Atlanta Public Schools – Principals Are Out The Door

AJC Headline – “North Atlanta High principal resigns again” – Sutton middle school principal Audrey Sofianos also resigning

The AJC reported that the principal of the North Atlanta High School – Dr. Howard “Gene” Taylor is,

…resigning as the school’s principal effective June 30.Taylor, who also resigned last fall before being persuaded to stay, didn’t provide a reason he won’t be signing a contract with Atlanta Public Schools in the role of principal for next school year.

In an email published by the North Atlanta High School PTSA, Dr. Taylor wrote (full text of email at end of post),

I am writing to share with you that I will not be signing a contract with Atlanta Public Schools to continue in the role of principal for next year. Effective June 30, 2014, I will resign the position of Principal of North Atlanta High School.

This is the second time Dr. Taylor has announced his resignation. This past fall, he announced that he was resigning due to the difficult time he and other principals had working with the APS central administration, at which time he said (see here),

I am a “can do” person and could not continue to work in a “You can’t” system. So, on Wednesday September 11, I stopped banging my head against the wall and asked Mr. Davis to accept my resignation.

Subsequent to Dr. Taylor submitting his resignation last September, he subsequently was promoted – but the promotion was rejected by the Board of Education – and then Dr. Taylor rescinded his resignation. For a complete set of stories on the September 2013 drama, see the middle of the page here for additional links.

Dr. Taylor, whose tenure at NAHS will be less than two full years, began work at NAHS in the Fall of 2012 after the previous principal and other school administrators were removed from NAHS (see here and here).

And in a system where the average principal is paid approximately $105 thousand, Dr. Taylor is the highest paid principal in APS with a salary of $140 thousand.

Also, Sutton Middle School principal Audrey Sofianos announced that she would not be returning next year. In an email (see the full text at the end of the post) she wrote,

… with a very heavy heart I am resigning my position as principal of Sutton Middle School effective the end of my contract, June 30, 2014.  This has been a heart wrenching decision for me.  I have spent much time reflecting and agonizing because of the impact on our students, teachers, and school community.  I have shed many tears and am heartbroken over all that we have yet to accomplish together as a team.  However, I cannot continue in a full-time role and must re-focus on my health and family for the next year.

Full text of Dr. Taylor’s announcement email:

Dear Warrior Parents, Students and Community,

I am writing to share with you that I will not be signing a contract with Atlanta Public Schools to continue in the role of principal for next year. Effective June 30, 2014, I will resign the position of Principal of North Atlanta High School.

While more work needs to be done, we have made much progress during our time together. Having reached an 80% 4-year graduation rate in 2013, with approximately half of our students receiving federally subsidized meals, North Atlanta High School has achieved one of the highest graduation rates in the state, but especially among Title I schools. North Atlanta is significantly closing the achievement gap between students in the black and white subgroups, with students in our white subgroup achieving an 85.7% and students in our black subgroup achieving an 80.4% 4-year graduation rate. Our students in the Hispanic subgroup are not only outperforming Hispanic students in APS and Georgia, but with a 4-year graduation rate of 66.7%, Hispanic students at North Atlanta High School have achieved a graduation rate higher than the APS system average and just 4.8% lower than the average 4-year graduation rate for Georgia. Additionally, while one is hard-pressed to find a factor more negatively related to student learning than poverty, the 4-year graduation rate of 76.8% for our students in the economically disadvantaged subgroup is higher than the APS system average and the average for Georgia. This level of progress is truly impressive.

In addition to our success with graduation rates, together we have dramatically increased student participation in the Advanced Placement program, including offering five sections each in AP Biology, AP Human Geography, and AP World History this year. With 32 of the 77 full IB Diploma Program candidates earning the IB Diploma last year, we achieved a 42% Diploma achievement rate, our highest rate within at least the last five years. Of our students taking two or more IB exams last year, 97.5% scored a 4 or higher on two or more exams. With 140 rising juniors already expressing interest, we expect a dramatic increase in student participation in the IB Diploma Program for next year. The additional scaffolding of the Advanced Placement courses we are now providing these and future IB Diploma Program students is bound to lead to our greatest IBDP success yet. It is no wonder that the Washington Post has named North Atlanta High School one of “America’s Most Challenging High Schools,” only one of three APS schools named, and the APS school with the highest ranking. 

We have accomplished much during our time together, including our successful move into the new North Atlanta facility. I am deeply saddened that our time together has not been longer; however, for the remainder of our time together, I will continue to do as I have done every day since becoming your principal—give you my all toward making North—the direction to EXCELLENCE for all of our students.

You have my heart,

Gene

Full text of Audrey Sofianos’ announcement email (see here),

Dear Sutton Middle School Families,  

I have been principal at Sutton Middle School for seven years.  During my tenure the school has grown from 873 students to over 1500.  We have shown a steady upward trend of achievement under my leadership, with an increase in student opportunities for all kids in academics, athletics and arts.  We also have a high level of business and community support, increasing in interaction and commitment each year.  

Despite these accomplishments, with a very heavy heart I am resigning my position as principal of Sutton Middle School effective the end of my contract, June 30, 2014.  This has been a heart wrenching decision for me.  I have spent much time reflecting and agonizing because of the impact on our students, teachers, and school community.  I have shed many tears and am heartbroken over all that we have yet to accomplish together as a team.  However, I cannot continue in a full-time role and must re-focus on my health and family for the next year.  

After being recruited to come to Sutton as an experienced principal from Indiana, I committed fully to the school and the community.  A little over a year ago my family moved to within walking distance of Sutton Powers Ferry, with a plan to stay through the campus split until we were well established in our two locations.  Though I am disappointed that I am leaving, I am so proud of what we as a team have accomplished over these past years.   

The teacher and parent community have been so supportive and I am proud of the opportunities we have created for our students, as well as their achievements and successes.  I care about all the children at Sutton and in Atlanta Public Schools, wanting the best education possible for each child.  Some of the fondest memories of my life will come from these seven years.  I will miss the kids so much.     

I will remain steadfast in my commitment to Sutton Middle School and Atlanta Public Schools until my last day.  I will do all that I can to ensure a smooth transition, successful end to this school year, with planning necessary for a strong start to 2014-15.  I am hopeful that making this decision early enough in the recruitment season will facilitate in attracting the best possible candidate to the school.  My heart is full of gratitude as I transition these next months from Sutton principal to Sutton ambassador and community supporter.  Thank you to each of you for your teamwork and dedication to the youth and families in our community, and for your incredible support of Sutton Middle School.   

Sincerely,
Audrey Sofianos

Robert Stockwell is the financial watchdog for APS and posts at Financial Deconstruction

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