August 1, 2011
Dear Students, Parents, Employees and Friends of Atlanta Public Schools,
After a month as superintendent, I find myself still in the midst of what some have referred to as ‘The Perfect Storm’, but I do see light shining through the clouds.
Remember that the “Perfect Storm” meteorological event was composed of three elements – two fronts and a hurricane that came together in the Atlantic Ocean in 1993. In recent months, APS has been impacted by at least a four-element ‘storm’, including a nearly year-long state investigation into the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), the results of which were released July 5; a threat against the accreditation of our high schools; extensive leadership transitions at every level of APS; and recently, a budget shortfall. Any one of these situations would be enough to knock any school district back on its heels, in and of itself. But, we have had to confront and successfully manage all of them at the same time.
I am happy to report, that prior to the beginning of classes for the new school year on August 8, a number of these issues are nearing resolution. The Atlanta Board of Education has new leadership and stability is evolving. The Board has met almost every week since the beginning of the year to resolve the issues identified by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). As a result, there is reason for optimism that the accreditation threat will soon be resolved.
We are following up on the results of the state CRCT investigation, including working closely with local district attorneys and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC) to address each instance of alleged employee wrongdoing on a case-by-case basis with fairness and due process. And, I have enacted actions and processes to effectively address the recent budget issues in a manner that will have minimal impact on the learning environment and hopefully will resolve the situation within the next few months. I have initiated actions that focus on the district’s tone, culture and performance in the aftermath of the CRCT investigation. And the district has significantly enhanced the testing environment with new procedures and practices initiated over the past two years that effectively tightened and secured this area. After a month, I am growing more comfortable with the scope of the challenges ahead of us all, and I plan to spend at least the next school year continuing to resolve our issues and keep us on the right course.
As for the light I referred to earlier shining through the clouds, this consists of the nearly 50,000 students who will be returning to us in just a week. Rest assured that we are ready and excitedly awaiting their presence in schools and classrooms throughout the district. Our schools are fully staffed with highly-qualified teachers, principals and support personnel, who are poised to continue the significant academic progress this district has fostered in recent years. You can be confident despite our recent challenges that this district’s academic progress will continue under my leadership with the support of thousands of dedicated, hard-working employees who are truly focused on educating today’s children for tomorrow’s world.
I invite our parents and friends to come together and partner with us, as we continue this most important education mission. If you want to know how you can help, all you need do is call or stop by your local school. The principal and staff will be more than happy to show you exactly how you can get involved in supporting them in educating and nurturing our children.
Erroll B. Davis Jr.