Superintendent speaks out over fired NAHS administrators

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

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ATLANTA - A local teacher is speaking only to Channel 2 Action news about the allegations of racism, which she said, cost her her job.

Those allegations surfaced nearly two weeks ago after Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis suddenly fired North Atlanta High School's interim principal Mark Mygrant, and reassigned four top school leaders.

Two days later, Mygrant told Channel 2 Action News he is convinced he lost his job over anonymous complaints that two of his recent hires were racists, including Amy Durham.

Investigative reporter Aaron Diamant dug up specific details about the accusations against Durham.

For nearly three months, Durham showed up for work at North Atlanta High School in good faith.

"I went downtown, got fingerprinted, got my badge, the whole nine yards, went to work, got paid," Durham told Diamant. "I had no idea there was a problem."

But in August, she found out her name suddenly got pulled from the list of teaching contracts Mygrant submitted to the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education for approval.

"Not only was I shut down, but anybody who was advocating for me was shut down as well," Durham said.

In an email, obtained by Channel 2 Action News, to APS's top brass, Mygrant responded to "a series of anonymous allegations" of racism against Durham.

"I'm not a racist," Durham said. "I've never been given an opportunity to face my accuser, or to even find out specifically what the issue at hand is."

In the email, Mygrant defended Durham over accusations she refused to hold a reception for a black student who got into Harvard, while working as a college counselor at North Atlanta last year.

"If you're going to pick something that's going to hurt my feelings, that's probably it," Durham said. "Racism is probably it."

Durham told Diamant the school never holds receptions for any student, regardless of where they are accepted to college.

"Freedom of speech does not allow you to yell fire in a crowded theater, but at APS, I guess, you can walk in and yell racism and leave the room," Durham said.

Durham resigned last week, while still working to clear her name.

"I understand if this person remains anonymous then there's not anything I can do," Durham said. "You just get to say that about me, and i just have to live with it."

Meantime, Channel 2 Action News has been working to interview Davis for more than a week, hoping to clear up why he ordered those sweeping leadership changes North Atlanta, how it all went down, the allegations against Durham, and one specific statement he made that got parents and students fired up.

Diamant finally caught up with Davis on Tuesday afternoon, and asked him, flat out, about Mygrant's claims he got fired over allegations of racism.

"Mr. Mygrant, of course, has the right to assume anything he wants about why we make decisions," Davis said. "I believe his assumptions are categorically off base."

Davis says his decision to suddenly sack Mygrant and reassign top school leaders was strictly based on data showing the school's five year history of poor performance.

"I am definitely happy with the decision to ask Mr. Mygrant to step aside at the time that he did, Davis said."

As for Amy Durham, Davis told Diamant the decision for her to resign was her own.

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"Her contract was on an agenda when an allegation came in, and so I said, 'just wait a second until we go through our processes,' and then a number of other questions were raised of a personnel nature that had nothing to do with racism, but had a lot to do with how positions were filled, how personnel processes ran, and we were working through those issues," Davis explained. "It had absolutely nothing to do with racism.

"Ms. Durham was never asked to resign, and she did that of her own volition, and I can categorically say I wasn't about to ask for Ms. Durham to resign," Davis said.

Meanwhile, the Davis' sweeping action at North Atlanta led to nearly a week of protests by students and parents, who demanded better answers.

Their frustrations were fueled at a crowded community meeting last week, where Davis seemed to suggest, at one point, North Atlanta was at risk of a state takeover, which Georgia Department of Education officials told Channel 2 Action News it doesn't do.

"I used the word seized," Davis said. "I used the word loss of control, the term loss of control, i never said and you may go back and review the transcript, that the state would come in and run the school."

Davis also said the decision to send a security team to help remove Mygrant and the other school leaders is standard procedure. However, Davis admits he's not happy about how all the drama evolved.

"Obviously, one could say you have to ask the question: 'is there anything that you could do to damp out the furor,' and we'll look to do those things."

As for all the protests, Davis said told Diamant he expected to hear complaints from unhappy parents and students and appreciates their involvement. Still, Davis said he stands by his decision to pull the trigger on the personnel changes and his reasons for them.


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