Atlanta high school gets new principal every 2 years

Atlanta's Douglass High School, one of the city's lowest-performing high schools, has churned through principals at the rate of about one every two years.

Now its newest leader is leaving after just one year.

Principal DeMarcos Holland will leave at the end of this school year to lead a Douglas County high school.

“We congratulate Mr. Holland on his new leadership opportunity and appreciate his service,” Atlanta Public Schools spokeswoman Kimberly Willis Green said in a written statement. “APS will commence a search for a new principal immediately.”

Former Douglass principal Tony Lamair Burks II, who was removed from his post last year, told the AJC's Maureen Downey that Atlanta Public Schools' culture of "fear and intimidation" has hurt the school.

"Increased accountability — as a tool to support teacher effectiveness and student achievement — is a good thing. However, what was meant to help actually hurts. In turnaround schools like Frederick Douglass, principals and teachers experience accountability as punitive, not supportive," Burks wrote. "This 'accountability' is intimidating and holds educators hostage."

Burks said to stem the turnover, Douglass’ next principal should get a multi-year contract, the ability to pick his or her own administrative team and effective supervision.

Nationwide, about a quarter of principals leave — often by their own choice — after a single year on the job.

The turnover comes in the midst of a $3.8 million federally funded effort to turn around Douglass, one of about two dozen Atlanta schools at risk of state takeover if voters approve Gov. Nathan Deal's Opportunity School District plan this fall.

By the end of next year, the close of the three-year grant period, at least four different principals will have planned for and implemented those ambitious school turnaround plans.

So far, there are few signs the federal money has led to dramatic improvements at Douglass.

An internal progress report from earlier this year shows that more students are enrolled in AP classes this year. But attendance rates are down. And Douglass’ graduation rate remains the lowest among all traditional Atlanta high schools — even after the state relaxed graduation requirements.