Atlanta public school principal is still on the job following sexual misconduct investigation

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News has learned that an Atlanta public school principal remains on the job, despite an investigation that concluded his denials of sexual misconduct were not credible.

Channel 2′s investigative reporter Richard Belcher says the school district spent more than $75,000 investigating Douglass High School principal Artesza Portee.

The dispute began when a subordinate at Douglass accused Portee of fondling her two years earlier at Sylvan Hills Middle School, where Portee was principal and his accuser worked in an after-school program.

“As an African American female, I am appalled. Mr. Portee should not be working in a school setting any longer,” Angelia Bankston, president of the school’s alumni group, told Belcher.

Bankston and other DHS graduates tried to keep APS from appointing Portee a year ago, but failed. Now the critics are certain the district made a mistake a year ago.

“We find ourselves ignored, and here we are with another blazing incident that speaks toward the lack of character and integrity for leadership,” Brandon Graham of the Douglass High Stakeholders Association told Belcher.

Channel 2 Action News used the state open records law to obtain the report by the law firm Greenberg Traurigh, which was brought in last summer after a female educator accused Portee of groping her.

Here are some of the findings:

“Portee’s denial of the alleged sexual advance ... does not appear credible.”

“Portee denied any history of sexual misconduct ... however ... Portee disclosed an explicit sexual encounter with (the accuser) to his former supervisor.

“Portee’s character for truthfulness with regard to his denial of any improper conduct with women at APS ... does not appear to be credible and warrants action by APS.”

Invoices from Greenberg Trauright show APS spent $75,589 to investigate Portee.

In a statement, APS told Channel 2 Action News and members of the Douglass High School community:

“When Atlanta Public Schools (APS) became aware of this matter, the district launched a thorough investigation conducted by an independent firm. Based on the findings of that investigation, APS took appropriate disciplinary action in accordance with District policy. "

The statement did not explain what action was taken.

Angelia Bankston contends the principal should have been fired.

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“If the level of trust has been eroded, and as well to your misconduct has led to unsafe measures with your colleagues, then (he) should have to find another profession,” she told Belcher.

She said the $75,000 would have been better spent on Douglass students, many of whom come from lower-income families.

“To know that the district is wholeheartedly invested with him, not invested with their own school and community, lets us know that we have a larger problem,” Graham said. “We’ve had nine principals in 10 years, and there’s no schools within the Atlanta Public Schools district that has had that number of educational leaders. So we have a serious problem here.”

We’ve also learned that he has a pending complaint at the Professional Standards Commission, the state agency that investigates misconduct by educators.

An APS spokesman told us the principal would not have a statement.