After rescinding first pick, APS selects principal for new school

Terry Harness is the principal of Springdale Park Elementary School in Atlanta. Atlanta Public Schools photo

Credit: Atlanta Public Schools

Credit: Atlanta Public Schools

Terry Harness is the principal of Springdale Park Elementary School in Atlanta. Atlanta Public Schools photo

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring is looking to a familiar leader to launch a new Midtown-area elementary school in August, following a wobbly start that included withdrawing an earlier recommendation for the principal post.

The district late Tuesday announced that Terry Harness, principal of Springdale Park Elementary School, will move over to be the principal of the yet-to-be-named elementary school effective Wednesday.

Jennifer Toney, Springdale Park’s assistant principal since 2017, will take over as principal.

“They will have the benefit of collaborating on the transition for both the new elementary school and Springdale Park Elementary, and a transition plan is in place that will allow us to ensure a smooth process,” Herring wrote in a message to parents.

Harness, in a written statement, said he’s excited about the opportunity and “grateful that I get to continue to work in the Midtown Cluster community in which I live and love.”

The personnel moves are expected to receive formal school board approval next month.

The announcement came late Tuesday after district officials called an emergency meeting of Springdale Park’s governance team, a 10-member group that provides input on decisions impacting the school.

The group met in private to discuss personnel matters.

Tuesday’s decision prompted questions about how it was made and if the district considered the input of an interview panel, which spoke to other candidates in August during the first attempt to find a leader for the new school.

Springdale Park parent-teacher organization president Jason Holmes said he wonders “why the input of that panel was ignored in favor of a top down decision.”

“Principal Harness will obviously be a tremendous asset to whichever school he is leading in the future, but I’m just not sure what to think about how we got to this point,” Holmes said, in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

An APS spokesman said in an email that the principal selection process “allows for a direct appointment to ensure the successful opening of a school.”

The school board voted in August to create a new elementary school to ease overcrowding at other area campuses. Hundreds of students from Springdale Park and from Morningside Elementary School will be rezoned to the new school.

But the launch has been beset by controversy.

Last month, the district announced Kari Schrock had been chosen as principal. One day later, Herring withdrew the hiring recommendation after parents expressed concerns about Schrock’s work history in DeKalb County.

Those concerns about the hiring process prompted APS to place three senior administrators on paid leave while conducting an investigation. Two officials were cleared in a review that wrapped up Oct. 4.

The superintendent previously said a third administrator, Director of Leadership Staffing Lenora Patterson, will no longer be employed by APS after the investigation determined that she did not properly disclose information about Schrock’s prior employment.