New Atlanta Superintendent Deals With Cheating Aftermath

Erroll B. Davis Jr. isn’t on the custodial staff in any of Atlanta’s schools, but he’s got a full-time job cleaning up a mess.

Under former Atlanta school superintendent Beverly L. Hall, almost 90 percent of principals were removed after state test scores did not go up enough. It was considered that she ruled with an iron fist.

Verdaillia Turner, president of the Atlanta teachers’ union said:

“She was known as the queen in her ivory tower.”

However, despite her rule of fear, Dr. Hall got results – with two national groups naming her superintendent of the year. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan even hosted her at the White House, writes Michael Winerip at the New York Times.

But that was until last year, when a state investigation found that 178 principals and teachers at nearly half the district’s schools had cheated.

Investigators for the Fulton County District Attorney’s office quizzed teachers across the state for possible criminal prosecutions in the CRCT cheating scandal.

As was reported earlier at the AJC, the PSC (Professional Standards Commission) voted to revoke the teaching certificates of three administrators and to impose two-year suspensions on eight teachers. Some of the educators were from Parks Middle School, cited by state investigators as an egregious example of the test-cheating culture in Atlanta Public Schools.

To help repair the damage caused by the scandal, Gov. Nathan Deal and Mayor Kasim Reed appointed Erroll B. Davis Jr. to become the new superintendent after Hall left in the summer.

Mr. Davis, 67, was the previous chancellor of the University System of Georgia. His salary as superintendent is less than half of what he had there, but will still be taking home $240,000 a year.

On his appointment, Mr. Davis said:

“When I look back at my life, I don’t want my contribution to have been shaving a few eighths off a bond deal to make a million dollars.”

Davis was set to retire, but he decided to take the role to root out the high-profile corruption in Atlanta schools. More than the 178 teachers and principals named in a 800-page investigative report have been removed, and he dismissed several top administrators.

Richard L. Hyde, who had been the lead investigator on the commission that issued the state report, said:

“He’s brought order to chaos, it’s very impressive.”

Davis has visited 8 to 10 schools a month since he began the job. And he’s not there to breath down the necks of teachers — he says he’s there to reassure them.

“I want to thank you for what you do,” he told each teacher.

“I couldn’t do your job.”

But that’s not to say he’s soft. After recently receiving a complaint that a teacher had given her students the answers to a test, he fired her.

“My policy is zero tolerance,” he said.

“I do not want people who cheat teaching children. Can I do that? We’ll find out. If I lose, so be it, sue me.”

While he’s not political, Davis described himself as “slightly left of center on social issues and slightly right of center on fiscal matters.”