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City rescinded offer on day Atlanta’s education chief was to start job

The woman who received a short-lived offer to become Atlanta’s first chief education officer had her job rescinded in an email sent from the city’s human resources department on the day she was to start her new position. 

About a week after Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms publicly announced that the city had chosen Aliya Bhatia to serve in the newly created cabinet-level post, the city emailed her to say it had “decided to move in a different direction and review other options as it pertains to filling this role.” 

“This is to inform you that the contingent offer for the position of chief education officer has been rescinded by the city of Atlanta,” read the July 16 email to Bhatia from the city’s human resources department. “We thank you for your interest in our organization, and wish you well in your future endeavors.” 

The city has not said why the offer was taken back so abruptly. Bhatia did not immediately respond to a reporter’s email requesting comment.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution received a copy of the email Wednesday after a public records request to the city. 

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Bhatia received no relocation payment and “no payments related to acceptance,” a city spokesman said. 

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms talks to the crowd during her first State of the City speech in Atlanta GA Wednesday, May 2, 2018. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

On June 25, the city sent Bhatia a letter congratulating her on being offered the job and stating she would receive a salary of $105,000, according to documents obtained by the AJC. That salary amount is $5,000 more than the $100,000 “preferred salary” listed in materials when she was a candidate for the job. 

The letter said that the offer was “contingent upon successful completion” of a background check and a physical examination. 

“Again, congratulations. We look forward to you joining the City of Atlanta and bringing your excitement, expertise and enthusiasm to our executive officers,” read that June letter. 

The firm Diversified Search provided help at no charge to assist the city with the search for an education officer, a city spokesman said. He said that “to the best of our knowledge” there were no city costs associated with that search.

Last year while campaigning for mayor, Bottoms promised to hire the city’s first education officer. The job description for the post said that the person would be responsible for priorities such as: improving coordination with community stakeholders, creating and managing a mayor’s education advisory board, creating a citywide children’s savings account program to help students pay for college and overseeing the city’s efforts to work with schools to improve access to quality education. 

In a statement released last week about the change of plans, the city said the administration “decided to delay the implementation and start-date of this position to further review some of the nuances that will make this nexus between the city and our education partners even stronger.” 

Bhatia received a master’s degree in public policy in May from Harvard University and previously worked for Purpose Built Schools, for a consultant group and as a teacher with the organization Teach for America, according to her resume. 

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