Vigorous reinvention of the scandal plagued Atlanta Public Schools system executive leadership team continued Monday evening when four area superintendents were replaced and the immediate past board of education president resigned.
All four area superintendents were named in a test cheating report released last week by Governor Nathan Deal and special prosecutors. Four middle and elementary school principals will replace the ousted area superintendents. At least 183 APS personnel were implicated in the report; all are being removed from classroom or teaching supervision assignments.
Atlanta interim superintendent Erroll Davis announced the changes during a board meeting just a few hours after his appearance before the Atlanta Rotary Club. Davis was joined at Rotary by special prosecutors Mike Bowers and Bob Wilson whose test-cheating scandal team included dozens of Georgia Bureau of Investigations agents along with private law firm attorneys and other staff.
Ousted area superintendents Tamara Cotman, Robin Hall, Sharon Davis-Williams and Michael Pitts were named in the report, which is the result of an investigation that began last August. All four reported to APS system superintendent Beverly Hall, who is subject to possible criminal prosecution. Hall retired at the end of June.
Former APS board chair Khaatim S. El released a lengthy statement upon his resignation. In part, El said three questions “should haunt Atlanta for the foreseeable future.” They include:
1) Why was the cheating scandal so exclusively pronounced for some children and not for others (splitting sharply along racial lines) and yet equal in its mistreatment of the poor and disenfranchised? Why were these children – mostly low income and African – American – so cavalierly denied access to America’s promise?
2) How did we – the elected officials, business leaders, and the system itself – become complicit in, through our actions and in our silence, a deal with the Devil that sold out a generation of children for the sake of the city’s image and the district’s “perception of success?
3) Who, in the end, benefited from this collusion? Why did powerful people use their positions to punish those who dared to speak out? Why was legislation created to expressly limit the voice of the electorate, the people? What was behind the decision to place into law a provision to “restrict the powers of the Board” as outlined in the APS Charter?”
The third series of questions refers to a new Georgia state law passed this year that would allow the Governor’s Office to remove members of the Atlanta Public Schools board of education.
El was a controversial board chairman. He pushed questions about how the school district was responding to media reports about cheating on standardized tests. Hall steadfastly insisted that no cheating occurred, but that was refuted by the ten-month special prosecutors’ investigation.
Backwash from the Atlanta scandal has reached all the way down into DeSoto, Texas. Monday evening the DeSoto Independent School Board placed its new superintendent on indefinite paid leave after one day on the job. Kathy Augustine is a former APS deputy superintendent. Augustine was named in the special prosecutors’ report. She has denied any wrongdoing.
The Foundation’s Criminal Justice Initiative pushed the problems to the forefront, proposed practical solutions, brought in leaders from other states to share examples, and created this nonpartisan opportunity. (At the signing of the 2012 Criminal Justice Reform bill.)