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Posted by on October 31, 2012.

Buckhead: Records show parents called North Atlanta IB program racist

Several families at North Atlanta High accused the school’s International Baccalaureate program of promoting institutional racism several months before the removal of the school’s principal, according to a letter obtained by the Buckhead Reporter.

The information backs up claims by the school’s former principal that the changes weren’t about the school’s academic record.

Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Karen Waldon received the letter dated Feb. 6. The letter pressured APS to investigate the IB program.

IB is a source of pride for many North Atlanta parents. It involves more challenging course work than a traditional diploma. Parents say it looks good on a college application.

APS spokesman Stephen Alford said IB is “strong program” and not in danger. When asked if the allegations were behind the recent removal of the school’s principal and reassignment of his academy leaders to other schools, he said the decision was not an “adverse action” against the employees.

“Moving the academy leaders to another school was a personnel decision and the superintendent made it clear that he wants the new principal, Dr.  Howard Taylor, to chose his own team,” Alford said.

The letter accuses former principal Mark MyGrant of creating a climate of discrimination and singles out  John Denine, the academy leader who oversaw the IB program. APS officials considered promoting Denine to replace MyGrant who was planning to retire, interviewing him during the summer. Denine declined to comment about the allegations.

Denine was among the four academy leaders APS officials reassigned on Oct. 5. In addition, APS staff told MyGrant to leave campus. MyGrant was serving as an interim at the request of the school system because the process of find his replacement took longer than expected.

APS officials reassigned Denine to Carver Early College. He began as a teacher at North Atlanta in 1997. He became an academy leader while MyGrant was principal.

When asked if Denine’s reassignment was related to the allegations, Alford said it was not, saying APS reassigned three other leaders not named in the letter.

The copy of the letter sent to the Buckhead Reporter did not have signatures, but Alford verified that Waldon received it. It names several teachers in North Atlanta’s IB program and also backs up MyGrant’s version of events.

MyGrant says he was accused of hiring racist teachers at the school. One of those teachers had worked in the school’s college prep office, known as “The College Zone.” The letter makes several claims about The College Zone, but does not name the teacher, who resigned after Oct. 5.

The letter also alleges black students received lower grades for work equal to white students’ work. Recently APS officials confirmed they are investigating allegations of “grade changing” at the school but have not connected it to what happened on Oct. 5.

Alford said Waldon sent the letter to the APS Office of Internal Compliance. That office is also investigating the grade changing allegations.

Waldon informed MyGrant about the accusations of racism against two employees he planned to hire,  according to a letter his attorney sent to Superintendent Erroll Davis in September. The attorney asked Davis if APS was investigating the matter. Davis declined to answer directly in his response. He said an “appropriate APS representative” would contact MyGrant if an investigation was necessary.

During an Oct. 9 meeting with North Atlanta parents, Davis said MyGrant’s departure was a personnel issue but declined to elaborate. During the same meeting, he said the changes were because of poor academic performance at the school. Davis on Oct. 5 sent an email to Board of Education members containing “talking points” about the changes, but it doesn’t mention the school’s academic record or give any other explanation for the decision.

District 4 Board of Education Member Nancy Meister said she recently learned about the letter. She said she doesn’t know enough about why APS removed MyGrant and the academy leaders to say whether the allegations in it were a factor.

She said it is “sad” the anonymous letter became public.

“Until something like that is either proven or it has been investigated, it’s hurtful and somewhat slanderous to the people cited in there,” Meister said.

This story was published at 10:34 a.m.

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