Why Is the Atlanta School Board Accepting Only One Nominee for Superintendent?


Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 9.16.44 PMAtlanta is an important city, not only for those of who live here, but for the state of Georgia, and the nation.

It is home to many  universities, churches, the Martin Luther King Center for Social Change, The Carter Center, the Center for Disease Control, and home to more than 453,000 citizens in the city, and 5.5 million citizens in metropolitan Atlanta.

The Atlanta Public Schools (APS) in in the heart of this complex.  The APS has also been in the center of a high-stakes testing scandal (which is rampant in other districts around the country).  

The school district has had to bear the brunt of this scandal, which I have explored on this blog, and believe was created by the nation’s obsession with endless testing.  The corruption which followed was predicted many years ago by Campbell’s Law, where the author (David T. Campbell) worked out the consequences that follow the overuse of quantitative indicators that are used to make qualitative decision-making.

Soon after the scandal was revealed, Erroll B. Davis, Jr. was appointed (July 2011) superintendent of the APS.  He has led the school district during one of its most distressing periods.

Last year, the APS established a Superintendent Search Committee (membership) with a kickoff meeting in April 2013.  The search committee apparently has finished its work.  The committee introduced only one finalist at a series of meetings around the city on March 27, 2014.  Don’t you think it is odd that this highly touted search committee would only offer one choice for the leadership of the APS? Just what were they doing?

Well, a meeting was held yesterday, and reported by Paul Crowley, of Atlanta station WXIA.  The Monday morning meeting was attended by a number of citizens including ministers, parents, teachers and community activists.  Ed Johnson, an advocate for quality education, and one of the activists in attendance, spoke at the meeting, as did Verdallia Turner of the Atlanta Federation of Teachers, and Rev. Timothy McDonald, Concerned Black Clergy. Ed said at the beginning of the meeting:

More than ever it seems we have a school board that thinks its job is to govern the public rather than to engage, inform, and learn from the public. They’d rather learn from special interests, corporations, and privitizers.

The process of selecting a superintendent for Atlanta should never have come down to simply announcing that only one candidate was qualified for the position.  How, in a democratic society, and for the sake of restoring trust and confidence in the most important public space in the city, could the search committee allow itself to lead the citizens of Atlanta into such a questionable position?  It seems to me that this question should be the focus of APS School Board’s next meeting during which it is planning to vote on the superintendent position.

However, those in attendance at the Monday morning meeting are calling on the Atlanta School Committee to suspend the process, and ask the Search Committee to present a slate of candidates. There is time to do this.  It is important that the citizens of Atlanta believe that a democratic process was used to select its next superintendent.  We shouldn’t expect anything less.

About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University