Mayor Kasim Reed endorses Erroll Davis; he pledges to become more involved with Atlanta’s public schools

By Maria Saporta

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed vowed to take an active role in the recruitment of a new superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools should he be re-elected in 2013.

Meanwhile, the mayor endorsed the idea of extending the contract of current Superintendent Erroll Davis for another two years. The Atlanta Board of Education currently considering whether to extend that contract.

“I happen to believe that Erroll Davis is the right guy to lead us for the next two years,” Reed said during a luncheon speech at the Commerce Club on Tuesday.

It’s also important to note that the City of Atlanta has no direct oversight or formal relationship with the Atlanta Public Schools.

But for Reed, that doesn’t appear to be an issue. What seems to matter most to him is whether families will choose to move inside the city and send their children to public schools.

“We have a private school tax in the city,” Reed said, adding that many families that live within the city limits will send their children to private schools instead of enrolling them in the public schools. If they are homeowners, that means that they not only pay property taxes to fund public schools, but they also pay the private school tuition.

Reed offered several ways of how he could become more involved with the Atlanta Public Schools.

First, he said the community needs to encourage top-notched people to run for the school board.

“It can’t be a political office of last option,” Reed said. “We’ve got to make it an attractive place to serve. We need to recruit.”

Next, Reed said he would be willing to re-engage the philanthropic community.

“There’s a ton of private philanthropy on the sidelines,” he said. “Many people in the philanthropic community got burned in the last investment.”

But Reed added that it’s time for the community to “heal and try again” to improve the Atlanta Public Schools.

“My plan is to get personally involved in recruiting the next leader,” Reed said. “I’m going to galvanize the corporate community to under-gird the leadership structure.”

He said the goal should be to attract a “world-class” leader to head the Atlanta Public Schools.

“The next leader of the system is not someone who is going to apply for this job,” Reed said. “The leader is someone who is happy (where he or she is currently working)…. We’ve got to find that person and bring them here and compensate them. We need something special.”

This would not be the first time Reed has gotten involved with leadership at the APS. Reed described how he and Paul Bowers, president and CEO of the Georgia Power Co., met with Davis when he was about to retire as chancellor of the Georgia Board of Regents to persuade him to become Atlanta’s interim superintendent.

One issue Reed did not bring up was whether he would be open to the Atlanta Board of Education entering into a contract with a new “world-class” superintendent.

The mayor has made it clear during his administration that he does not like multi-year contracts for top city officials. That was an issue during the search for a new general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport; and it has been an ongoing issue with the Renee Glover, president and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority, who has a multi-year contract.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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