LIVE BLOG: North Atlanta High School Parent-Student-Community Meeting with Superintendent Erroll Davis

Welcome to our live blog from North Atlanta High School.  Tonight the superintendent will answer questions from APS parents, students, staff and community members about the leadership transition occurring at the school.  REFRESH your browser often to update this page.

Learn more about incoming Principal Taylor: http://wp.me/pAWvG-2OI

Read Supt. Davis’ letter to parents:  goo.gl/VVBKy 

Superintendent Davis and Asst. Superintendent Steve Smith taking the stage.

Smith:  Good evening.  Thank you for joining us this evening so that you can learn more about the leadership transition at NAHS.  (Introduces BOE members present.  McDaniel, Meister, Muhammad, H-Kinnane and E. Johnson).

Introduces PTSA Presidents and SGA President.

The purpose of this meeting is to provide you with an explanation about the leadership transition at NAHS.  Erroll Davis will spend 15-20 minutes discussing the transition with you.  The remaining 1.5 hours will be for you to ask questions of the superintendent.  Many of you have joined us during the redistricting process and we will stress again, that you respect your community members and ask questions not statements.  The supt. is willing to answer all of your questions.

Davis:  Thank you.  I will make clear what my purpose is.  Many of you have wanted to ask me questions and this is why I’m here.  Thank you for showing passion for your school.  Particularly for the students.  It’s important for you to understand how this process works as well.

Let me admit in advance.  We potentially may have an unsatisfactory discussion.  As many of you well know, it’s inappropriate to discuss specific personnel matters in a public forum. I will not talk about individual matters.  After I share my overview, I will answer some questions you will hopefully get, if not satisfaction, clarity.

As you are all aware the previous principal was notified that his services were no longer required.  This is a personnel matter and I won’t say any more about his matter.  I publicly want to thank him for his professionalism and commitment and I want to thank the others who were assigned as well.

No one was walked out of this building.  Of the 6 impacted only 3 were in the building.  We did use our standard protocol for sensitive announcements and no one was escorted out of this building.  4 employees were transferred to meaningful positions and all will participate in the IB review.  I hope that parents will put the question of your IB program being in jeopardy to bed.

Let me get to the tough part.  My view is that this school needs to be a lot more than it is.  My view is that this school has fantastic potential, fabulous work…we are moving into a $100M facility next year.

Performance data for the school shows that this school must be improved and improved quickly.  I’m not here to bash this school.  This school has great potential, but I want you to understand where this school is.

2007-2011, 5 year period, this school did not make AYP.  We are a NI4 school, under state monitoring and reporting.  If you miss one more year, 6 years, you go to NI5 status.  If we did nothing here and had the same performance this year as last and went to NI5, the state would have seized this school and fired all leadership in the process.  The good thing is the state has given us an AYP waiver and the state will not take over this school.

We are moving to Common Core, a higher standard, and I think it is a legitimate question for me to ask “If I have a team that didn’t make the lowest standards for the past 5 years, why would those leaders make the higher standards over the next year?”

Graduation rate here 62%, but 7th from the bottom in APS.  62% means we are failing every 4 out of 10 of our children.  Most of the people in this room will have children who graduate and thru the eyes of your child, where you get a lot of the school experience, you are hearing that they are having a great experience, but 4 out of 10 children who walk these halls in 9th grade will not graduate.

We are also looking at Value Added.  NAHS is 10th out of all high schools in the city for value added.  10 months of movement in a 9 month period.  I have other concerns, program instruction concerns, as well.

I looked at performance and I’ve come to the conclusion that with a dynamic new principal coming that I want him to have every opportunity to succeed.  He’s turned around schools, he can pick good leaders and he’s gotten outcomes and results.  I am putting him in a position to do that.  There is disagreement among community members about the performance, differences of opinion on other issues as well.  I am replacing 4 people.

Why would you follow the normal process, let the new leader come in, evaluate the team and then make judgements….but this is not a normal environment.  I’ve been here thru redistricting…that was an interesting experience for me.  It drove home to me that this community is very passionate, very vocal…

We had an initial principal search and it was clear that they did not like our choice…very passionate, very vocal, very clear.  I ask myself, in a normal environment, the time we usually take to evaluate people, I ask if I am putting a new principal in a position to go up against pressures he doesn’t have to be subjected to.

I made the decision that it would be better to replace 4 people.

I am speaking to you before I speak to any media.  If anyone feels humiliated, I apologize to them in front of you and want you to know we spent a lot of time to make sure we did not embarrass them.  They are receiving the same title,same pay, but I still believe a new team being put in place is appropriate.

I’ve gotten comments about why so many people coming in here.  They are going to be working on assessments among other things.  We will talk to Dr. Taylor about assessments so that by the time he gets here we will be able to give him appropriate information.  That’s the basic logic and context for my logic.  I hope you find some of what I said clarifying.

Q&A beginning:

Q: I want to know if there are any ongoing investigations at NAHS

A:  I don’t want to give you the impression that there are, but if there were I would not comment on that because I wouldn’t want to compromise those investigations.  I will say on behalf of the people assigned that I do not know of any allegation or investigation of anyone that has been reassigned.

Q:  All of those circumstances you mentioned tonight were in place this spring.

A:  We did not have a new principal in the spring.  The urgency is around the new principal.

Q:  Did Dr. Taylor ask you to do this?

A:  Absolutely not.

Q:  Decisions were not made to offer honor courses this year.  Students who took them last year can not take them this year.  Will the new administration revisit this decision?

A:  The easy thing is to say, yes, but honestly it will be put on our list of things to revisit.  When Taylor is here and has his community meetings that item will be researched as well.

Q:  The academic data showed NI4 status this summer.  My concern is that by taking these administrators out halfway during the semester was done prematurely.  But we have individuals that are coming in on an interim basis and they will be gone soon.  That was not done very well at all in my opinion.

A:  As I said, this is not the normal process.  Once I had the date for someone to start, I then took the actions that I took.

Q:  How do you have teachers working with temporary administrators.

A:  One of the reason is that I want people out of the way is to do the proper assessments to give the principal.  We will do this as quickly as possible and try to make this as painless as possible.

Q:  My son wants to know what’s going to happen to his teachers.

A:  There teachers will remain their teachers.  We are not impacting teachers.

Q:  You said you did this according to protocol.  Does your protocol take into consideration that you’re compounding this issue.  For people who have been loyal to us, how can you possibly do this?

A:  Again, I’m not sure what part of the protocol you are referring to, but they were transferred according to standard protocol.

Q:  But these were decent people!

A:  If I thought they were not quality people, they would not have been reassigned.  My goal is to move as quickly as possible to a higher level of performance.

Q:  Why did you take the parent communication away from the parents?

A:  Accross the district websites are being standardized (reminder – Communication Ambassadors now exist at all APS schools, here at NAHS it is the media specialist.  He has access to the entire website and can grant access to anyone at any time).

Q:  What about the football newsletter?

A:  I’m not aware of anything taking place with that newsletter.

Retired principal Mark Mygrant walks into the auditorium.  Students go wild with applause.  Waves, hugs a few people, then leaves.

Student challenges Davis’ data.

Davis:  The question is where are we now?  What have we done over the last 5 years?

Q:  Do you have a policy about what happens to the administration when a new principal comes in?

A:  There is no policy for this, we move employees as we see fit based on the facts we have.  The school you are referring to (Jackson) has very high expectations in the long run, but NAHS should be our premiere school in the state (big applause).  We can talk about the process of getting there, but you are moving to a premiere facility, you have attracted a premiere leader and you should have a premiere team.

Q:  Performance measures. Isn’t AYP being eliminated?

A:  Yes, I mentioned that.

Q:  So where are we…7th from the bottom?

A:  Yes, you are 11th out of 18 high schools. (7 APS high schools perform above NAHS)

Q:  You said NAHS was not a normal environment. I think it’s pretty great.  How do you justify a normal environment?  How is your change in administration going to change this into a normal environment.

A:  This is not a normal environment in many GOOD ways.  The level of engagement, participation, intensity displayed by parents…but that same set of items makes it difficult to make changes.  I didn’t want to imply that it is abnormally bad…you are seeing the good here this evening.  Engagement however, often makes change very difficult.  We will have to make significant changes rapidly under these kinds of pressures.

Q:  How will this administration be equipped to deal with the hostility from the students?

A:  I really appreciate students (laughter from audience).  I’m glad to hear you asking questions.  This is a difficult situation but I don’t think you need counseling but we will provide any kind of support necessary. If that support isn’t here, then make it clear to us what you need during the transition.

Q:  (Parent yelling at microphone) Sir, I don’t know how you get things done because you talk so slow. Your credibility level is lower than any superintendent I’ve seen in my whole life. (applause from students)

A:  I’m usually accused of talking too much.

Q:  When did you decide that it wasn’t necessary to notify our parents before you made this decision.

A:  Your question implies that I should consult parents on every personnel issue.  There is never a time when I seek a set of permissions from people who do not have to carry out the duties that come with the responsibility.

Davis tries to answer next question, student cuts him off.

Davis:  If you believe the best person to make a recommendation on you is your former Academy Leader, they will be there for you to write that recommendation.  They understand that it is still a part of their responsibility.

Q:  I know you didn’t want to come into this topic of racism, I want to ask what the basis of those accusations were. (light clapping)  I don’t feel racism at our school.  I don’t think… I find it absurd that that would be one of the reasons this went down.

A:  Student – Let me say that no allegations have been made by this administration towards anyone.  I have no knowledge of charges of racism towards anyone.  We get, on an ongoing basis, complaints about racism all the time.  Those go to our internal auditor/legal counsel or whatever group that complaint is directed towards.  I have no knowledge of any charges of racism that have come to us to investigate or that we are investigating here.  When issues of racisim are reported, we take them directly ot the principal.  My decision have nothing to do with race.  I made a decision based on performance.  Where we are and where we should be.

Q:  Student – Why was one of the head facilitators of IB transferred to Carver where there is no IB program (instead of Jackson)?

A:  IB is an exceptional and challenging program.  Some decisions were taken that led us to believe that sending him to Jackson was not the best decision for him.

Q:  I want you to know we are a great community and we can handle change, and the transition team should have no fear, but change is different from an ambush.  Do you believe that the information coming out of our open records request will support your reasons for getting the new administration.  If it reflects otherwise, will you reinstate our old administration?

A:  I am not familiar with the open records request you are speaking about.  Let me say that there is no data you will discover that will reveal that I make decisions based on anything other than performance.

Q:  What about the other schools on that list that are failing.  What is planned for those schools?

A:  That is an issue I addressed with principals of those schools this morning.  Each school is different and to be frank, we have differences in expectations.  What we do at one school will not be what we do at every school.  Do I have make plans to take a similar action at another school?  Not at this time.

Q:  I have a 9th grader receiving a different NAHS than my 12th grader in IB.  How will this change affect all 4 spectrums so that there is no negative impact?

A:  Disparities of resource allocations and of achievement between SLC’s is something that has been brought to Dr. Taylor’s attention.  He has a wonderful track record of success across different types of learners/people.  One of the challenges of concentrating resources in one small SLC is to make sure it doesn’t neglect others and pulls us into an needs improvement status.

Q:  What communication was there prior to this with the stakeholders here?

A:  In terms of the sense of urgency, I’ve addressed that a number of times and what needs to be accomplished before the new principal gets here.  Not sure what more I can share on that.  In regards to communication I can’t speak to what communication was had by previous administrations at the school level, but the AYP status of the school is public knowledge.  I don’t know what communications the previous admin had with the PTA or LSC or apprised of the serious nature of losing the school to the state.  I do know and I have acknowledged that we need to do better.  We started today, a 360 evaluation from all stakeholders for their principals.  We will ask parents, students and teachers to all complete the survey on their principal.

Parent says she thought the Excellence Project shows NAHS making improvement.

Davis:  Yes, but this school should be at the head of the pack, not in the middle.  Carver Early College has 80% free and reduced and 17 months of value add in 9 months. NAHS has 10.

8:10pm – Q&A has ended.  Thanks for following.

14 thoughts on “LIVE BLOG: North Atlanta High School Parent-Student-Community Meeting with Superintendent Erroll Davis

Add yours

  1. There is EXCELLENT teaching and learning happening at NAHS every day of the week and Davis acknowledged that last night.
    In regards to Priority Schools, a school has to be at <60% graduation rate to make the Priority list. NAHS was 61.74%.

  2. @David – Took your question to the dapartment that tracks this data and they gave me this apple to apple comparison:

    NAHS – 61.74% 2011 Cohort Graduation Rate

    #4 Grady = 73% 2011 Cohort Graduation Rate
    #5 Mays = 72% 2011 Cohort Graduation Rate

    Addl. Info:
    Carver Early College 97.4%
    Carver School of Arts 93%
    Carver Technology 74%

    Source: GADOE

  3. It is the responsibility of the educators to educate every single student in the building.

  4. @Connie – You made me smile. I type QUICKLY during these meetings….transcription-like reporting while live tweeting, commenting and responding via twitter/facebook at the same time. Those who follow this blog and the live coverage understand that the somewhere between auto-correct/not using spell check and human error I will make mistakes. I really do appreciate the feedback and as a former speech/drama teacher & professional writer I too am sensitive about usage and spelling. I promise to keep your comments in mind moving forward. Glad you appreciate the blog.

  5. “From 2007 to 2011, this school did not make AYP. Now, it is an NI-4 school, which means under some level of state monitoring and reporting.””

    This is blatantly untrue. Georgia recieved a waiver from NCLB, so AYP means absolutely nothing. The state has its own evaluation system of identifying “priority” schools. North Atlanta High is not on the list. The list is here: http://www.11alive.com/assetpool/documents/120314091156_Priority%20Schools%2003%2013%2012.pdf

  6. If Mr. Davis took the top 25% of any APS HS (which is what he does when he refers to Carver Early College program), he would have better results than when he uses the entire population of a HS.

  7. I trust superintendent Davis, I think he did the right thing. It is appalling that he is getting so much backlash for it. The PTA and the students need to come themselves down. Contrary to what they believe, they do not own the school. NAHS should be doing a lot better than it is, considering the amount of resources they have. There is disparity between the SLCs, ie between IB/IS and Business and Arts. Race is the root of the problems at NAHS. Obviously, you wouldn’t know about these problems if you weren’t directly affected by them. It’s time everyone knew about them.

  8. Well Carver Early College has a smaller sample number and admission requirements, Poor comparison!! Additionally, you are counting small schools in the same breath as larger schools, how about an apple to apple comparision. BTW, the same person who chose Taylor, made this decision. How long are you going to fall on the sword for her?

  9. Why are expectations different at different schools?. The reason for the low graduation rates, and the sub par students are the line jumpers, the students who don’t live in the district. The ones who get off the bus at W. Wesley. The remnants of Minority to Majority.

  10. OK, my apologies. I am a retired English teacher, so that is a pet peeve of mine. I do appreciate the feed.

  11. This is a disgrace and a farce. These were top flight administrators who worked hard and were loved and respected by the students. My two NAHS grads owe a lot to each of them. The problem here seems to be a “Fortune 500” mentality. Friday night massacres may be the way you handle things in business today, but it is not right there, and it is particularly wrong in an academic setting. Our recent experience at the University of Virginia where the board chair coerced the President into resigning is another example. And there the board had to backtrack and rehire the President. If this school is not performing well it can hardly be because of these fine folks. Further, Mr. Davis’ bashing of NAHS tonight will do incalculable damage to the school. Shame on him!! He should know better. Something is rotten here.

  12. Connie, this transcript is being done live. If the grammar is that important to you, read the AJC version in the morning.

  13. Who is doing this recap of the meeting? Their and there are 2 different words…and you work for a school system????? Scary!

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