High-ranking Atlanta Public Schools leader will leave district

A cabinet-level administrator is leaving Atlanta Public Schools on the heels of an internal investigation that cleared her of wrongdoing in a flawed principal hiring process.

Chief of Schools Anita Williams, who has served on Superintendent Lisa Herring’s executive leadership team, “has decided to transition away from Atlanta Public Schools, effective December 31,” the district confirmed in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Williams will be paid her $216,342 salary through Dec. 31.

“Until that time, she will continue to be available for consultation and transition assistance,” the district said.

APS declined to comment on if Williams’ departure is related to a recent investigation in which she was cleared.

Williams could not be reached for comment.

ExploreInvestigation finds flaws in principal hiring process for APS school

She was one of three senior administrators placed on paid leave in late September, as the district looked into complaints that they had failed to disclose pertinent information about a candidate the superintendent initially chose as the principal of a new Atlanta elementary school.

Herring selected former DeKalb County Principal Kari Schrock to lead a new Midtown-area school slated to open in August. But Herring withdrew the hiring recommendation a day later when parents expressed concerns about Schrock’s work history. A month later, Herring tapped a current Atlanta principal to start up the new school.

An investigator interviewed Williams on video about what she knew regarding any concerns with Schrock’s background. In the video, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an open records request, Williams said she told Herring “we have a problem with this candidate, she had been placed on leave previously.”

Herring told the investigator that while Williams mentioned Schrock had been on leave, Williams did not indicate the leave was based on performance. Herring assumed it was family or medical-type leave, according to notes from the investigation.

The investigation substantiated a claim against only one of the three administrators under review, a human resources director who recruited and screened principal candidates. That administrator, Lenora Patterson, was discharged from APS in October after the review determined she did not properly disclose concerns about Schrock’s work history to her supervisor.

Explore3 Atlanta Public Schools administrators on leave amid internal review

Herring notified Williams on Oct. 10 that “all allegations levied against you have been unsubstantiated” and that she may return to work, according to documents obtained by the AJC.

It’s unclear if Williams fully returned to the chief of schools role.

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Chief Performance Officer Matthew Smith “began serving as the primary point of contact” for the schools division when Williams was placed on leave on Sept. 27, district officials told the AJC. He continues to do so.

The chief of schools duties include supervising 64 district-run schools and working with other leaders to monitor academic progress. Herring created the position as part of a larger restructuring effort shortly after APS hired her in 2020. Williams was among Herring’s first appointments, and the two worked together just prior when Herring was superintendent of the Birmingham, Alabama, school system.

Asked whether APS plans to hire another chief of schools, the district said it “is reviewing its options to best meet student needs.”