Donyall Dickey. Atlanta Public Schools photo.

Top Atlanta school official resigns, fights release of background report

The Atlanta school district official in charge of the district's expensive and ambitious plan to remake the city's schools resigned last month and is fighting to keep a report investigating his background secret.

Former Chief of Schools and Academics Donyall Dickey had been expected to leave Atlanta this spring to become superintendent of the Portland, Oregon, schools. He was Portland’s sole finalist for the job and  submitted his resignation from his job supervising the academic side of all Atlanta schools on May 1, three days before the Portland school officials announced that Dickey wouldn't be joining their district.

His departure left a key district post -- supervising the academic side of all the city schools as well as targeted efforts to improve Atlanta's worst schools -- vacant. Deputy superintendent David Jernigan will take on Dickey’s duties, district spokesperson Kimberly Willis Green said.

The Portland school board hired a firm to look into Dickey's background before formally hiring him. That report -- and Dickey's responses to it -- ultimately became a key reason the board soured on hiring him, according to The Oregonian.

Portland school board chairman Tom Koehler told The Oregonian Dickey's "lack of candor" about his past troubles led the board to change its mind about Dickey. The board would have asked Dickey to withdraw from consideration for the superintendent's job if Dickey hadn't withdrawn on his own, he said.

It's unclear what exactly is in the report.

Public records show a handful of apparently minor court cases -- traffic tickets for speeding and driving without a license, a bad check charge more than 20 years ago, and, more recently, debts to his homeowner's association and to a vendor for Dickey’s education consulting business.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Portland media outlets asked to see the report under Oregon’s public records law. A lawyer representing Dickey asked the district to keep the report secret. The district refused to release it. 

"Although these incidents occurred years ago, and were minor in nature, the specifics presented in the report, and the associated narrative regarding those events, are highly personal, and would tend to cause embarrassment and harm to Dr. Dickey's professional reputation if they were made public," Dickey’s lawyer, Thomas Johnson, wrote.

Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill denied public records appeals from the AJC and The Oregonian earlier this month, saying he lacked jurisdiction in the case.

Dickey told the Portland Tribune he withdrew from consideration for the superintendent’s post because of questions about salary and time for his education consulting business -- and because he had another job offer.

Dickey, his lawyer and Koehler have not responded to messages from the AJC.

In other Atlanta Public Schools news:

investigators concluded as much as 65-thousand dollars could be missing.

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