A group of parents expressed concerns over three principal vacancies in Buckhead schools during an Atlanta Public Schools community meeting hosted by District 4 Representative Nancy Meister on April 21.

Some 40 parents gathered at Garden Hills Elementary School to hear Meister and others address the fact that North Atlanta High, Sutton Middle and Morris Brandon Elementary will need to fill vacancies in the schools’ top spots.

“We don’t ever seem to solve the root cause,” said Gail Morales, who has two children at North Atlanta. She said students at the school have no desire to go to school amidst the turmoil. “What are we doing to address what the root issue is?”

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 Brandon 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.

Atlanta Public Schools administrators on hand to answer questions during the meeting placed a lot of faith in the district’s new superintendent, Dr. Meria Carstarphen.

“This is a difficult time because we’re filling three principals in your cluster,” said Ron Price, chief human resource officer for APS. He said Carstarphen would be hands-on during the hiring process. adding,“She’s going to do some awesome things,” he added.

Price said he expected all three positions to be filled by June 1.

Parents also addressed concerns, including a lack of school spirit as pep rallies were not allowed at North Atlanta, and that the size of the building caused students to be late for class and get suspended.

Sidney Baker, interim executive director for the north region, said student concerns would be taken into account during the hiring process.

“Part of the selection process is to meet with student leaders and students in the schools. We want to hear from them,” he said.

Meister encouraged parents to have their children email her with suggestions and concerns, too. “We need to hear from the kids,” she said.

“I’ve experienced everything you’re saying to each other,” said Angela Church, president of the North Atlanta PTSA. “[They are] very real concerns that your students have.” She said she would also make sure that expressed concerns would be taken to the new principals.

Baker said that to date 253 candidates have expressed interest in Morris Brown, 144 in Sutton and 82 at North Atlanta.

Ann Marie Quill

Ann Marie Quill is Associate Editor at Reporter Newspapers.