North Atlanta High School staff changes take parents by surprise

North Atlanta High School parents were reeling Saturday from news that the school’s entire administrative staff was dismissed at the end of the school day Friday and escorted off the campus.

“It’s all the buzz in our community,” Julie Salisbury, who has a freshman at the school, said Saturday.

Salisbury said the news both shocked and intrigued her.

“I have met and gotten to know the entire team and have nothing bad to say about any of them,” she said. “They were good people, qualified administrators, so it’s surprising that they would all be gone.”

Stephen Alford, spokesman for the Atlanta Public Schools, said four of the six-member administrative team - an assistant principal and three academy leaders - were reassigned. The other two, interim Principal Mark Mygrant and academy leader Reginald Colbert, both retired, Alford said.

“We know that change is not easy for anyone but this was something we were anticipating since learning that Mygrant was planning to retire,” Alford said. “This was not an adverse action. This was really about moving North Atlanta in a new direction.”

Mygrant, who led North Atlanta for five years and Sutton Middle school, retired in May but was asked by district officials to return to oversee the school until the end of October, when a permanent principal would take over.

In a letter by APS Superintendent Erroll B. Davis posted on the district website, the school chief offered parents no explanation for Mygrant’s sudden removal or the reassignment of the school leaders. Davis said only that it is a new day at North Atlanta and the school had undergone a “total leadership transition.”

“We have an obligation to you and our students to deliver a quality education, and we are committed to meeting our obligation,” Davis wrote.

Asked why such an abrupt change, Alford said he couldn’t “speak to specific personnel issues” but reiterated that this was “not an adverse action.”

“They all have the opportunity to continue their careers with Atlanta Public Schools,” the spokesman said. “They will just serve at other schools.”

Davis said in the letter that Sid Baker, former principal of Sarah Smith Elementary, will run North Atlanta until the new principal, Howard Taylor of Gwinnett, officially starts Oct. 29. He also listed a transition assistant principal and eight other transition academy leaders.

Although Taylor had nothing to do with the reassignment, Alford said Saturday that the superintendent “has been clear that if he is going to hold principals accountable they would be able to choose the people who would be accountable to them.”

Salisbury said that because the district didn’t offer an explanation for the changes parents were left trying to “stitch some pieces together as to why.”

“It just feels like when a superintendent comes in to make this type of leadership change … it telegraphs the need for a fresh start and it telegraphs a heightened level of accountability and expectation placed on the new guy coming in,” she said.