If anyone is interested in learning about the plight of local schools in the Metro
Atlanta area, all that the discerning reader needs to do is to go to the local newspaper archives. Two instances about what goes on in two Metro Atlanta counties, if you haven’t already heard, will make you wonder about the future of schools in the city of Atlanta, the state of Georgia, and America as a whole. Here are the details on the first instance, as reported in the Atlanta Journal/Constitution (AJC) in April, 2013: “Three former school administrators were indicted Tuesday by a DeKalb County grand jury on charges they manipulated tests or attendance records to improve measures of school performance.
“Just two weeks after a Fulton County grand jury indicted 35 former Atlanta Public Schools educators in an alleged cheating conspiracy, the DeKalb grand jury accused former DeKalb County School District employees Angela Jennings, Agnes Flanagan and Derrick Wooten of manipulating records.
“Flanagan, who was principal of Cedar Grove Middle School, allegedly directed teachers to change students’ answers on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.
“Jennings, who was principal at Rock Chapel Elementary, allegedly removed students temporarily from enrollment records so their 2010 CRCT tests wouldn’t count against the school’s average scores.
“Wooten, who was an assistant principal at Stoneview Elementary, is accused of ordering teachers to mark truants as having attended school in 2010 and 2011 so the school might meet federal attendance guidelines.” (AJC, April 16, 2013)
If that were not galling enough, take a look at what has been happening just a little further south in the Clayton County school system. For this, all we need to do is to look a little further back in time to September, 2012:
“Clayton County school officials were warned Tuesday that their system’s accreditation could be back in jeopardy because of school board infighting, micromanaging and grandstanding.
“In a letter to departing school Superintendent Ed Heatley, Mark Elgart, head of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accrediting agency, said some of the recent actions of school board members “could put your school system’s current and future accreditation in jeopardy.
“In 2008, Clayton lost accreditation, becoming the first school system in the country in nearly 40 years to have that happen. The system regained accreditation in 2011 and since has gained 4,000 students. Thousands of students fled the system after the district lost its accreditation, fearing their diplomas might not be recognized.
“Clayton school board Chairwoman Pamela Adamson could not be reached for comment Tuesday. District spokesman David Waller said he had not seen a copy of the letter from SACS. ‘We welcome their investigation and their interest in our system,” Waller said. “If they determine there is a problem, we will — as we have in the past — move as quickly as possible.’
“In recent weeks, Elgart said, SACS has received reports about ‘divisiveness among board members and influences from the outside.’ Board members also can’t agree on a process for searching for a new school superintendent and are looking at conducting the search themselves “when they don’t have the ability, the skill,” Elgart said. SACS required the board to have a national search conducted by an outside firm when Heatley was hired three years ago. ‘And we haven’t changed our view,’ Elgart said.“Elgart also said the accreditation agency has heard reports of individual board members threatening to sue each other, refusing to comply with board policies and berating school system employees in public.” (Atlanta Journal/Constitution (AJC), September 25, 2012).
Given just these two not unconnected instances of School Board abuse must bring up the simple question of What in the world is going on here, and how do we fix it? Or, to put it more directly: What do we fix first – the problems that have been occurring with these individual county school boards or with the state system as a whole? One way or the other such ingrained attitudes of “we can get away with anything” certainly comes from higher up in the state education echelons; the question is, then, HOW high up do these attitudes officially reside?
Comments from all who are interested in this topic will be greatly appreciated. And, when such attitudes and instances of abuse affect our children and the very future of the education system on which they – and we – rely, those “interested parties” should include every man, woman and child residing in Atlanta as well as the entire state of Georgia.