Published on July 12th, 2011 |1
New APS chief removes 4 area superintendents, changes 2 principals; Khaatim El resigns from board
The axe began to fall on those who were involved in the Atlanta Public Schools test score cheating scandal Monday night as interim Superintendent Erroll Davis replaced four area superintendents with principals and replaced the principals at two year-round elementary schools that begin summer classes on Wednesday.
|Khaatim Sherrer El|
In a surprise move, former school board chairman Khaatim Sherrer El, who was the first member of the board last year to question whether APS was doing enough to respond to the cheating concerns, announced his resignation from the board declaring, “I failed to protect thousands of children who come from homes like mine.”
With his wavering with emotion, El said, “I just concluded in the end it just shouldn’t be this hard to do the right things for kids. It remains to be seen, no matter how deep this thing goes, whether the soul of Atlanta has been stirred,” he added.
El led a five-member takeover of the board last year when he found out the chair at the time had kept the extent of the cheating scandal from the other board members for months. The board takeover was criticized by Mayor Kasim Reed, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and parent groups and led to APS being put on accreditation probation and state legislation that granted the governor the power to remove any or all members of the school board.
After months of mediation, El was removed last month as school board chairman but retained his seat on the board. But in the meantime, El has accepted a new job as chief of staff for the Foundation for Newark’s Future in Newark, N.J.
The four area superintendents removed from their jobs Monday by Davis are Sharon Davis-Williams, Michael Pitts, Robin Hall and Tamara Cotman, all who were implicated in the cheating scandal in the state investigation report released last week. Davis did not say whether they will remain with the district.
|APS chief Erroll Davis|
Elevated to area superintendent positions were David White, principal of Buckhead’s E Rivers Elementary School, Donell Underdue Jr., principal of Brown Middle School; Danielle Battle, principal of King Middle School, and Elizabeth Bockman, principal of Inman Middle Schooll. White becomes executive director of SRT 4, one of the four geographic areas known as School Reform Teams. He replaces Tamara Cotman, one of the school officials implicated in the cheating scandal report.
Davis also said that two year-round elementary schools named in a state investigative report made public last week will receive new principals before classes start Wednesday. Keisha Gibbons, former assistant principal at Centennial Place Elementary School, was named principal of Boyd Elementary; she replaces Emalyn Foreman. The new principal for Hutchinson Elementary will be named Tuesday, Davis said.
The staff moves were the first by Buckhead resident Davis, who was given a one-year contract last week to turn around the system, in his promised response to the test-cheating scandal that has implicated 178 employees in 44 schools and could result in criminal charges.
Davis did not offer further changes, though more certainly will come. Given employees’ contractual and legal rights to due process, it will take at least four months if not longer to address all employees involved.
Monday night’s meeting was the first in which staff and parents had a chance to address board members publicly. For an hour, the standing-room-only crowd urged district officials to regain control of the school system.
The 800-page report released Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal castigated the district and former Superintendent Beverly Hall for a deeply embedded culture of cheating, cover-ups and obstruction. Hall stressed annual academic targets by whatever means necessary, investigators said, ignoring mounting evidence of misconduct over the past decade and willfully hindering the investigation by destroying or altering complaints.
Former Attorney General Mike Bowers, appearing earlier Monday with former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson before the Atlanta Rotary Club, said in their first public remarks since their report was released last week that there are other educators the investigation didn’t catch.
“I will guarantee you there are more of them than that ,” Bowers said.