By John Schaffner

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has told the Atlanta School Board it should act immediately to reinstate the original board chair and vice chair and stop “undermining the best interests of our students by risking the accreditation of the entire school system.”

“Enough is enough,” he told the board.

His statement Oct. 28 came after two days of actions in which AdvancEd CEO and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, known as SACS, warned Atlanta’s public school system that it risks losing accreditation if its bickering board cannot comply with the law. Also, four members of the school board filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the appointments last month of a new chair and vice chair.

“We filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court seeking to return the Atlanta School System to compliance with state law,” board members Cecily Harsch-Kinnane, LaChandra Butler Burks, Reuben McDaniel and Emmett Johnson wrote in an open letter to the community Oct. 28. “We deeply regret having to take this action, but we believe that it is imperative to do so, given our responsibility to the students of Atlanta Public Schools.

“Three different legal entities – the system attorney, an outside expert whose opinion was attained by the system attorney, and the state Attorney General – have all advised the board that the recent actions taken to repeal board policy and replace the chair and vice-chair were in violation of the state charter governing APS. We were also informed by SACS, the agency that accredits APS high schools, that the enactment of board policies not in compliance with our state charter could have a negative impact on our accreditation status.”

In September, a majority of the school board, in a series of 5-4 votes, changed board procedures and ousted board chair Burks and vice-chair Harsch-Kinnane with a new chair, Khaatim Sherrer El, and vice chair, Yolanda Johnson. Buckhead board representative Nancy Meister was among those voting with the majority.

In his letter to Atlanta schools Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall and Burks Oct. 26, AvancED President and  CEO  Mark A. Elgart wrote: “AdvanceED/SACS CASI has been monitoring the ongoing dispute between the Atlanta Public School Board members. Despite the advisory opinion of the state’s attorney general, the board has failed to take steps to come into compliance with said opinion. The conclusions of law contained therein are valid and reinforce the need for the board to correct its course of action.

“The board’s continued failure to adhere to its policies, as well as state and local laws, clearly supports a determination that the Board of Education of the Atlanta Public Schools is not meeting AdvancED Standard 2 concerning Governance and Leadership.

“If the board does not take corrective action to come into full compliance with AdvanceED Standard 2 by December 1, 2010, the Accreditation Division of AdvancED will make a recommendation to the AdvancED Georgia Council and the AdvancED Accreditation Commission concerning the accreditation status of the Atlanta Public Schools.”

Reed, responding to the events, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the board’s actions.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.