State says superintendent's claims not entirely accurate



ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News has been checking out claims that Atlanta's school superintendent made to justify the firing of North Atlanta High School's principal.

Hundreds of local high school students walked out Wednesday in protest over the sudden firing and removal of school leaders.

Superintendent Errol Davis told parents the school is in dire straits. But his claim that poor academic performance put the school at risk of a state takeover just isn't true according to state officials and the low graduation rate he threw out may not be totally accurate.

Davis spoke before a crowd of angry students and parents Tuesday night saying unless he made major changes at North Atlanta High School, "The state would have seized the school and we would have fired all the leadership in the process. That's where we are."

The school failed to meet federal academic standards under No Child Left Behind five years in a row, and one more year would have led to state action.

State officials said that Davis' statements Tuesday night were not all accurate.

"The state doesn't take over schools," said Matt Cardoza with the state Department of Education

Cardoza said instead they would send in a monitor to oversee policy and personnel changes.

"That person would not replace the principal. That person would not replace the leadership staff at the school. They would be there to work alongside those staff members," Cardoza said.

Any personnel changes would be up to the district not the state.

At the meeting Davis also hammered North Atlanta for a low graduation rate.

"Sixty-two percent means we're failing four out of every 10 of our children," Davis said.

"It may not be as bad," Cardoza said.

The Georgia Department of Education said when the feds recently switched to a new calculation method to better track students who withdraw or transfer, rather than dropout, it left lots of schools playing catch-up to provide proof and graduation rates sank statewide.

"We saw those drops and they're not always because of students really not graduating," Cardoza said.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant asked the district's research director if the state was wrong.

"I think these are the numbers that we have right now. The numbers are the numbers and 62 percent is what we have right now as an official calculation from the state," APS Director of Research and Evaluation Rubye Sullivan told Diamant.

Davis was out of town Wednesday, but when Diamant asked a district spokesperson about the state takeover claim he told Diamant he didn't want to mince words but stood by the superintendent's plan to make North Atlanta a better school.