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Monday, September 13, 2010

Atlanta school board plans to revive delayed coup

Reuben McDaniel, school board swinger?
  • Courtesy APS
  • Reuben McDaniel, school board swinger?
Napoleon once said, “If you start to take Vienna — take Vienna.” In other words, you should be prepared to follow through once you launch a major offensive.

Last month, however, a five-member majority of the Atlanta Board of Edumacation backed off of an attempt to unseat its chairwoman after Mayor Kasim Reed implored them to delay their vote and ask state Attorney General Thurbert Baker for legal advice.

For reasons I don't quite fathom, the nine-member board later changed its mind and voted not to ask the AG's office whether a simple majority of five could remove Chairwoman LaChandra Butler Burks without violating the school system's charter.

Now I'm told the original five revolutionaries plan to re-start their coup at tonight's ABE meeting, despite not having the AG's seal of legal approval. I'm also told, but haven't been able to confirm, that the board's General Counsel, Veleter Mazyck — who answers directly to Superintendent Beverly Hall — is currently engaged in parliamentary maneuvers to keep such a vote off tonight's agenda.

The reason for this tug-of-war, you'll recall, is the serious standardized testing scandal that has made the Atlanta Public Schools the subject of a high-profile state investigation. School board members I've talked to criticize Burks for not keeping them in the loop; they feel her removal would serve a need for transparency and public accountability and remove a barrier to reform.

Come tonight, we'll see who wins. I've also heard rumors that the five — dubbed the "majority in exile" because they don't have the backing of the powerful Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce — could be joined by a sixth board member. If that happens and Burks' removal comes at the behest of a two-thirds majority, then the pesky legal questions would fall by the wayside.

So, who would be this fabled vote-swinger? Well, we can safely rule out Burks, as well as Vice Chairwoman Cecily Harsch-Kinnane. And it isn't likely to be Emmett Johnson, an old-timer who's fought all efforts to shake up the board. That only leaves Reuben McDaniel, a newcomer who only joined the ABE this year.

McDaniel, a former business partner of late Mayor Maynard Jackson and recently retired president/CEO of Jackson Securities, hasn't been around long enough to have entrenched loyalties, so it'll be interesting to see which way he leans tonight.

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