lands at Ground Zero.

Jay

October 22nd, 2010
9:26 am

billions of dollars of lost revenue, Union?

Really. I understand the airport is a big operation, but billions?

And isn’t it odd that, say, the indictment of a Gwinnett County commissioner on charges of taking a million dollar bribe, and the resignation of its chairman to avoid indictment on perjury charges, don’t produce the same sense of joyous vindication in some people that a comparatively small problem in Atlanta produces?

We’re about to elect a governor with a long series of ethical problems, but … MARTA! Airport! The state DOT has been dysfunctional for years, but MARTA! Airport! The state’s mental health department has been letting scores of helpless people die because of incompetence and apathy, but MARTA! Airport!!

This is not about MARTA, or the airport, or Atlanta public schools. It is most certainly not. Time to get over it, people. Leave it in the last century, where it belongs.

Jefferson

October 22nd, 2010
9:27 am

I agree and mothers driving drunk is worrysome itself.

jt

October 22nd, 2010
9:30 am

Southern Comfort——

“This is another example of useless repetition. There’s APS BOE, then Georgia’s BOE, and then the Fed Dept of E. Get rid of two of those, and we might see a thing or two accomplished by the education system.”

I rarely agree with a federalie. Good advice.

Good show.

Now if we could do something about the 218 agencies that comprise the DHS too.

Southern Comfort

October 22nd, 2010
9:30 am

Palin Fan

Bless your heart!!!! I mean it, seriously!!!

Jay

There’s no problems in Gwinnett Co. Those are good, honest, hard working people there.

Southern Comfort

October 22nd, 2010
9:32 am

218? Is it really that many? I’m all about efficiency and the reduction of redundancy. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you build a car.

Jay

October 22nd, 2010
9:32 am

JD Power rated Hartsfield average for food and retail, Union.

Is that the best you got?

barking frog

October 22nd, 2010
9:34 am

Outsiders do not understand that school boards
are there to protect jobs, increase
salaries and create better working conditions. Members
that do not conform are frozen out and ignored. Children
as a secondary concern get a fairly good education.

Jay

October 22nd, 2010
9:34 am

From an Atlanta Business Chronicle story in July:

“In other airport news, for the eighth year in a row, the Air Transport Research Society (ATRS) gave Hartsfield-Jackson its Award of Excellence for efficiency, this year as the most efficient airport in the world.

ATRS said the honor is “a reflection of Hartsfield- Jackson’s productivity, efficiency and low costs, including the lowest passenger costs for the airlines.”

The award is based on research by the ATRS Global Airport Benchmarking Task Force. The study compared 150 airports and airport groups worldwide.

Hartsfield-Jackson earned the ATRS Global Airport Efficiency Excellence Award in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. The airport won the ATRS’s North American award in 2005.

Hartsfield-Jackson is the world’s busiest airport, serving more than 88 million passengers annually…”

The most efficient airport in the world.

Union, it would seem that your perception is based on something other than facts.

TaxPayer

October 22nd, 2010
9:35 am

Come on, Jay. Don’t act so surprised at the comments you receive (and don’t recieve) from this batch of compassionate conservative’s broken records. These Dixiecrats make eight-track tapes sound good.

chuck

October 22nd, 2010
9:37 am

Good morning Jay,

I think under the BEST circumstances, education is a most difficult endeavor. In this political climate it is almost impossible. The APS and its Board are dysfunctional. I can’t really speak to the competence of Hall. I don’t know her. However, her leadership style as observed through this paper, through conversations with APS teachers and administrators and through local news reports, seems to be confrontational, bordering on bullying. She seems to be very political as well.

As the saying goes, “If you live by the sword, you die by the sword.” People who play politics with schools are going to be caught in the pendulum swings of public opinion. The whole mess makes me sick.

I have 8 more years until I can retire, and I’ll be glad when it gets here. I still love the kids and I still love the ART of TEACHING, but I can’t stand the constant attacks on my profession by clueless politicians on both sides of the aisle and by even MORE CLUELESS parents and pundits. I can’t stand the arrogance of wet-behind-the-ears administrators who think they know everything because they taught school for a couple of years and got an administration degree so they can make a name for themselves and make the big bucks. I’m tired of us paying Superintendents $250,000 with tax dollars that would be better spent in the classroom. I’ll fight for my kids and I’ll fight for my profession, but I won’t do it for politicians or bureaucrats.

Southern Comfort

October 22nd, 2010
9:39 am

Jay

I gotta admit, Hartsfield can’t compete with Interstate Barbeque in Memphis airport. :)

Normal

October 22nd, 2010
9:45 am

I vote for Josef Nix for School Superintendent!

chuck

October 22nd, 2010
9:53 am

The ATL Airport is okay. In the past 5 years I’ve been in Degaulle, Frankfurt, Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest, Kluj (Romania), Milan, Kennedy and La Guardia (sp?). Atlanta is by far the busiest, but it is very efficient at moving passengers through check in and security. For international flights it usually takes about an hour and a half to get to the gate. Most of the others don’t take quite that long, but they aren’t dealing with the numbers ATL has so it’s a wash.

That said, WHO CARES? I thought we were talking about APS.

Nice Guy

October 22nd, 2010
9:55 am

“I vote for Josef Nix for School Superintendent!”

What, you want to see a huge uproar? I suspect the community would not take too kindly to a gay man as school superintendent. Whether that’s right or wrong….

Steve

October 22nd, 2010
9:56 am

Deep Throat @ 8:43 hit the nail on the head.

Harry Callahan

October 22nd, 2010
9:56 am

“The contract of Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall expires next June, and given all that has transpired, it seems likely that one way or another, her largely successful tenure as head of the Atlanta system will be coming to an end.”

Jay, I’ll argue that, if we are judging her tenure as successful based on improved test scores, that may be a flawed conclusion, given the now-suspect nature of the testing.

Harry Callahan

October 22nd, 2010
10:02 am

I live in Cobb, and the school board there is a complete joke as well, so at least you city of Atlanta people aren’t drowning in this cesspool alone. if it makes you feel any better.

Normal

October 22nd, 2010
10:02 am

Doggone/GA

October 22nd, 2010
10:02 am

“I suspect the community would not take too kindly to a gay man as school superintendent”

And Jewish to boot. But wouldn’t it be fun to watch? I suspect that even Joseph might get a kick out of the uproar.

Normal

October 22nd, 2010
10:06 am

BTW, forgive me if this has been mentioned, but were any of these Atlanta school board member ever teachers? It seems to me that educators should be governing educators and schools.
—————————–
Nice Guy

October 22nd, 2010
9:55 am

…only in the minds of the uneducated…

Marie

October 22nd, 2010
10:13 am

Jay by the makeup of the board (and I do not know anything about the individuals personally) I mean they are primarily the same race (7 blacks, 2 whites, 5 women and 4 men) and age (all appear to be GenXrs) and I am going to make a wild guess that they are probably all Democrats since most blacks are democrats. However, that does not truly represent the diversity of Atlanta which does have individuals of all races, sexual orientation, political thought, and age. I tend to align people generational and find that our thought processes have been shaped by the age and time we grew up in. And for my generation (GenXers) there tends to be a desire to have power and position without the humility and self-sacrifice such positions of leadership require.

And I personally would prefer to see the wisdom and maturity of more seasoned citizens serving on the school board and in all areas of government (and in the private sector) in our country. Unfortunately, we are a country that tend to force people into retirement when they reach 60+. Or maybe in this case no senior citizen would want to be bothered with a bunch of self-centered GenXers.

larry

October 22nd, 2010
10:22 am

The school boards in rural Georgia isnt that great either. I know in one county, they have on its board a guy who got arrested for beating a woman in front of 9 and 10 year old girls at a softball game.

And nepotism rules ……….

TaxPayer

October 22nd, 2010
10:23 am

Marie’s comments were certainly enlightening.

Normal

October 22nd, 2010
10:23 am

For educating…some history. October 22 was a rather active day in history…

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history

Union

October 22nd, 2010
10:46 am

sorry for the delay.. had to pack.. head to the office for a quick meeting and on to the airport..
my experience with atl is from speaking to other pax as well as my own personal experience.. i travel through atl every week.. and from that point.. pick an airport.. probably been to it. (not all.. most) for most business travelers.. atl is not the highlight of their trip.. for numerous reasons..
this year i will have around 140 segments (flights) and over 250k miles..

ECB

October 22nd, 2010
10:47 am

This is off topic, but it drives me nuts. How did SACS become so powerful. A school systems accreditation should be based on its cirriculum and learning, not on the misdeeds of board members. When a system loses accreditation, it is the students, teachers, and homeowners that get hurt, not the board members. If what a board member does doesn’t compromise teaching and learning, then accreditation should not be at risk. Mark Elgart must now be the most powerful man in the state. When he talks, people listen.

Union

October 22nd, 2010
10:54 am

in regards to the losses.. using the ajc story.. just on advertising alone.. 420 million in lost revenue over 30 years with the ajc estimates.. in addition to the first lawsuit that was filed against the city and lost for 17.5 million..

jlo

October 22nd, 2010
11:08 am

Jay, Back to the topic at hand. You are right.
Chandra, you and your friends along with your blue ribbon panel at the Chamber are WRONG. You assisted Hall in fudging the numbers and now you are caught. Your gang picked up the jaxs and ran to your corner thinking you would not get caught.

El, I supported you when you started this journey, but now your gang stealing the balls and saying ‘they started it’, makes you look just as guilty as the others.

Neither gang has the best interest of the students at heart. Right now both sides are looking to see how they can come out clean and on top, while the children of APS are about to sit in discredited schools. Stop being STUPID!! None of you are doing the job that you were elected to do. If the state takes over, there goes the funding for some very innovative programs that have and still can work. But, just like yall, the state DOE is full of people who got jobs because of who they know and not what is good for the children. Get back on task. Hall and her cronnies have already set the system up with the cheating and abuse of Fed dollars. There will be a lot to tackle after all the investigations are over. And, there may be money to pay back. Not one child in APS asked to cheat or tried. Teachers involved did it because they were more concerned about themselves instead of kids. The administration acted for self as well. Now the Board members need to act for the kids and not to please anyone – I dont care who pays for your election campaign.

So, Children of the APS board, bring all the toys back to the center of the room – you didn’t pay for not one of them – WE THE TAX PAYERS DO!!. Sit your behinds down and get to the business at hand which is not about who is right, who is the leader or how good you look – IT IS ALL ABOUT THE CHILDREN THAT ATTEND THE SCHOOLS OF ATLANTA. Hall is not your boss (She may have come here with a new direction but she and her team have proven that they are out for self glorification. Fire Hall, Augustine, McCloud and anybody else they brought in with them) and neither is any member of the ‘blue ribbon panel’ – WE ARE and most of you want to be re-elected. Right now – none of you should. And, if you lose the schools accredidation, you will kiss that job good bye.

Independent

October 22nd, 2010
12:32 pm

Sorry Jay but ATL only ranks as the busiest insofar as pax traffic is concerned. The biggest is in Saudi Arabia, King Khalid. It’s about 60% the size of the city of Atlanta. The most successful? Way too subjective, that’s a little like stating Piedmont Park is the most successful park on the planet. Depends on who you ask. Personally, I’d pick Schiphol in AMS. Great layout, train station below, a wide variety of shopping and dining, and to boot, the security forces carry Uzi’s and MP5s rather than a can of pepper spray and latex gloves.

jm

October 24th, 2010
8:00 pm

I hope we get Michelle Rhee, or someone of similar or better quality….