This past week the administration announced that a number of APS school principals would not return to those positions next year. While the administration would not confirm who the individuals were, based on a several sources, the list of schools whose principals will not return in FY15 are as follows:
- Morris Brandon Elementary
- Miles Elementary
- Grady High School
- Mays High School
- South Atlanta Computer Animation & Design High School
- Carver – Science & Technology High School
- Washington – Banking & Finance High School
- Washington – Early College High School
- Washington – Health, Sciences & Nutrition High School
The following letter was written to the Board of Education by Tom Tidwell who ran for a seat on the Board in the past election. In addition, Mr. Tidwell serves as President of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods.
Dear Board Members,
I am very disturbed with the wholesale removal of principals, including Karen Evans at Brandon and Vincent Murray at Grady. These are two of the highest performing schools in the district, and you can attribute these schools’ exceptional performance more to the principals than to Erroll Davis or Karen Waldon. I don’t know who the other principals are, so it may be that some of the removals are justified for cause or legally required due to state and federal funding. However, it clearly is not justified in the case of Brandon or Grady, and I suspect the same is true for others.
This move begs the question – where should our focus be? Should we spend our time, money and energy on shaking up schools that are doing well or should we focus on schools that are underperforming? What are we doing for schools that have been failing for years with a revolving door in the principal’s office? To follow-up on the line of questioning that was oft-repeated at yesterday’s budget committee meeting – how does removing Karen Evans improved the educational outcome for Brandon children? Since APS has limited resources, don’t we want the greatest bang for our buck? Even if we can obtain some marginal improvement by removing Karen Evans, couldn’t we get even greater improvement by replacing a principal at one of our failing schools?
Why is a lame duck superintendent making this decision? This is very similar to the NAHS debacle when they hired Mygrant out of retirement only to fire him 3 months later. If he was such a bad principal, why did APS re-hire him to begin with. If the principals at Brandon and Grady were so bad, why have they been allowed to stay around for so long? I have been a parent at Brandon for 7 years. I am not a huge Karen Evans supporter, but she does a good job, and as far as I can tell, as an involved parent and member of the school council, nothing has changed in the way she operates the school over the past 5 years. If she is doing something that justifies replacement, then she has been doing it for long time and should have been replaced long ago. If that is the case (which I am certain it isn’t), why did APS allow my children to suffer all these years instead of replacing her with a good principal?
There are two courses you can pursue. One is do nothing and lose an incredible amount of talent, intelligence, experience and institutional knowledge. If you choose this route, you better be absolutely sure it’s the right decision because once the principals are terminated/removed/retired, that move is essentially irreversible.
The other course is to put this on hold and let the new superintendent make the decision. If I was coming into this job as superintendent, I would not want my most experienced leaders at my highest performing schools to be removed just before I start. Instead, I would want them as resources so I could turn to them for guidance as I worked to improve the underperforming schools.
The Board is not supposed to micro-manage the day-to-day operations of APS. But this is not a situation where a board member is demanding to get his college roommate hired as a principal – that is what got the DeKalb board in trouble. This is, or at least should be a policy level decision on how to transition from one superintendent to another. It seems to me the Board should be involved in creating a policy for ensuring a smooth transition. To do otherwise could allow a lame-duck superintendent to sabotage the work of the new superintendent (I am not suggesting that Davis would do this, but there is no reason the Board should not take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen).
This is a time for leadership. I know most of you are new, but please don’t let the tail wag the dog. This whole situation smells like internal politics as usual. Please step up and do what is right, and more importantly, what is best for our children.
For more on this, see the following stories at the links below:
- Atlanta Public Schools makes big principal changes – WXIA [Comment – contains the most comprehensive list of schools – also add Brandon Elementary to the list]
- Several Atlanta principals to be removed from their schools – AJC
- Some principals in Atlanta Public Schools told they won’t have jobs next year – Get Schooled
- Atlanta cleaning house for new school chief: Is Erroll Davis using a blow torch instead of a broom? – Get Schooled [Includes letters from parents Janet Kishbaugh and Leigh M. Wilco]
- Principals on the hot seat: As they’ve become more critical, they’ve become more vulnerable – Get Schooled [includes letter from Morris Brandon Elementary]
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