Six educators removed amid cheating scandal; Khaatim El quits board in blistering farewell

10:54 AM, Jul 12, 2011   |    comments
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Video: Raw Video: Khaatim El Resigns from Atlanta School Board

Video: Massive Shakeup at APS Begins

  • Atlanta School Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr.
  • Khaatim El fights back tears as he unexpectedly resigns from the Atlanta School Board, July 11, 2011

ATLANTA -- Atlanta Public Schools Interim Superintendent Erroll Davis stripped six high-ranking educators of their duties -- the first fallout from a scathing state report that uncovered widespread cheating in dozens of schools.

And a surprise casualty of the cheating scandal -- Atlanta School Board Member Khaatim El, the immediate-past Chairman of the Board.

El suddenly resigned from the board, and said in a blistering and tear-filled farewell address that the leadership of the city had failed the children, and he was leaving the board because he, too, had failed to protect the children of his district.

The massive shakeup in the Atlanta Public Schools is underway.

"I will do everything in my power to ensure that anyone implicated in the report will not be back in a classroom," Davis said.

He replaced four area superintendents: 

    *Sharon Davis-Williams 
    *Michael Pitts 
    *Robin Hall 
    *Tamara Cotman

Davis also replaced the principals at two year-round elementary schools, Boyd and Hutchinson. The first day of class for both schools is Wednesday.

Keisha Gibbons replaces Emalyn Foreman as principal at Boyd. Davis said the new principal at Hutchinson will be named Tuesday.

Davis promoted four principals to area superintendent positions -- Donell Underdue Jr., principal of Brown Middle School; Danielle Battle, principal of King Middle School; Elizabeth Bockman, principal of Inman Middle School; and David White, principal of E. Rivers Elementary School.

At the end of the school board meeting, El made his bombshell announcement.

El had been expected to remain as the board's District 2 representative after stepping aside as chairman last month to try to defuse some of the infighting and rivalries among all nine, contentious and feuding board members.

The former chairman had been warning the city for more than a year that Atlanta's political power elite and the downtown business community had been, as he has described them, protecting the district's then-Superintendent Beverly Hall in order to cover up the cheating.

"I take no solace in knowing my disbeliefs have been confirmed by the governor's report," El began.

"I failed to protect thousands of children," El continued, choking back tears and trying to regain his composure, "children who came from homes like mine.... But it remains to be seen, no matter how deep this thing goes, whether the soul of Atlanta has really been stirred, whether or not Atlanta will recognize that it is facing a genuine crisis of character, character that is decaying because of fear, intimidation and retaliation."

El said some difficult questions should haunt Atlanta.

"Why was this cheating scandal so exclusively pronounced for some children and not others, splitting sharply along racial lines, in its mistreatment of the poor and disenfranchised?" he asked. "Why were these children, mostly low-income and African American, so cavalierly denied access to America's promise?'"

El said Atlanta's and Georgia's elected leaders, and business leaders "sold out generations of children for the sake of an image and the perception of success... Those questions will force Atlanta to have uncomfortable and necessary conversations about race, class -- and power, who has it and who doesn't."

El said he is moving to Newark, NJ, to join the program funded by a $100 million grant from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg that is aimed at transforming Newark's troubled school system, which was previously also run by Dr. Beverly Hall.

El's seat on the board will be filled by an appointed, interim board member who will serve until the end of the year. There will be a special election in November for District 2 voters to choose a new board member to fill the rest of El's term.

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