Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis told the crowd gathered at The Carter Center on Aug. 14 that the system is poised for success after going through a tumultuous year.
Davis in his annual State of the Schools Address said the school system moving forward after a cheating scandal resulted in the removal or retirement of 135 teachers, with approximately 25 awaiting a tribunal to determine if they will be reinstated. The teachers are accused of cheating on state tests to boost students’ scores.
The school system reinstated 13 teachers accused of wrongdoing, he said.
In addition, the district also negotiated a difficult redistricting process, one that left Buckhead’s North Atlanta cluster largely intact while closing seven schools in the rest of the system. The process roiled the entire city and led to accusations that the school system was kowtowing to wealthy Buckhead interests.
The system didn’t close schools save money, Davis said. He said it was about restoring equity to the school system.
“Location, color class and other circumstances of birth are not going to dictate educational opportunity in this system … it’s simply not going to happen,” Davis said.
The system moved all of the city’s schools to the “cluster model” because of its success in the North Atlanta cluster, which includes Buckhead. In this model, elementary schools feed into the same middle schools and the same high school.
Davis said more bad news might be on the horizon for the school system. The Fulton County District Attorney may indict APS officials on charges related to the cheating scandal, he said. He said the school system has worked to help students who erroneously believed they were getting good scores on the exams.
“We hope and believe our year-long academic remediation addressed the needs of these students,” he said.
The school system now mandates ethics training and every school in the system now has designated ethics advocates, he said.
“From my vantage point the state of Atlanta Public Schools is this: we are poised,” Davis said. “We are poised to succeed. We are certainly not out of the woods yet.”
Reide Onley, co-president of North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools, attended the speech and said he and other parents are also ready to move past the cheating scandal.
“We’ve all suffered through the last year or so. I think we have made some progress and I think he’s marked that,” Onley said. “I think the best thing about it is he’s moving forward and I think the school system is moving forward.”