By Maria Saporta
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is keeping a close watch on developments at the Atlanta Public Schools — armed with support from the local business and civic community.
The topic of Atlanta’s Public Schools was one of the key issues discussed at Monday’s Atlanta Committee for Progress, a high-level group of business and civic leaders that work closely with the Atlanta mayor and city leaders.
The Atlanta Board of Education and the public school system have been under great scrutiny over the situation of cheating and correcting of test scores at several schools and the division that’s existed on the school board.
At the same time, APS Superintendent Beverly Hall has announced her intention to leave the system at the end of this school year.
“I’m not comfortable with where things are at all,” Reed said of the APS situation. “It requires constant gardening and attention. We are in an environment where we are going to have to earn trust and have ongoing reviews of the system.”
Of particular concern to Reed is the possibility that Atlanta’s public schools may lose their accreditation because of its challenges.
Although Reed does not anticipate the City of Atlanta orchestrating a takeover of Atlanta’s public schools answering: “No, not at all”, Reed did say the city could not sit on the sidelines.
Other major school systems — Chicago, New York and Washington D.C. — are now under the control of their city governments rather than an independent school board.
“We are not going to stand by and watch the City of Atlanta lose its accreditation,” Reed said. “We will take whatever measures are necessary to make sure this school system keeps its accreditation. All options are on the table.”
The mayor said that the combination of City Hall, the business community and civic leaders “gives us a significant voice in influencing the outcome of this debate,” and he pledged that “we intend to be vigilant and engaged.”
One area of particular concern is over the search for Hall’s successor. Some leaders in the community believe that one faction of the Atlanta school board is trying to prevent local business and community leaders from being involved in that search.
To that concern, Reed issued a warning.
“The civic community, the Office of Mayor, City Council, the business community are all going to play a significant role in attracting a new superintendent to Atlanta,” Reed said. “We are not going to be closed out of the process.”
Then he added, however, that “we are having very warm conversations with the school board.”
Reed would not comment on the status of the cheating scandal investigation other than saying he hopes it will be concluded as quickly as possible so fixes can be made and the school system can move on.
It also is important to recognize that before Superintendent Hall came in 2000, APS had had four superintendents in 10 years. He praised Hall for stabilizing the system and said it is important that the community appreciates all the good work she has done over the past decade rather than sending her off by throwing eggs and tomatoes. That will impact the ability for APS to attract a high quality professional to be its next superintendent.
“The next 10 years should be about path-breaking change,” Reed said. “We can’t ignore the impact that our city’s school system has on Atlanta and the region.”