Fulton: Superintendent Haro Will Be Baptized!


My, my, my.  The Republican Northsiders have gotten a firm grip of control on the Fulton County School System.  After the reapportionment based on the 2000 Census, the Southside of the county lost a board seat.  The Northsiders now have a clear majority.  Quietly, Superintendent Dolinger retired.  Like Belshazzar in the Bible, he “saw the handwriting on the wall.”  The Northsiders went to work to bring in a guy who would clearly understand how he got to Fulton, who brought him here, and what he is expected to do.  As John Haro was getting ensconced in  Fulton, several top central office administrators resigned (Gray, Naylor-Hill, Ackerman, et al.).  Dan Cochran, the former Personnel Director, left a few months earlier for South Florida.  His boss, Michael Gray, left shortly after new superintendent, Haro, settled in.  Gray retired, and he took up another career with the placement of foreign teachers in the Georgia schools.  We at the MACE office regret to see Gray’s departure.  We could generally expect Michael Gray to work out a fair deal with us.  After an initial “combustive” encounter or two in the earlier years, we found him to be someone with whom we could work.  He was a “company” man – but he was also a man of his word.  We wish him well.  On the other hand, we found Dan Cochran to be quite cantankerous from the time he arrived in Fulton from the Cobb County system.  Therefore, we clashed with him constantly.  We were glad when we heard the good news of his departure.

The “street committee” has it that Superintendent John Haro is more heavy-handed than both his predecessors, James Fox and Stephen Dolinger.  Apparently, it’s “his way or the highway.”  Perhaps he thinks that it takes a Yankee from Minnesota to teach the Fulton educators how to do things down here in the Southland.  Well, we’ll “baptize” him at the proper time.  He’ll learn.  (We understand that he might have left financial problems in Minnesota somewhat like DeKalb’s Johnny Brown had left behind in Birmingham.)  Ole Johnny Haro has already gotten rid of the law firm that has represented the Fulton school system for years.  This firm, Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan, is an old Atlanta firm with a fine reputation.  We at MACE locked horns on several occasions with Judy O’Brien, the attorney from S,A&B who represented the Fulton County Board of Education.  However, we respected her as an attorney, and we felt that she did a good job representing her client, the Fulton Board of Education.  Naturally, we often opposed her actions, but she was simply doing her job as an attorney.  We understood that, and we wish her and the firm well.  But, who did ole Johnny Haro recommend to be the new attorneys for the school system?  He recommended a Marietta firm headed up by Glenn Brock.  Wasn’t this the same Glenn Brock who headed up the search firm which recommended Haro to the Fulton County Board of Education?  Yes, indeed, the same Glenn Brock.  Republican politician (actually, former chair of the Georgia GOP) Chuck Clay is also a partner in this firm.  Was there some kind of “sweetheart” deal involved?  Maybe.  Perhaps not.  Who knows?  However, it certainly flunks the smell test.  Hmm.

For those of you who have been asleep for the last thirty years or so, did you know that Fulton County has three school systems?  One school system is located in the city limits of Atlanta.  This is the Atlanta Public Schools.  But, there are “two systems” operating within the Fulton County School System.  The “Southside” system is located in Hapeville, East Point, College Park, and unincorporated South Fulton.  The growth in this area is not near as rapid as in North Fulton.  The student population is predominantly African-American.  Many of the students reside in projects or Section 8 housing.  However, there are many middle class and upper-middle class developments emerging which feed into the South Fulton schools.  On the “Northside,” most of the students come from rapid growth areas in Alpharetta, Crabapple, and Roswell.  The parents of most of these students are not from Fulton County – or even from Georgia for that matter.  The homes are much larger and more expensive than the “Southside,” and most of the homes have two parents who head the household.  The schools are predominantly white, and the voters are overwhelmingly Republican.  As you can see, there is always the underlying tension between the predominately black, poorer, Democratic Southside and the predominantly white, wealthier, Republican Northside.  Usually, board members don’t speak explicitly about the differences (certainly not like we are thus speaking) – but code language is utilized.  The standardized test scores of the Northside far outpace the standardized test scores of the Southside.  Therein lies the worst tension.  There are accusations hurled by Southside parents that the Fulton County Board of Education pays more attention and provides more resources to the Northside.  Of the fourteen (14) Fulton County schools which fall on the No Child Left Behind “bad” list, thirteen (13) are located in South Fulton.  Only Ridgeview Middle School in the Sandy Springs area (it actually has an Atlanta address) of the Northside was placed on this list.  So, what does this have to do with Superintendent John Haro?  We’re sure that he’s been given his marching orders to “bridge the gap.”  So, what does this mean for South Fulton teachers?  You’ll probably be catching more hell than you’re already catching!  As we always say at MACE, teachers can teach the students but teachers cannot learn the students.  Teachers do the teaching but students must do the learning.  We hope that Superintendent Haro understands this.  But, we doubt it.  All students can learn.  But, do all students bring to school the same level of motivation to learn?  This is the key.

August 18, 2003

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