By John Schaffner

Buckhead’s Atlanta school board member Nancy Meister was part of a slim five-member majority that voted Sept. 13 to change policy and elect new officers to replace the board’s sitting chairwoman and vice chairwoman.

Following the 5-4 vote to make a controversial change in the board’s policy related to mid-term replacement of board officers, the board also voted 5-4 to replace board chairwoman LaChandra Butler Burks and vice chair Cecily Harsch-Kinnane. The former policy required a two-thirds vote of the board to change leadership mid-term.

The newly elected board chair is Khaatim Sherrer El and vice chair is Yolanda Johnson, both of which voted with Meister for the changes, along with board members Courtney English and Brenda Muhammad.

The action was taken in the midst of a probe by special state investigators of 58 city schools for possible cheating on state tests. The investigation is not expected to be complete until the end of the year.

The board also discussed hiring a special lawyer—paid for with public funds—to deal with any challenge to the legality of the board’s policy change, which was objected to by Atlanta school board attorney Veleter Mazyck.

According to newly elected chair El, the reason for hiring a special lawyer is that Mazyck’s advise has been “in direct conflict with the will of the majority on the board.” Yolanda Johnson, who is a practicing attorney said Mazyck could “not be objective.”

The board deferred on hiring a special attorney, but said the decision could come at a later time.

Board members also are seeking an opinion from the state attorney general’s office regarding their policy change.

John Schaffner

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.