APS announces school principal changes – former BOE candidate Tom Tidwell issues open letter to the Board of Education

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:

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2 Responses to APS announces school principal changes – former BOE candidate Tom Tidwell issues open letter to the Board of Education

  1. H.A. Hurley says:

    Principal at Grady knew about the athletes living out of district for years. Major violation! Probably put the entire sports program at risk. If found that he knew of this, he should be referred to the GA Professional Standards Commission.
    Dr. Murray is not a leader, never was, nor has the social skills to interact with staff and students. His ability to remain at this school was truly an APS phenomenon, staying under the radar so far that the community could do whatever needed to be done or whatever they wanted. For the most part, the parents made good choices, were involved, ran things while Dr. Murray stayed and hid in his office. Most invisible man ever to run a high school, in my opinion. He gives the meaning to being a ‘doormat’. He should have been removed 20+ years ago. He was also totally inept in handling ANY conflict. Had terrible social anxiety, and avoided situations totally. He had poor communication skills due to crippling shyness. Not someone who needs to be able to speak to anyone in his high school. He would not return phone calls, reprimand teachers or students, when needed. He allowed verbally abusive coaches to continue in their jobs and bully students.
    APS is just lucky that the parents running the school were decent and cared about our kids. Grady scored well on tests and scholarship because of the kids, parents and inspite of Dr. Murray. He did not deserve those honors. He performed the most cushy job, ever!
    Please find a decent, smart, emotionally stable, skilled and knowledgeable principal – these administrators are out there.
    Raise the bar!

  2. cegaspire says:

    H.A. Hurley:

    I am a very proud graduate of Grady High. I now hold 3 degrees. I attended in the middle of Dr. Murray’s tenure. Dr. Murray ran a tight ship, and faculty, parents (many of whom are high-powered attorneys, business professionals, and academics, by the way), and former students vouched for him when the BOE made the awful decision to remove him from office. Dr. Murray gets RESULTS. He did not unnecessarily meddle–because he TRUSTED his staff to do their jobs! To say the “parents ran the school” is ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS, and is an insult to Grady’s SUPERB faculty and staff. The VAST majority of Grady faculty, staff, parents and students deeply respected Dr. Murray. I was typically at school from 8am – 9pm (or later), and Dr. Murray left at the same time I did most days. I often ran into him heading to his car while waiting to get picked up by my parents. He spent LONG HOURS working in his office to make sure Grady ran well! I saw this with my own eyes, and reaped the benefits. Grady is WORSE off with the less experienced, less educated principal they have now. Removing Dr. Murray was NOT a wise move.

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