Atlanta’s schools and a disturbing outbreak of common sense

Question your dog closely today. There’s every chance that he has declared a truce with the neighborhood cat.

Should you have a tattooed teenager in the house, check the trash. If the garbage can has made it to the street without your usual pleading, nagging or threats, do not summon police.

Whether the result of sunspots or a virus, strange experiences are being reported all over the state. Unfathomable marvels, in fact. This week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta even documented a case in which fully grown adults on the public payroll were caught doing the right thing — possibly for the right reason.

Again, there is no reason to panic. We have drugs for everything now, and surely this, too, will pass.

The most recent outbreak of good judgment occurred in and around the state Capitol. The event quickly caught the eye of epidemiologists, like a green blade of grass springing up in the Gobi desert.

By way of background: On Tuesday, the outfit in charge of accrediting school operations across the nation put the Atlanta Public Schools system on probation. It has eight months to clean up its act, or risk losing its accreditation — a kind of Good Housekeeping seal of approval that tells colleges that a school system’s diplomas are worth something.

You may have heard of the Atlanta school system’s problems. It is in the midst of a cheating scandal involving test scores. The GBI is investigating, as are the feds. The school superintendent has given her notice. So for the sake of the kids, the nine members of the Atlanta Board of Education decided to address these crises with a long and loud legal squabble over who would be board chairman.

In the process, they violated their own by-laws. So said their lawyers.

The Atlanta school board, it seems, has an acquired immunity to sunspots and all sorts of judgment-related viruses.

We have been here before. The 50,000-student Clayton County school system was stripped of its accreditation in 2008. After the fact, Gov. Sonny Perdue stepped in, removing misbehaving school board members. Provisional accreditation has since been restored.

But Clayton County is not Atlanta. Atlanta is a brand name, recognized worldwide. If the Atlanta Public Schools were certified as something less than acceptable, the whole region would suffer.

Corporate recruitment would dry up. Our job drought would go on and on and on.

So last week, as soon as Atlanta’s problems went public, Gov. Nathan Deal picked up the phone and reached out to Mayor Kasim Reed. The white Republican governor then called for a meeting of all state lawmakers from Atlanta — who are mostly African-American and Democratic — for the next day. In his offices.

Deal met one-on-one with House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams of Atlanta and asked her to serve as one of two liaisons between the Atlanta school board and himself. It was their first face-to-face meeting.

“We must do everything possible to stop an embarrassing situation from snowballing into a destructive situation,” the governor would later say in a news release.

Deal’s group meeting with Atlanta lawmakers did not go perfectly. One and all were stunned by the governor’s choice of the second liaison to the Atlanta school board — Republican Beth Beskin, an Atlanta lawyer who just finished an unsuccessful November challenge to state Sen. Horacena Tate. Who sat in the room and fumed.

Even so, the unprecedented nature of the event left most participants optimistic. State Sen. Vincent Fort, who has ascribed racial motives to the accreditation agency involved, admitted he was impressed by the governor’s willingness to discuss the situation — before taking any action.

It was something Deal’s predecessor never did, Fort said.

The fate of the Atlanta school board now is largely in the hands of those two go-betweens for the governor.

Beskin declined comment. But Abrams, also showing signs of succumbing to this plague of common sense, said her “surprising” appointment — and Deal’s meeting with local lawmakers — was “a nod to the citizens of Atlanta that he’s not attempting anything nefarious.”

The House minority leader said she and Beskin over the next few months would attend all meetings of the Atlanta Board of Education, acting as hall monitors. Her words. (If you are a high school student, you now have permission to snicker.)

“We’ll be looking at what people say, looking at how they say it, looking at how they’re heard. This isn’t simply about how they vote. It’s about their engagement with the community,” said Abrams. The two will keep the governor apprised through the summer.

If suggestions come from the state Capitol, the Atlanta school board is obliged to listen. The Legislature and governor hold the school system’s charter in their hands.

Already, there is talk about changes headed the school board’s way — possibly putting it under the control of the mayor. Or merging it with other nearby systems.

“Every possibility of governance has to be on the table,” said state Rep. Kathy Ashe, D-Atlanta.

The leader of Ashe’s caucus does not agree. “Systemic changes should happen only when there’s proof of systemic failure. And that does not exist,” Abrams said.

There’s no need to inflame the situation.

“I think the major task for [the school board] is to prove that they’ve learned their lesson to [the accrediting agency's] satisfaction. And that they are willing to work together. This doesn’t require unanimity. It simply requires collaboration,” Abrams said.

The Democratic leader noted that both she and the Republican governor agreed things could be worse. “You had actual public malfeasance with Clayton County. You have, I think, incivility and some legitimate concerns about process with [the Atlanta school board]. No one’s accusing the board of doing anything but violating the rules in the game. And I think this is something that Governor Deal recognizes.”

Over the weekend, physicians were called to the bedsides of both Deal and Abrams. All of metro Atlanta, perhaps all of Georgia, is praying that they do not recover.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

68 comments Add your comment

MrLiberty

January 22nd, 2011
5:38 pm

Common sense cannot break out in any government bureaucracy. The two things cannot by the laws of physics coexist in the same reality.

RGB

January 22nd, 2011
6:08 pm

The loony left naysayers must be watching recorded episodes of Oprah and Overbite.

Press on Governor Deal.

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

January 22nd, 2011
6:11 pm

I must admit I too was stunned by Governor Deal’s quick call for action, his level-headedness and his overall tone. It was shocking and unexpected, especially after the “leadership” we have suffered for the past 8 years. Will it last? Will his Republican cronies urge him to act differently? Will he give in to incivility and divisiveness? Only time will tell but it sure was refreshing.

Jason

January 22nd, 2011
6:30 pm

SACS only has accrediting authority over schools in the southeast (plus Texas and Virginia). There are similar agencies in other regions.

Note that this is only probation, which isn’t good but is something that isn’t all that unusual. Go to SACS website and you’ll see that there are lots of school systems on probation. It’s used as a warning that things are headed in the wrong direction. Loss of accreditation is something else altogether and Atlanta is nowhere near where Clayton was when they got the ax. Almost all schools that get on probation are removed from the list on the next review. It is extraordinarily rare that anyone moves on to a loss of accreditation. Clayton County schools worked very hard to get that dubious distinction.

Not to say there is nothing to be concerned about but it looks like there is going to be some much needed house cleaning. This should also serve as notice to the business community that if they’re going to pick the school superintendent, they can’t go for the silver bullet type they picked last time around. That might work in the corporate world where you come in, slash things left and right for a temporary gain and make everything look good on paper before taking the golden parachute away from the scene. But in the real world, long term matters. A quick improvement of test scores on paper doesn’t help if in reality the students aren’t getting an improved education. Eventually it gets discovered, as it did here.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jim Galloway and Buzz Brockway, Daniel Walker. Daniel Walker said: RT @politicalinsidr: Atlanta’s schools and a disturbing outbreak of common sense http://bit.ly/gUOO5g [...]

Southern Boy

January 22nd, 2011
6:34 pm

Come on. We know the nine members of the ABE should be recalled/fired/removed, etc–but they won’t be because the ruling class of the City of Atlanta politics won’t do it. So, the system will continue to be dysfunctional until it implodes. I have absolutely no faith that anything will change unless by outside parties.

asy

January 22nd, 2011
6:43 pm

They will blame the white man until thy lose accreditation.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

January 22nd, 2011
6:44 pm

The APS accreditation crisis could be a blessing in disguise: Solving the APS accreditation problem would afford Atlantans an opportunity to exemplify for their fellow Georgians the spirit of civic cooperation. Such a spirit will be required if we Georgians are to solve the multiplicity of problems facing our respective local public school systems and our DOE.

Good plan

January 22nd, 2011
6:54 pm

To understand….the accrediting body SACS is a peer group and all members join voluntarily. This is not some group of insurgents but the APS’ peers from other systems across the south seeking to assure standards are maintained. I congratulate all involved on having the foresight to not let this become a larger problem. Also there is no racial agenda within SACS.

Dana Blankenhorn

January 22nd, 2011
6:54 pm

The racism of people like Asy and Southern Boy aside (you want us to take over Cobb County next time they start arguing with each other, dude?), the right thing was done. Even the appointment of a Republican who lost to Horacena Tate makes some logical sense. But the appointment of Abrams was genius. She’s my representative, I didn’t vote for her when she first ran, but she’s been a revelation. Smart, courageous, intelligent, personable. Your district should be so lucky.

asy

January 22nd, 2011
6:59 pm

No.racism. reality. Its.never their fault.

Good plan

January 22nd, 2011
7:00 pm

I am a conservative white man in his 60’s and I can only say that asy’s comments are idiotic.

Frequency

January 22nd, 2011
7:01 pm

“State Sen. Vincent Fort, who has ascribed racial motives to the accreditation agency involved,…”

And therein lies the problem. Everything’s racial. Forget honesty, integrity, hard work, personal sacrifice and personal responsibility. The good ole race card will trump everything.

Joe

January 22nd, 2011
7:07 pm

It would serve us all well if we quit playing the race card. All of our kids need educating and this only divides us and our leaders need to quit running to race as a reason for all ills. It is obviously wearing thin with people that could otherwise be good allies.

TrishaDishaWarEagle

January 22nd, 2011
7:11 pm

Vincent Fort is a race pimp jackass. Anytime anything bads happens under a black elected official, it’s a racist plot by someone(whitey, the man, Bush, SACS)..we all know that..

TrishaDishaWarEagle

January 22nd, 2011
7:17 pm

Here is a link to the late great Royal Marshall interviewing one of the Atlanta school systems recent honors graduates…

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/284646/boo_got_shot_animation/

Interested Observer

January 22nd, 2011
8:12 pm

If Horacena Tate is fuming mad, chances are good we are moving in the right direction.

pn

January 22nd, 2011
8:25 pm

Stacey Abrams seems very thoughtful, well-spoken and apparently possesses very good manners; all of which traits are wonderful to behold. It is great to see Gov. Deal engaged and trying to solve problems. I hope that this represents pragmatism and civility returning to politics in GA. We’ve had enough of self-serving, sophomoric, grandstanding frat boys.

ate

January 22nd, 2011
8:28 pm

@good plan,
take some time and try to volunteer at an Altanta APS school and you will see what that crazy talk is all about. Its just a shame. those kids are being raised to blame others for their poverty and troubles. that is, if there is any parental supervision to begin with. and if there is, you can count on no fingers how many parents at some of these non-performing schools ever take the time to even know what their child is learning, much less take an active role in their education. yeah, we hear from the blowhards how that is racist and stereotyping, but magically, the proof is in the pudding. i went to bad schools but my parents made sure I knew how to speak correctly, read and do math. while my friends were playing and getting into trouble, i had the great pleasure of doing book reports for my parents…one per week. and btw, my dad worked two jobs and my mother was a housekeeper at the local motel. and they still took the time. i am as connected with the poor black community as I am with an elephant in Africa. i hate visiting my cousins because I get two reactions. the first is that I turned uncle tom. and the second is a request for some money.

bill cosby was right.

Cutty

January 22nd, 2011
9:59 pm

As a parent of an APS student and a democrat, I must applaud Deal for his well-thought plan to ‘deal’ with this situation. It is time to move past racial divisions. For those on the thread that like to bash blacks and think we’re all some monolithic race remember this, if APS would lose its accreditation, that would be the demise of this entire state. The largest city with a school system that has no accreditation.

Think about it.

vuduchld

January 22nd, 2011
10:02 pm

So, who is going to be the foil to tell outsiders that the same gubner clamouring for a call to action is as broke and bankrupt as the snow disater of two weeks ago. Why would any legitimate business come here in the first place? If the gubner can’t balance his own check book why should the citizens entrust him with theirs? For all the “feel good” an article like this exudes the fact is that your state is fast becoming irrelevant. Who cares if APS gets flushed down the toilet? People who don’t care to live in your pathetic state have moved on to bigger and better things. They could care less what this sorry region does with it’s young. Sounds like a BROKE DEAL to me.

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

January 22nd, 2011
10:29 pm

I’m just reading some of the comments with special nod to asy/Trisha/ate/Frequency and I have to laugh. What were you saying about an outbreak of common sense? That was short-lived.

moi

January 22nd, 2011
10:30 pm

LOL vuduchld….we know you really are Roy Barnes…move on already :)

moi

January 22nd, 2011
10:33 pm

As we’ve seen with most politicians, there is usually a lot of bluster and “good intentions”, then it all falls apart. I’m going to try and be optimistic about this wonderful start with Deal and the others mentioned, and only pray it continues. Being on the list is not the end of the world, as one poster noted, but we should strive to not even come close to that list ever again. The warning signs are here, lets heed them….

Penny

January 22nd, 2011
11:04 pm

Bunch of racist jim crow lovers trying to attack APS. Their wasn’t cheating its all a lie. I new this was gonna happen when Miss Beverley got all that attention. They just want to take away acreditacion from a majority African American school district. SACS. That don’t mean nothing. These people try to attack Clayton County and Decatur to. Atlanta Public Schools is the best around and the blue eyed devil can’t handel that.

Penny

January 22nd, 2011
11:17 pm

Their never was proof anyone cheated. This is all a made up lie. Made up by some blue eyes and co singed by some Toms. Typical day in Georgia. And if they did cheat it dont make no difference, a test score dont prove anyone nows better than anyone else. Only God can make that judgement. Ya’ll act like you never done no wrong.

Buckhead Resident

January 22nd, 2011
11:40 pm

Interested Observer is spot on-

If the State Senate were smart they would carve out a new district for Beth Beskin- she would be a breath of fresh air

TrishaDishaWarEagle

January 22nd, 2011
11:52 pm

Mrs Norman Maine, my parents displayed common sense by sending me to a private school. No, It wasn’t easy for them, and they didn’t go on vacation for about ten year, but I could actually hit the ground running at the University level and not spend 2 years in remedial english and math.

There were times, I´m sure you knew
When there was F…F.. F-all else to do
But through it all, when there was doubt
I shot it up or kicked it out
I faced the wall and the world
And did it my way

BehindEnemyLines

January 23rd, 2011
2:10 am

re” if APS would lose its accreditation, that would be the demise of this entire state.”

It has virtually no credibility now, the loss of accreditation would simply formalize the matter. But you get a brownie point for making me LOL.

CJ

January 23rd, 2011
5:51 am

ANYTIME you have a school board made of blacks you will have problems. It’s sad but true. No country on earth, not one, under majority black rule, has ever been successful and self sustaining. Any city you go too, if you decide to drive to the most crime ridden area, it is dominated by blacks. Ghettos and projects are dominated by blacks. Businesses fail over 40% more often in black areas. Black men are killed by other black men over 95% of the time. Spare me the talk of the blue eyed devil.

Fire Eater

January 23rd, 2011
7:30 am

Why are the massively-funded schools in Atlanta, Dekalb and Clayton counties so much worse than the less-well-funded schools back up in Dawson, Fannin, Union and Rabun counties? Is it something in the water? OR IS IT SOMETHING ELSE THAT NO ONE WANTS TO TALK ABOUT?

JB

January 23rd, 2011
7:57 am

The most amazing thing about the SACS audit is that it does not cover test scores or graduation rates. The future of APS graduates’ certification is whether or not the School Board gets along. That’s it! Harmony guarantees accreditation….NOT grades… NOT test scores…NOT cheating test administrators!

Atl prof

January 23rd, 2011
8:07 am

Good times
Any time you need em baby
Godd times
Any time you feel free
Good times
Anytime after Monday, not getting hassled, not getting hustled
Keeping your head above water, makin’ you way when you can
Temporary lay off -good times. Ez credits a rip off, good times
Ain’t we lucky we got em……good times
End of show
Just looking out of the window, watching the asphalt grow
Thinking how it all looks hand me down
:-)

Thomas

January 23rd, 2011
8:43 am

A common sense approach in politics is like trying to charm a rattlesnake.

Richard Braswell

January 23rd, 2011
9:23 am

The meat of the article and purpose for the governor’s office meeting, “But Clayton County is not Atlanta. Atlanta is a brand name, recognized worldwide. If the Atlanta Public Schools were certified as something less than acceptable, the whole region would suffer. Corporate recruitment would dry up. Our job drought would go on and on and on”, is a smoke screen for an argument to the Federal people. The argument that says “we are on top of this and we should continue to get money.” The business community and thus the availability of jobs will not be affected in the least. Business owners do not stay in business being stupid and the Atlanta school system is not unique in administering tests. Not unique in that a business has no motivation to alter the results of test used to determine the level of competence of a prospective employee. The jobs today are technical and very skilled, and if the Atlanta school board thinks students can continue to be short changed by less than competent teachers and administrators, well, there is the history and that is the status quo. One cannot hide a poor education and the jobs go to people that can perform. The ‘Atlanta’ school board, the administrators, represent the problem. The fact that teachers were and are punished for reporting misdeeds and cheating, makes the board culpable and unreliable.

Dave

January 23rd, 2011
9:34 am

The only thing Perdue did was help himself and his friends get as much of GA’S money as possible. He was nothing but a lazy crook
who did so much harm to the state that everyone is having to pay now.
Beverly Hall and the entire APS Board should have been fired years ago.
Also the fact Atlanta lawmakers are mostly black and Dumocrats
explains a lot too.

Vincent Fort

January 23rd, 2011
10:21 am

Good article, Jim. One problem. I have never “ascribed” racial motives to SACS or anyone else in the situation regarding the CRCT scandal or APS’ accreditation. As a matter of fact a year ago I joined with a biracial and bipartisan group of legislators (Reps. Kathy Ashe, Ed Lindsay, Rashad Taylor) in asking APS to conduct a independent and transparent investigation. The Chamber of Commerce helped to thwart that effort and orchestrated a cover up. I do think that it is unfortunate that SACS only has one person of color on its executive staff and board of trustees. It is an obvious lack of diversity on their part.

Politico

January 23rd, 2011
10:55 am

I have frequently criticized Nathan Deal, but I am impressed at this apparent show of leadership. Perhaps there is hope for us after all. Now the Atlanta Democratic power structure needs to have the backbone to do the right thing and work with Deal to clean out the corruption in APS. They have spent millions of dollars year after year for decades and have absolutely nothing to show for it. Atlanta’s schools are an absolute disgrace. School “leaders” like Beverly Hall have become rich at taxpayers’ expense while illiterate students continue to graduate or, more often, drop out.

SpaceyG on Twitter

January 23rd, 2011
11:04 am

If Horancena Tate was charged with writing something coherent I imagine it would come out looking something like the top of this post.

But getting to the point here… APS stakeholders, parents, hardly need hall monitors spokespersons, made up of failed local politicians. They’ll do it on their own. But maybe the new governor needs someone to report back to him, old-school style.

However, there are already two competing Get With The Program APS! Facebook groups. The emails and the petitions, blogs, neighborhood discussion boards, etc. are on fire. Tomorrow’s board meeting should be fun face-to-face time. I hope to live-stream.

Let’s not ascribe too much credit to people/places where it’s not earned yet. There is more than enough hot air and inflammatory heat in this town to make the APS accreditation probation pot boil over the top yet!

SpaceyG on Twitter

January 23rd, 2011
11:26 am

One more thing… anyone who’s blabbering about APS being a *disgrace* and a *failure*, please contact me immediately for a personal, guided tour through an APS school. One on one. We’ll take as much time as you need to see what’s going on, meet and greet… whatever it takes.

But then again, you might not want to do that as it would ruin pre-conceived notions of what APS is all about in your head only. And who’d want to give-up such delicious stereotypes for first-hand experience and knowledge?!

Again, this (board) matter is not a teacher/classroom issue. It’s an adults-behaving-badly issue. Ascribe to a hardworking, improving school system what is very much due.

JimmyZ

January 23rd, 2011
11:28 am

Anyone who doubts the problems within the APS should go back and read Penny’s comments. I hate to single one person out, but if this is an example of an APS education, then it’s no wonder the system is crashing before our eyes.

SpaceyG on Twitter

January 23rd, 2011
11:41 am

All the above said, after reading this (http://bit.ly/h1Avxb) seems Atlanta teachers need to look-up the word *complicit* in the dictionary. And stop being driven by imaginary fears, lawyer up, heck, start blogging for chrissake, and speak-up. En mass. What’s the worse that could happen? Change? Well, change is a’coming to APS now, so try getting on THAT bandwagon.

Really?

January 23rd, 2011
2:02 pm

After reading the comments posted on this blog, I understand the concerns with the Atlanta Public School System.

Primarily directed at Penny, but there were a few others here, too.

If you people are examples of graduates of that system, perhaps SACS should take a good, hard look at the English departments of the high schools in it. Learning how to read and write is not a racial issue, and being literate in one’s native language does not make one an Uncle Tom.

TrishaDishaWarEagle

January 23rd, 2011
4:43 pm

I can also assure you, from having been on a synergy team when we absorbed one of our competitors, their execs were not asking what the public school system was like..thats like asking how nice are the public housing projects in the area. They had already invesigated all the Private and Parochial options in the metro area, which are plentiful.

Penny

January 23rd, 2011
5:57 pm

The people on this board just want to attack and slanderize me because if speak the truth. I am not the one to point fingers but I have a feeling it is probably people of the caucasion persausion that can’t handel an educated African American person such as myself typing out the truth on this bored.

Really?

January 23rd, 2011
6:34 pm

@ Penny . . . Yes, I am Caucasian, but I know many African Americans who know how to write a comprehensible sentence. Most people, regardless of race, know how to spell “handle” and understand the difference between “board” and “bored.” Furthermore, there is no such word as “slanderize.” If you went to APS, I’m glad no one in my family did.

Education is not about race. It is about an individual wanting to learn and being given the opportunity to do so. If you don’t understand that, I’m sorry that you have been taught racism. There is no place for that in an enlightened mind.

E. Silverman

January 23rd, 2011
7:15 pm

Was the last paragraph in your editorial supposed to be funny, or sarcastic becuase it certainly wasn’t funny!! Explain, if you can!

ECB

January 23rd, 2011
7:55 pm

@E. Silverman. I agree about the last paragraph. I didn’t understand it at all. Would someone please explain.

Penny

January 23rd, 2011
8:52 pm

@Really – You have just invaldidated your argument because “slanderize” is a word so you are just showing you ignorance. I did attend APS and as the story says the Atlanta Public School is a international brand, people from all over the world look to APS for guidance in education. They don’t look to Cobb or whatever back water you stay in. I do not know you but you do project the type of Klan behavior common from many caucasion individuals. I will pray for you and your kind because we are all God children. People that live in glass houses don’t need to throw rocks. SACS is a white group and all I read in the news makes me think there main purpose just want to discredit African Americans. I thirty years the truth will come out and ya’ll will see. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and the SACS just want to do that. The APS don’t need them or their approval. I dont mean nothing. I only follow God.

Drew in Cobb

January 23rd, 2011
9:05 pm

I think it may be time to look into SAC’s. They appear to be a runaway semi-govt. body with no controls in place. In fact a look at their charter makes it look like they are owned by private interests. It kind make you go hmmmmm in the middle of the night when you follow how they conduct their reviews and other activities.