Atlanta Public Schools have two things that we don't: A professional interim superintendent chosen from outside the school system to lead them through the rough waters ahead and a whistleblower.
We were supposed to have a 'new' whistleblower hotline installed last September. (Read our post.) In fact, it made big news and gave our board public credibility in an AJC article entitled, "DeKalb School Board protects whistleblowers". But listen - hear the crickets? We still do not have a whistleblower hotline -- much less, a whistleblower. I guess when there are none, it makes them easier to protect.
But worse, our board seems to be in some kind of cloud, imagining that some superman of a superintendent is "still out there" waiting to jump aboard and save our ship! This candidate must be really special in their minds, as they have already (purposely, in my opinion) sabotaged two excellent candidates that have emerged as finalists and then been sent packing by the board -- via media leaks regarding privileged contract negotiations of the first and vicious attacks on the perceived record of success of the second. These attacks came from people like Zepora Roberts, who is no longer on the board and should never have known this candidate's name, much less anything else (including race). How could she have known what the board had discussed in private? Someone on the board must have told her - and no one stopped her rant against the candidate at the board meeting (which I believe was Tom's duty as chair.) Our board members need to wear Depends when they go into executive session.
We had THREE excellent candidate finalists back in March! Somehow, our board has managed to drive each one away. Two of these three dropped out and the board focused on Lilly Cox, a PhD and Superintendent of Hickory (NC) schools. She spoke of being a moral and ethical leader with a laser-like focus on children. But someone on the board managed to leak the contract negotiations, violating the trust between board and superintendent well before the partnership was even formed! Cox, understandably, removed herself from further consideration.
Then, the board was apparently refocusing on Dr. Robert Duron, Superintendent from San Antonio schools (in Texas - a state with extremely stringent markers for passing their version of "AYP"). Duron's district passed in all categories, except that of high school completion, which he "failed" due to nine students who had left the system and could not be tracked. Now, it appears that test scores are soon to be released, showing that San Antonio has passed the Texas requirements. During all of this, it was revealed that Duron was seeking employment elsewhere (here and in Florida) and his board voted 'no confidence' in his leadership, a political response common in this arena. Again, this private, executive session information was leaked (ironically to the same reporter, Richard Belcher) and Duron negotiations broke down among board members.
Nancy Jester, Pam Speaks, Paul Womack and Don McChesney responded to the leaks in a letter to the public - citing the reasons for their strong support of Duron and encouraging the public to support him as well. Oddly, in yet another interview with Richard Belcher (after the rest of the board had left town for training in Savannah), Board Chair Tom Bowen did not mention one word about the leaks, however described Jester's email as 'inappropriate'. Then, shockingly, Tom goes on to report on the discussions in executive session regarding keeping Ramona Tyson on for three more months! Executive session discussions - not yet voted on or ready for public announcement! (Cue the Cheshire Cat.)
Now, the excuse is that the board is looking for a candidate who has led a large, urban, mostly poor, minority school system that has passed AYP. Well, I wish them luck, but it sounds a bit like a young lady hoping for a knight in shining armor while remaining holed up in a tower growing old alone.