Former board member recalls trouble with Dr. Hall

2:41 PM, Jul 31, 2011   |    comments
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Anne Harper served two terms on the Atlanta School Board, from 1993 to 2001.

ATLANTA -- Former Atlanta School Board Member Anne Harper said she now recalls troubling patterns early in the administration of former Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall.

"She didn't seem very interested in our point of view or in a genuine dialogue," Harper told 11Alive's Jennifer Leslie. "She began to discourage us pretty heavily from visiting the schools on anything other than ceremonial occasions. Principals were told to call downtown if a school board member arrived unannounced."

Harper served two terms on the board, starting in 1993. She was on the board that hired Dr. Hall in 1999.

"I think anytime you try to prevent your board from having direct contact with what's going on in the organization they're governing, you have an issue there," Harper said.

She said that policy began within Dr. Hall's first two years on the job.

Harper finished her second term on the board before a bill passed by the state legislature in 2003 changed the system's charter to give more power to the superintendent.

"A board really must have independent legal advice and independent financial information, and that was really taken away in the charter," Harper said. 

It was a change pushed by leaders of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

"I think they could have played a more fruitful role if they had seen themselves as they did in the '90s when I was first elected as supporting both the board and the superintendent," Harper said. "What changed is they began to see their role as supporting just the superintendent."

"I think some members of the business community gave her carte blanche and decided she was the savior we had been looking for," Harper said.

Harper said she was "greatly saddened" by the state investigative report that found cheating on the 2009 CRCTs in 44 school in APS.

The report found that Dr. Hall "either knew or should have known cheating and other misconduct was occurring."

The report also accuses Dr. Hall of abusing the trust placed in her by the business community.

"Image was more important than the truth," the report states. "Somewhere in this process, the truth got lost and so did the children."

Yet Harper said the Chamber and other members of the business community need to stay involved in the schools and play a role in turning around the system.

"They need to reexamine what happened and they need to say, 'How can we do better?' We cannot afford to have a business community that's totally disengaged from our public education," Harper said. 

"There has to be a good balance," she said. "I think the business community can support both the board and the superintendent and not take sides."

Harper said she believes the board members in place now are committed to working together, and she described Superintendent Erroll Davis as a "seasoned CEO who has a real sense that the buck stops with him."


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