By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD
The Atlanta Public Schools (APS) is by no means the only school system in Georgia or in the nation to engage in widespread cheating, but the cheating in Atlanta was so pervasive and so endemic in the system itself that it turned the school system into a cruel hoax, a cruel caricature of education, a hackneyed institution bent on inflicting fear, intimidation, retaliation, and pain on anyone who deigned to summon a scintilla of integrity and mettle within his or her spirit to speak out — ever how muted the voice — against the heinous actions of those in positions of power and who feigned to be caring educators but who were really jackals of the night, only pushing their own fiendish agenda with no regard whatsoever for the innocent children or the still innocent teachers. A prophetic voice was needed. Speaking truth to power. We at MACE always tried to be this prophetic voice. We tried to do our part. We were one voice, but some teachers and other employers became single and lonely voices, crying out for justice and mercy, and suffering for their cries for justice and mercy. They just wanted others to know that injustice and cruelty reigned in the Atlanta Public Schools. Their voices were heard ever so faintly…not because of their own failings but because the cold wax of fear, intimidation, retaliation, and pain cluttered up the anvils of others’ ear drums.
A blistering July, 2008 picket in the middle of the day: “Atlanta: Still A Gangsta System!”
Well, what can I say? We at MACE said it all many times on the streets of Atlanta. We held up signs through the years which declared that the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) was “a gangsta system.” I remember when my colleague at MACE, Darryl Plenty, and I were signed up to speak at an Atlanta School Board meeting three or four years ago concerning the happenings at Douglass High School, strangely enough Beverly Hall‘s seat was empty and was later filled by Sharon Pitts. Mr. Khaatim El came up to me before the meeting started and greeted me, saying, “They told us in the back that you were out here.” I didn’t actually organize the outpouring in the attendance; Michael Bond called me and invited me to participate, as he had organized a large protest concerning the closing of the magnet school at Douglass High School. Nevertheless, I noticed that as soon as Mr. Plenty and I had finished our turns addressing the school board concerning this matter that Chief of Staff Sharon Pitts got out of Superintendent Hall‘s chair and went into the hallway and escorted Hall into the room and to her seat. I thought to myself, “Hmm…we must make her nervous.”
MACE picketing against Beverly Hall in the rain at Douglass High School. This was not the only picket in the rain at Douglass High. Hall removed the popular magnet program at Doug.
There has been so much foolishness and pure evil taking place in the Atlanta Public Schools under the administration of Beverly Hall that it would take years and years to chronicle. For those who would like a more detailed view of the fight that MACE has had with this soulless and Soviet-styled administration, go simply to http://www.theteachersadvocate.com. Didn’t the Good Master ask, “What would a man profit if he gained the whole world but lost his own soul?”? Or, what would a man or woman gain if he or she gained and maintained a $115,00.00 administrative job but lost his or her soul? Understand me: I am not assigning people to hell or to purgatory or to anywhere; I am just asking what good does it do for a person to have a nice job if he or she can’t look at himself or herself squarely in the mirror? A person like the infamous Joe Stalin (whom Leon Trotsky described as a boring bureaucrat — and murderous too!) had consummate and ultimate power in the Soviet Union but had become soulless. (As a young man, Stalin had actually studied for the priesthood in the Soviet Republic of Georgia.)
Below are some thoughts and reactions to comments and questions on the AJC‘s Get Schooled blog. Maureen Downey is the Blogmeister, and we have a link to this important blog from our Home Page. I encourage you to visit it often. The comments below are in ascending order, starting with the earliest ones and ended with the latest ones, within a span of about 28 to 30 hours.
@ Maureen: I just got home [about 10:00 PM on July 5, 2011] and read the part of the report on Parks Middle School. I didn’t recognize the names of the cheating teachers at Parks, and I am sure that the MACE Staff would have informed me if they were members of MACE. I am certain that they aren’t. In fact, I don’t think that we have a single teacher whom we are defending on the charges of cheating. But, I do know that our General Counsel, David Brown, did accompany some teachers who were being interviewed by the investigators. I did recognize the name of one of the Parks teachers who refused to cheat and was transferred to another school and whose contract was subsequently non-renewed presumably for refusing to go along with the cheating. I recognize her name (and know her husband as well). No wonder this Waller fellow was so apparently jumpy and nervous when we walked into the Parks building. To quote my grandfather, he couldn’t seem to find his butt with both hands.
I remember that we met with several of the Parks teachers at a pizza place fairly new the school…maybe close to Sylvan Road. These teachers were highly stressed. I remember in particular that this administration was apparently trying to rid itself of one very young and effective teacher. She apparently was not “going along to get along.” This was about four or five years ago. Most — or many — of these principals were probably already on MACE’s “Needs Improvement” list. Ha! Now all — or most — is coming to light. We at MACE feel somewhat vindicated because for years we were howling about APS like we were lone wolves in the desert.
We have had many teachers to call the MACE Office because of their concern that they were asked to meet with the investigators. Our standard recommendation to these teachers was to tell the truth, even if it put them in a bad light. Telling the truth is always the right thing to do.
I will repeat one more time what I have been saying very publicly for years…Beverly Hall was the worst superintendent who has ever shown her face in Atlanta. Do you hear me, Kasim, Shirley, and Sam? The worst.
The report is so sad. The Fain principal who apparently made the teacher crawl under the table, I do know. I had him in a grievance hearing about three years ago, representing a veteran teacher who was just tired of the crap. He appeared to be so cocky…and dapper in his impressively starched shirt and bow tie. I think that when I got through with him, some of the starch had come out of his shirt. I guess that I WAS indeed Public Enemy # 1 to these cheating principals. We had picket signs which read: “Teachers Teacher! Administrators Cheat!” Perhaps these should be edited now to say: “Administrators Cheat! So Do Some Teachers!” I am disappointed in those teachers who did cheat, but I still contend that the culture of cheating was established by the lady herself, Beverly Hall.
To see the “cheating” picket signs, see this June 21, 2011 article on my personal blog or also visit http://www.theteachersadvocate.com >>>
Nothing in the Report shocks me…although I must say that even as a jaded curmudgeon, I was a tad taken aback by the brazen openness of the cheating. We at MACE had been asserting “systematic cheating” for a while and poohed-poohed the Blue Ribbon Commission and other attempts to cover up. But, I must say that I am glad that the Report has been released to the public and that the uninitiated and naive can get a glimpse behind the curtain and see how governmental bodies operate, especially when given an Open Records request.
By the way, I see that Mayor Kasim Reed is jumping quickly from U. S. S. Beverly Hall. It didn’t take him long to change his tune and jump this sinking vessel! Ha! Just like a politician. But, I hope that the voters remember that he was on Beverly Hall’s Cheer Squad to the very end…with pom poms and streamers always in his hands. According to Kasim, it was all the board’s fault…well, the fault of Mr. Khaatim El and his four colleagues in the new board majority who tried to deal with the Hall Administration and the cheating scandal.
Kasim, I don’t know if the voters’ memories are that faulty. I think that they are going to remember where you stood. HallGate may have done you in politically. This is not just CheatingGate: it is HallGate.
Any opponent in the upcoming Mayoral Race need only write, “Kasim Reed…He Defended Beverly Hall!” Enough said.
Yep, it’s a price to be paid for all those nice, swanky lunches at the Piedmont Driving Club. Heck, Kasim, just go to O’Charley’s or Taco Bell. Ha!
Yes, Jean Dodd was right. I have known Jean Dodd for years as she served on the Atlanta School Board. I have respected her, and I knew at the time that the real reason she was being mistreated was because she was speaking out. She might have been the “only” skeptic on the school board, but not the only “skeptic” per se. I have been saying from the beginning that these inflated scores were not valid. They simply violate the Law of the Large Numbers. These jumps in scores all over the country are false. Look at what happened in Houston under Rod Paige whom President George W. Bush made U. S. Secretary of Education. ALL SUDDEN AND DRAMATIC RISES IN STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES AMONG A LARGE GROUP OF SUBJECTS ARE FALSE. Now, is this emphatic enough?
Look what we have said for years and years about the false gods of standardized testing… >>>
We know about TRS…Teacher Retirement System.
Now the public knows about TSR…Test Score Racket. It’s about time that the public and the media learned about TSR. It’s about time. But, I do indeed want to tip my hat to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) for pressing on with this story, despite the fact that the Big Mules in Atlanta’s Business Community wanted it swept under the rug. A Pulitzer? I am serious.
Norreese Haynes (L), John Trotter (C), and Benjamin Barnes (R) eating at the famous Busy Bee Restaurant on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive after representing an APS teacher in a hearing on Trinity Avenue.
@ exaps teacher: I just read your email to me. I would be happy to appear with you on ABC with Diane Sawyer. I remember what you and the others went through, and I remember how strong you guys were. Remember when one of the guys in the “leadership” threatened my life? Ha! (I responded with an 11 or 12 page letter that literally went all over Georgia and the internet too.) We picketed like hell (three big pickets that year) and filed grievance(s). I remember the principal asking that Hearing Officer (Sheryl Freeman, I believe) if he had “to take” my searing cross examination of him in the hearing. The Hearing Office rightfully told him that I had a right to ask the questions. Filed several PSC Complaints, and the PSC actually came back in this situation with sanctions against four people in the “leadership.” The Assistant Principal was to have her certificate suspended for six months, and she went on to retire or quit. Two stepped down. The Principal (I am not going to name him but I could) suddenly announced in an April faculty meeting that he was resigning. That was a year, right? 1994-95, right? You shed the light on the rampant cheating on the High School Graduation Test. You were very strong, an unsung hero at the time. I encouraged you to get the hell of our APS and accept the job in the suburban county where they would appreciate you. Good to hear from you!
@ former APS techer [different from the above poster]: I think that the new superintendent, whomever will be appointed, will want to move on and try to forget as hastily as he or she can about this sordid time in the annals of APS. Unfortunately, I don’t think that he or she will engage in any restitution in which he or she should engage. Too many lives were destroyed.
If Beverly Hall did not know about the cheating (cough, cough), then she was THE DUMBEST SUPERINTENDENT IN AMERICA. Data-driven (cough, cough)? If she did not know, then she wouldn’t know the difference between data and dog crap. Need I repeat the mantra that I have been publicly saying for YEARS AND YEARS? Beverly Hall was the worst superintendent who has ever shown his or her face in the Atlanta Public Schools.
Uh, one more question…Where oh where is SACS‘s Mark Elgart? Mr. Elgart, do you reckon that the mess that the Beverly Hall Administration created and perpetuated in the Atlanta Public Schools has failed in any way to live up to SACS‘ fake and hypocritical “standards”? Ha! What jokes…Mark Elgart and his phony SACS organization! Mark Elgart, we are waiting on your response! SACS is a tool of the business establishment, pure and simple.
Is Mark Elgart ducking and hiding? Is he afraid? Is he running from his responsibilities in Atlanta? Has Atlanta not egregiously and flagrantly violated any of SACS‘s so-called “standards”? Hmm. Do we understand the word hypocrite? Does SACS apply its so-called “standards” equitably or capriciously and arbitrarily? Dr. Trotter has offered to debate Mark Elgart on this issue on several occasions. Is Mark Elgart afraid to debate Dr. John Trotter? Isn’t this a fair question?
What does SACS stand for? Surely Ain’t Committed to Standards (SACS)?
Now who have I been saying very PUBLICLY for the last few years are the three biggest educational hypocrites in Georgia? That’s right…Crawford Lewis, Beverly Hall, and Mark Elgart. Two down and one to go. Go to these sources and verify for yourself what we have been saying for years… >>>
http://www.georgiateachersspeakout.com [Well…you are on this now.]
@ Former APS Teacher: You were strong to take a stand, and, yes, MACE General Counsel Bill Woods would not back down, and I am glad that he helped save your job. He was one of my dearest friends, but he passed away in July of 2006 from heart failure — but he had the heart of a Lion, and we named our Person of the Year Award at MACE each year “The ___ Annual William L. Woods Person of the Year Award.” I know that he gets a kick of this!
Bill Woods (aka “the Woodman”) was a very nice and gentle big man, but in hearings defending teachers, he was very aggressive. I remember a Fulton teacher calling me one day after Bill had represented him, saying, “Your boy kicked some ass today!” (In fact, in the photo above, Bill was on his way to this teacher’s hearing. He has his game face on, right? Ha!) The Woodman got a real kick out of defending teachers!
Members of the MACE Family paying respect to their brother, The Woodman, on a very hot July day in 2006. The late William Lawrence Woods, Esq., was a friend to Atlanta teachers during the harrowing years of the Beverly Hall Administration.
I was in the MACE Office today and walked through what we call “the William L. Woods Parkway” in the office, a sort of memorial shrine set up for “the Woodman,” with many photos, his Emory University chair (where he earned his undergraduate degree), his Georgia State University Law Degree, his published book of poetry (Burger Boy — some great poems in here), and, of course, his photo of Uga IV. He loved the Georgia Bulldogs, his chicken wings, his pizza, and maybe a nip or two of Jim Beam. Ha! We miss him dearly! There will never be another Woodman. In fact, I think that I will write an article later this evening or in the wee hours of the morning about Beverly Hall and this sordid mess in Atlanta, and I will use a photo of “the Woodman” (as we all called him and he called himself…in the third person!) attached to this article because he and Norreese Haynes fought many battles for Atlanta teachers, especially ones dealing with cheating (or, rather some teachers who refused to cheat and were therefore being ostracized and abused). In fact, at lunch today (Godby Road Piccadilly, baby!), Mr. Haynes was telling me how many, many of his OIR cases in APS the last couple of years were dealing with this type of situation. I remember going with him and Ben Barnes last year to assist one of our members who had strong evidence about this same type of cheating at Turner Middle School. Now I see why the APS Administration appeared so nervous about this situation. When I had visited this Turner Middle School with my colleagues, Mr. Haynes, Mr. Barnes, and Mr. David Cochran, the principal asked us to be sequestered in a conference room and she then got someone on the phone from Downtown. I got on the phone, and I told this OIR person that we were following protocol and simply had come to visit teachers after school and that we had signed in, to which she replied: “Dr. Trotter, you know [that] they see you as John Wayne when you show up.” True story. But, I have many funnier and more weird situations than this when I showed up at school. Maybe I’ll go into them later. They would make for a good article! Ha!
Next election >>>>>>>>>>>> “Kasim Reed for Mayor…He Defended Beverly Hall!”
Kasim, ole buddy, you danced too long with Beverly Hall. You’ve got do do all over your tuxedo. It’s gonna be hard to get it out. Go on over to that Piedmont Driving Club and see if some of the distinguished ladies from The Prado or Andrews Drive can help you get that do do off your tuxedo, OK? After all, wasn’t it their husbands who filled out your dance card for you? Kasim, you should have watched out for that Piedmont Driving Club mindset. Those folk will have you jumping like a Bell Hop.