North Atlanta High will be the focus of an upcoming Atlanta Public Schools report about allegations of grade changing and institutional racism at the school, Board of Education Chairman Reuben McDaniel confirmed July 23.
The report, whatever its findings, is likely to reopen wounds from leadership changes at the school that occurred last October. At the time, APS leaders said the changes were about academic performance. Later it was revealed that McDaniel made several inquiries about the treatment of minority students at the school.
McDaniel, who has drawn four challengers for his at-large seat on the BOE in the November school board election, said APS internal auditors will release the report within the next six weeks. McDaniel attributes the number of challengers in the school board race to “misinformation” about his role in the leadership changes at North Atlanta. So far his challengers are Tom Tidwell, Cynthia Briscoe Brown, Mark Riley and Dave Walker.
McDaniel said the report is independent of the school board.
“Once they have a finding, whether it’s a negative or positive, it becomes public, and all the documentation and all that will be public,” McDaniel said.
When the investigation of alleged grade changing was initially disclosed by APS officials last fall, there were few clues as to what kinds of grade changing investigators might be reviewing. It was also unclear if those grade-changing allegations were related to claims of institutional racism, the subject of a separate investigation. The institutional racism claims appear related to complaints some parents had about North Atlanta’s International Baccalaureate program. Emails revealed that McDaniel had requested information about the race of students pursuing International Baccalaureate diplomas through the school.
Some in the North Atlanta community were guarded about the news of the upcoming report. North Atlanta High will move to its new campus at the beginning of this school year, Aug. 7, and many in the community say they have moved on from the events of last fall.
North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools co-president Reide Onley said parents knew that school officials were interviewing teachers and students, but said he didn’t have any idea what investigators would find or didn’t find.
“There’s concern, because it’s still an unknown,” Onley said.
Andrea Shelton, a North Atlanta High parent and a member of the Local School Council, said she and other parents aren’t concerned “because those who are investigating are not in our schools every day, and they have an agenda. When you’re investigating, you’re looking for something.”
District 4 Board of Education Member Nancy Meister said she didn’t know when the report would be released or what the investigators may have found.
“North Atlanta has moved on,” Meister said. “We have a whole new leadership team. We have more families than ever going to the school. Everybody has moved on. If the investigation comes back, at that point and time we’ll address it. It is understandable that the administrators and teachers that were personally hurt will take much longer to heal and get past this.”