Editor’s note: Howard Taylor has decided to stay on at North Atlanta. For more information, click here.

Parents of North Atlanta High students are angry, confused and – above all – suspicious of the latest drama surrounding the leadership at the school.

Principal Howard Taylor was leaving, but was enticed to stay when Atlanta Public Schools officials offered him a promotion to oversee the entire North Atlanta Cluster. But the Board of Education on Sept. 17 wouldn’t vote to approve that promotion.

That last development came just before a hastily arranged community meeting on Sept. 17 at Garden Hills Elementary. Associate Superintendent Steve Smith, Board of Education Chairman Reuben McDaniel, District 4 Board of Education member Nancy Meister and Seat 7 Board of Education member Courtney English were there to answer questions, or at least try.

One parent summed up the general sentiment of the NAHS community.

“What in the hell has happened here?” she asked.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” Smith said.

Taylor was not at the Garden Hills meeting. Neither was Superintendent Erroll Davis.

Smith’s explanation, in a nutshell: Taylor butted heads with central office staff at APS. He couldn’t hire the teachers he wanted and found the bureaucracy too burdensome.

“What Dr. Taylor has in a general sense outlined to us was the inability to sometimes choose his own personnel, meaning what teachers would actually work in his facility,” Smith said. “The other thing he would outline … is even when he did have the opportunity to have input on who would be in his building, [he was frustrated with] the processing time it took to actually get that person in the facility.”

When he resigned, APS officials offered him the job of executive director of the North Region. APS demoted Tony Burks to principal mentor in order to give Taylor the promotion. Both jobs are now vacant.

North Atlanta Parents met with Davis and administrators throughout the weekend and thought Taylor’s promotion was a done deal when APS announced it on Sept. 16.

Smith said Davis and other administrators didn’t realize they needed the Board of Education’s approval to make the promotion.

“The superintendent has the ability to make direct appointments at the executive director level or above,” Smith said. “The superintendent operated under the understanding that he had the ability to do that … However, technically what we later learned … Dr. Taylor moving from the role of a principal to an executive director’s job would be a promotion. Thus, if it is a promotion the superintendent has the ability to make the appointment, but the Board of Education has to then approve that recommendation.”

Now the position is vacant, but Taylor can apply for it, Smith said. As things stood on Sept. 18, the day of the Buckhead Reporter’s publication deadline, Taylor is principal until his resignation in December. With Nov. 5 school board elections just around the corner, there could be new developments before his resignation takes effect.

Parents suspect much of the changes at North Atlanta are politically motivated. Last year, APS officials removed Principal Mark MyGrant, who already was going to retire but had agreed to stay on as interim. APS officials also reassigned MyGrant’s leadership team, removing officials who were familiar with students and the school’s routine.

Soon after the removal, APS officials confirmed they were looking into allegations of “institutional racism” at North Atlanta. Smith and Meister said the results of that investigation are not a factor in Taylor’s decision to resign. Parents asked if there are teachers who will be dismissed or reassigned due to that investigation.

APS officials didn’t answer that question directly, but Meister did provide an update on where the investigation stands.

“The investigation was done with our internal team, it has been completed … whatever is in that investigation, I don’t know what it is, has been sent to personnel, they are looking at that, then it will go to legal, then it will go to the superintendent,” Meister said.

Meister told the parents at Garden Hills that during the Sept. 17 special called BOE meeting, she moved to approve Taylor’s promotion but no one offered a second so the motion died. McDaniel said he did not offer a second because he felt the board would not support it and he didn’t want to see the promotion rejected outright. English had a similar explanation, saying he didn’t want to close the door on any potential opportunities.

Both men said they would’ve voted to approve the promotion, however.

Keep checking Reporternewspapers.net for the latest developments in this ongoing story.

Dan Whisenhunt

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