Deal, Reed, Muhammad Nudge Atlanta BOE Chairman El towards Resignation

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(APN) ATLANTA — On various occasions over the last few weeks, key political players at the local and state levels have been nudging Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education Chairman Khaatim El towards resignation; and a Board vote on a new Chairperson might be drawing close, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

According to one Board Member who attended a closed-door meeting with Governor Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and all nine Board Members, Reed emphasized strongly during the meeting that he did not support the action by five Board Members to change the rules and elect a new Chair in 2010.

According to this Board Member, Gov. Deal nodded his head in agreement while Reed was speaking and said the Board needed to bring its actions in compliance with the law.

According to this Board Member, it was very clear to all those in attendance that both Reed and Deal were looking for the Board Members to elect a new Chair with a broader consensus.

Earlier, an Atlanta parents’ group, Step Up or Step Down, called on El to resign as Chair, and launched a petition which gathered about one thousand signatures.

SUSD has been monitoring several BOE meetings per week, including mediation sessions, SACS progress meetings, and official Board meetings.

According to an SUSD Facebook post on May 14, 2011, the mediator asked all nine Members to address the leadership issue.

Each of the four Members making up the Board minority–Members LaChandra Butler-Burks, Cecily Harsch-Kinnane, Emmett Johnson, and Reuben McDaniel–argued that the other five should not have installed a new Chair and that El should step down.

On the other hand, Gang of Five members, Courtney English, Yolanda Johnson, and Nancy Meister said they supported El, with the exception of Johnson saying that she did not agree with some of El’s dictates regarding Member behavior.

Then, Brenda Muhammad, one of the Five who helped install El as Chair, but the only one who does not currently face an ethics investigation related to the Alisias PR contract, said, as summarized by SUSD: “First, I think you’ve been a good leader… There are some decisions you have made that you should not have. Even though with all of your commitment and work, this is bigger than you now. It’s probably time to look at some other way of leading. Your desire to serve the children has been blocked by this leadership issue and it’s keeping you from being effective. It is that time — no matter what it is that you try to do. You have a voice, it will continue to be heard. I’d rather see it at the table than removed from the table. This has had a devastating impact on our ability to move forward. If we all truly believe your [sic] a good leader, we wouldn’t be here where we are.”

El then said he felt proud of his work and that he felt had had served a complete tour of duty.

The mediator then asked what should happen next, and Harsch-Kinnane, McDaniel, and Muhammad said there should be a new Chair.

The Board then discussed who should be eligible and how they should be elected, whether by simple majority or by two-thirds majority; there was disagreement on this.

SUSD then posted on Facebook it was clear to them that El is willing to step aside.

The mediators then asked the four current and former Chairs and Vice Chairs–Butler-Burks, El, Harsch-Kinnane, and Yolanda Johnson–to leave the room.  From the remaining members, McDaniel and Muhammad emerged as possible candidates.

The four came back in and the Board then agreed to use a two-thirds majority process to select a new Chair.

The Board also discussed during mediation the four current and former Chairs and Vice Chairs recusing themselves from serving as the next Chair or Vice Chair.

Then, during another mediation session on Wednesday, May 18, Meister said she wants to move forward with a leadership change, and that she supports Muhammad for Chair and McDaniel for Vice Chair.

In response, Harsch-Kinnane said she supported the reverse, with McDaniel as Chair and Muhammad as Vice Chair.

McDaniel and Muhammad then agreed to have a private conservation about the matter in the next few days.

It appears, overall, that the APS BOE may be headed towards a vote on new leadership in the very near future.  This could help address some of the concerns raised by AdvancED/SACS CASI, which said they believe the Board has made only minimal progress towards addressing their six recommendations so far; and those raised by the Governor, who now has the power to remove all nine members, based on the state hearing that will occur later this summer or early fall.

(END / 2011)

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