So much to do and so little time to do it! I’m sure that is what interim Superintendent Erroll Davis Jr. is feeling right now, along with all of the teachers and administrators, some returning and many just beginning in Atlanta Public Schools.
With school starting on August 8, there is so much yet to be done that the task must seem a little insurmountable, yet Atlanta Public Schools are valiantly working to get this school year off to a good start, in spite of the black cloud that hovers over the district in the wake of their system-wide cheating scandal.
First order of business was to deal with the approximately 137 educators who were implicated in the scandal and who didn’t retire or take Davis’ offer to resign rather than face termination. On Thursday, it was announced that notices were being sent out to these individuals stating that they have officially been placed on paid administrative leave until the district has time to go through each employee’s case. These educators have the option to ask for a hearing if they choose, and if they are found innocent of any wrongdoing at that hearing, they can return to work.
Davis, who has said from the beginning that these employees will not work with children in APS ever again, announced his plans to begin termination proceedings as quickly as possible. With so much to accomplish before the school year begins, this may take a little while.
Meanwhile, recently-hired Atlanta teachers spent all day Thursday in orientation meetings conducted at Maynard Jackson High School in southeast Atlanta. With the scandalous cloud of cheating still looming and the sheer numbers of newly-hired teachers and administrators, you would think the atmosphere would be virtually pulsing with tension and stress.
But APS spokesman Keith Bromery reported, “I talked to the people over there, and they say morale is very high. Teachers are very excited.”
And was the cheating scandal addressed at orientation? “I wouldn’t call it a pep talk,” Bromery said. “It’s more like informing them as to where things stand right now and to tell them that hopefully our achievement is going to continue as we’ve experienced over the past 10 to 20 years in the district.”
With the first day of school just around the corner, there is still so much to be done at APS. First and foremost, there are still positions to be filled with precious little time in which to fill them, which can lead to hiring educators who are not highly qualified in the race to get teachers in classrooms. Davis expressed his concern to CBS Atlanta News of his fears that trying to fill these positions too quickly might lead to under qualified teachers slipping through the cracks. With the added pressure to undo the damage done to students over the last decade, this could be hugely problematic.
Tonya Jenkins, a parent of a fourth-grader, expressed her concerns regarding the race to fill these positions to CBS reporter Rebekka Schramm, saying, “They’re doing it so fast, it just makes me wonder if they’re gonna prescreen, do a good prescreening of the teachers that’s coming in.”
Davis is also concerned about the caliber of administrators and principals they hire this year for the same reasons, therefore, principals will be appointed on an interim basis, which means that they have a year to prove that they are right for the job.
So the search continues for teachers and principals to fill the numerous holes left by those who will not be returning. “My biggest challenge right now is finding intellectual capital on the academic side,” Davis said. “The entire leadership structure in our academic shop has been decimated.”
Wow! The task is overwhelming and the odds aren’t stacked in Atlanta schools’ favor. But there is a desire here to prove that those who remain at APS, those who had nothing to do with the dark cloud that hovers over these schools, will do whatever they can to remove the cloud and let the sun shine on these schools once again.
A daunting task? Absolutely, and it’s not for the timid or irresolute. So I hope that those who remain and these who are newly hired are up for the challenge. They will definitely be under the microscope by their superiors, their students’ parents, and their students as they go about their business. My advice to them would be to try to ignore it all and just do your job everyday to the best of your ability, remembering that you are there to serve those children who have been placed in your care.
Tonya Jenkins is one of the many who will be watching. “I just hope that they do the right thing by the teachers that were not guilty, and they do the right thing by the children. It’s all about the kids.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself! It is all about the kids, and I, for one, am rooting for Atlanta Public Schools. Best of luck in this brand new school year!