By AP and Staff Reports
Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday met with the Atlanta School Board, city schools Superintendent Beverly Hall and Mayor Kasim Reed to get a briefing about the board’s progress toward regaining full accreditation for Atlanta Public Schools.
The meeting comes after Deal announced last week that he signed legislation giving him the power to remove members from the city school board if they do not make sufficient progress by midsummer. It also marks the first time Deal has met with the full board, which received notice in January that members’ infighting had caused APS to be placed on accredited probation.
Following the meeting, a spokesman for Deal said, “The governor is committed to working with the elected representatives of Atlanta to do what is right for the students of APS.”
The system’s accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, has given the board until Sept. 30 to show marked improvement on six mandates related to governance. Among the board’s ongoing work, it has hired mediators to help with personal conflicts as well as governance experts to work out disagreements over policy.
The bill Deal signed would require an earlier deadline — July 1 — by which the state Board of Education must hold a hearing if full accreditation is not regained. The state board would then make a recommendation to the governor on how to proceed, and Deal could then make a decision whether to replace local board members.
Reed strongly supported the bill. House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, called it a “safety net” for students and parents, and he said it was meant to assure both the community and the accrediting agency that action could be taken if current school board members stumbled.
Prior to the meeting, Reed expressed his concern about the board’s pace of moving together to address the problems.
He noted that Hall’s term ends in June and a search committee has not yet been appointed to find her replacement. He also said a mediator had only been hired recently to work on bridging the differences between the board.
It still faces a review, however, by the U.S. Justice Department because it affects voting and elections. Some Atlanta lawmakers have also threatened a lawsuit.