John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD
I have seen them all up close. Clayton. Atlanta City. DeKalb. Cobb. Gwinnett. Fulton. These school systems are large and urbanized or urbanizing. (In fact, Gwinnett recently won a award among “urban school systems.”) Even though these school systems are alike in so many ways, they do indeed have their distinct flavor and are experiencing stresses and strains.
Atlanta. As far as a school system is concerned, Atlanta is the worst hands down, especially under the Dark Ages of Beverly Hall. Khaatim El tried to reign her in, but her connections in the business community (lucrative contracts, you know) targeted Mr. El and made his time as Chair quite miserable. Erroll Davis’s first big hire, Karen Waldon of Henry County, was a bad choice, in my opinion. She’s been known to be a little heavy-handed, and she drew MACE’s only picket into Henry County at Austin Road Middle School a few years back.
DeKalb. Full of nepotism. The school system really does look like a jobs program for the well-connected — or perhaps even an extension of Eddie Long’s New Birth Baptist. Right now, you have a gang of thugs running the board and school system. They didn’t want an excellent superintendent. They had one right next door, Dr. Samuel King, in Rockdale County, but they were very content to reach up to Lorain, Ohio to bring down a rather mediocre-at-best supe. I hear that there is a New Birth connection.
Clayton. Erick Davis and her little fiefdom got all upset when newly-elected board member Norreese Haynes began to shed the light on the now infamous Land Deal and other very dubious practices…like the illegal contract between the school board and attorney Dorsey Hopson. She hooked up with Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell to make Mr. Haynes look like the bad guy. But, Davis and the rest of the board members either resigned under duress or were removed from the school board shortly after illegally removing Mr. Haynes from the school board. Mr. Haynes has been vindicated. They did to him what the same thing was done to Khaatim El in Atlanta.
Cobb. Well, SACS won’t mess with this mess, I am sure, because of the apparent close connection between attorney Glenn Brock and SACS’s Mark Elgart. But, this board argues and rants and raves about the pettiest things…like school calendars. Perhaps they ought to turn their attention to arguing over using Dixie Cups in the PTA because change is a’comin’ in Cobb. Well, it’s already here. Half or more of their students are now minorities, and only one of seven on the school board is a minority.
Gwinnett. Talking about minority students. Over half the students in Gwinnett are now minorities. Over one-half. But, there is not a single minority on the school board. A real recipe for disaster. One lady of the five-member school board has served for nearly 40 years. My guess is that her fellow board members will talk Louise into resigning mid-term so that they can appoint a docile black person to symbolically take her place. Gwinnett has nearly a million people, and when there are only five school board seats, it is almost financially insurmountable for a newcomer to wage a costly campaign for the school board. Incumbents keep getting elected, and this is the problem. Because of the size of this county, the legislators in the General Assembly from Gwinnett ought to push for this school board to be expanded to seven or nine members, but this won’t happen.
Fulton. Talking about a monster with two heads! Ha! Fulton North and Fulton South are so dissimilar. In the North, it is mostly white and upper-middle class with a more vibrant and growing economy. This formerly was Milton County. There is some distinct movements from Fulton legislators from this area for re-forming Milton County which went bankrupt in 1933 and merged into Fulton County. On the Southside, Fulton South more resembles the City of Atlanta, but without having the skyrises. Test scores among the South Fulton students fall significantly lower than the students of Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Haynes Bridge, etc. South Fulton was formerly Campbell County which merged into Fulton County during the Great Depression like Milton County did. Like other superintendents in Fulton, young Robert Avossa will have the same problems closing the achievement gaps and integrating Republican North with Democratic South.