Sutton Middle School Principal Audrey Sofianos and North Atlanta High Principal Gene Taylor have both said they will not return to their posts next year.

Following the resignation of two Buckhead school principals in one day, North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools (NAPPS) is calling on the Atlanta Board of Education “to act now.”

On April 17 both North Atlanta High Principal Dr. Howard “Gene” Taylor and Sutton Middle School Principal Audrey Sofianos announced they will not return next school year.

This is the second time since September that Taylor has quit, though he returned to his position just days after the September announcement. Sofianos indicated in a letter to Sutton families that she was leaving to focus on health and family and could not continue in a full-time job.

Additonally, Morris Brown Elementary’s Karen Evans was one of seven Atlanta Public School System principals reportedly told in March by the system that they would not be returning next year.

Patricia Israel, a board member of NAPPS who has two sons entering 9th grade next year, said she was surprised that Taylor tendered his resignation. “I was hopeful he would give the new board and new superintendent a try,” she said. She was referring to new superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen, whom the board chose on April 14 for its new superintendent to replace the retiring Erroll Davis, who took the place of Beverly Hall following the school system’s cheating scandal.

Going forward, Israel added that she hopes the school board will use these changes to look at how its operating. “Really what we would like to see is the board members showcase all the platforms they ran on – giving more dollars to the school house and providing principals already on solid footing with more autonomy.”

In a letter directed to the school board, NAPPS echoed her sentiments.

“We are experiencing significant changes,” the letter stated. “Specifically, we are in need of three principal positions: Morris Brandon, Sutton Middle School & North Atlanta High School. . . . While we will continue to reassure our community we have great teachers and programs in place while candidates are being sourced, we want to stress to you that our middle school and high school positions require a different caliber of individual.”

NAPPS is a non-profit parent group that works in tandem with other groups representing different school clusters in the Atlanta district to provide an informational forum and to help support student and school needs. Schools in Buckhead fall in NAPPS’ cluster.

“Within our own cluster and throughout all clusters, please listen to the ongoing themes voiced by our principals: increased funding to meet our demographics, ability to allocate as needed within the school and more autonomy including the ability to hire and fire staff,” the letter continued.

When Taylor first planned to resign, he had complained of micromanaging and lack of authority. NAPPS also pointed out that the vacancies are not just within the North Atlanta Cluster and that the school system has 19 principal vacancies districtwide. “This shows there is a bigger theme than just our cluster. We need our district to alter their model and we need the new BOE to act now.”

The Atlanta Board of Education will try and address community concerns when board member Nancy Meister hosts a community meeting on Monday, April 21, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Garden Hills Elementary. Parents, students, teachers and interested community members are encouraged to ask questions and give input as the school district’s human resource department speaks on the principal selection process.

Ann Marie Quill

Ann Marie Quill is Associate Editor at Reporter Newspapers.

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