Atlanta School Board Chair Speaks Out!
It is no secret that members of the Atlanta School Board are not seeing eye to eye with each other about the recent election of new officers. It’s such a serious issue that SACS the accrediting agency for schools and colleges is now threatening to step in and says the board’s actions may be jeopardizing Atlanta Public Schools accreditation. Now parents and the newly elected school board chairman are speaking out.
“There is a lot at stake here. These kids are working around the clock to better themselves and make the school shine,” said Nancy Habif, who has five children in Atlanta public schools. “In the worse case scenario the kids who are busting their butts are not even going to have the HOPE Scholarship.”
Read the rest of what parents had to say
Parents concerns brought the following response from APS Board Chairman Khaatim El
The Only legal opinion that matters is the judge’s and today the Court denied the dissenting minority’s request for a temporary restraining order and interlocutory injunctive relief. As a result of the Court’s decision, the cloud was lifted on the question of the rightfully elected chairman and vice-chairman of the Atlanta Board of Education.
Now that it is clear no laws have been broken, questions about accreditation should be quashed. We will not lose our SACS accreditation due to any actions of the board of education under my watch as chairman.
Moreover and regardless of who says otherwise, my colleagues and I will not support, or be a part of any action, that would jeopardize our graduates’ eligibility for HOPE scholarships and college entrance.
For the majority of the board members, this disagreement has never been about the person sitting as chairman of the board of education. Rather, our actions are rooted in what is NOT being done by the school board.
Serious issues confront Atlanta’s schools – the CRCT scandal, the plunging performance on AYP, the issues with graduation rates, the meltdown on the provenance and performance of the Blue Ribbon Commission, the state and federal investigations, to name just a few.
I’ve served on the Atlanta Board of Education for six years. Year after year, I stand on stage and confer diplomas to graduates celebrating our students’ success with the unnerving reality that there are as many, if not more, who didn’t make it across the stage. Right now, the Atlanta Public Schools boasts a dismal, and questionable, graduation rate of 66% – 20% lower than Clayton County Schools.
As I’ve wished our graduates well, deep inside I’ve known that many of them are not ready to compete in our new knowledge-based economy. All too often our graduates end up taking remedial courses when they get to college with fewer and fewer of them making it past their freshman year.
Who can defend maintaining the status quo? I can no longer go along. As elected representatives, I believe we abdicated too much responsibility to a Superintendent and Board Chair that led to a serious accountability gap and in the end a generation of children has been shortchanged.
I believe quality education is a chapter in our nation’s Civil Rights struggle. I have an obligation to those who fought for my right to sit in this elected position to push forward against the soft bigotry of low expectations, even when it makes some people – of all races and economic standing – uncomfortable. Enough is finally enough.
With that said, my colleagues and I will do our best to reach consensus around all the following issues.
- Establish a policy agenda to ensure all children are on a path to read to learn by the third grade. We need this early warning sign of knowing whether or not a child is ready for success because he or she is reading to learn, instead of still learning to read by third grade. The drop in CRCT scores from 2009 to 2010 illustrates this need and will require new partnerships to ensure our children are coming to school with the tools to compete in a knowledge-based economy.
- Achieve on-time high school graduation and workforce readiness for all students. We need to produce young women and men who are truly prepared to compete. To do that, we will build partnerships with parents, the business and philanthropic communities, after-school providers and social service organizations to ensure that students are not ignored, lost and allowed to fail as they travel through their school careers.
- Commission an independent assessment of the school system and use its findings as a baseline to begin planning the next stage of development for Atlanta’s education reform agenda.
- Work with the Dr. Hall to develop a proactive plan in response to the CRCT and other investigations to ensure integrity in all aspects of the school system, identifying and removing all individuals, policies and practices that have led to the current crisis.
- Adopt a leadership succession plan that includes an aggressive public engagement campaign to generate support for our current successes and give Atlanta’s next superintendent the mandate needed to continue transforming the schools.
We have until November 23 – when the judge will offer his final opinion – to bring the dissenting minority along on these important issues.
Khaatim S. El, Chairman
Atlanta Board of Education