Howard “Gene” Taylor doesn’t dwell on the past when it comes to talking about his new job as principal at North Atlanta High.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter, he said. There’s new leadership at the high school and he has high hopes and high expectations for students.

“You’ve got dress code violations,” the new principal told the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association on Nov. 2. “I don’t ever want a situation where you have young men feeling comfortable about their entire rear end hanging out the back of their pants.”

That line got a laugh and a round of applause. Taylor, who likes to be called Gene instead of Howard, made the rounds at the meeting, shaking hands and talking about expectations for school performance and discipline. He looked energetic, wide-eyed and motivated.

His hair has gone gray around the temples. He talked using his hands for emphasis and spoke from experience.

He has been in the education business for 26 years, spending 13 of those years at the high school or college level. Prior to taking the job as the new North Atlanta principal, he was principal of Lilburn Middle School in Gwinnett County.

Taylor walked into a touchy situation at North Atlanta. The school’s outgoing principal, Mark MyGrant got a less-than-grateful sendoff from Atlanta Public Schools officials on Oct. 5 when they told him to leave campus days before his official retirement. Parents are incensed. Records requests are flying and the school board has delayed extending Superintendent Erroll Davis’ contract until December.

APS officials also reassigned the school’s academy leaders, saying Taylor needed to have a chance to choose his own team. He said he’s going through the interview process now and is currently looking for a new assistant principal.

While Taylor’s arrival came with controversy, parents were complimentary.

“I think the world of this man,” PTSA co-president Angela Church said while introducing him.

Taylor said he wants all students in all of the school’s academies to have access to a rigorous curriculum.

So has it been difficult taking over the job while a controversy surrounding the exit of his predecessor is still brewing in the background?

Taylor saw an upside.

“I see it as a positive thing,” he said. “It’s parental involvement, parental engagement and parental interest. I see that as very positive.”

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of