DeKalb School Superintendent fired, Kemp signs controversial school bills, EMORY's BRT vs LRT, Juneteeth controversies, and other things
There are no boring news weeks in Georgia
Welcome to my newsletter by me, King Williams. A documentary filmmaker, journalist, podcast host, and author based in Atlanta, Georgia. This is a newsletter covering the hidden connections of Atlanta to everything else.
Food to Table Restaurant at PCM is permanently closing on Sunday, May 1st.
Decatur Parks and Recreation is hosting an in-person masterplan meeting on May 11th from 6:30-8:30 pm.
Trees Atlanta is hosting its annual Root Ball on May 19th.
The Atlanta Grilled Cheese Festival has been moved to the fall. The new date/location will be announced on May 20th.
Red Clay News
1. DeKalb County has just fired its superintendent
Students at Druid Hills High School have posted the deteriorating conditions of their school on social media garnering a response from the superintendent, which has now led to her surprise firing by the DeKalb County School Board. The surprise move of the removal of the now-former superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris came as a shock to both county and state-level leaders. The surprise move came as Harris, who was hired in 2020, seemed to be a fit for the county after a previous stint as the New York City Department of Education Chancellor.
The move by the DeKalb School board seems to have been the last straw between internal tensions between the board and the superintendent. The ongoing delayed maintenance of Druid Hills High School, became a hot topic after students began uploading videos of the conditions of the school online.
Via Decaturish -DeKalb County School Board fires superintendent - 4/26/2022
After Druid Hills High School was removed from a list of projects to be referred to the state for possible reimbursement, public attention was drawn to dilapidated and unsafe conditions at DHHS by a student video. Rather than return modernization of DHHS to the list of projects, the Board issued a surprise mandate to make all “priority 1,2, and 3” repairs throughout the district. The list of repairs was generated from part of the district’s Comprehensive Master Plan process, however the decision of the Board represents a departure from the final recommendations of the CMP after other factors, including public feedback, were taken into consideration.
Partially in response to public outcry, the Georgia Department of Education sent a team to Druid Hills High and on April 25 Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods issued a scathing letter to the DeKalb Board of Education, describing the repairs done at DHHS as “cosmetic” and the evidence of previous neglect as “unacceptable.”
The school board has already chosen a replacement for Harris (who is still under contract with the school system), in Dr. Vasanne Tinsley. Watson has already changed her Twitter bio to past-Superintendent.
Once again, DeKalb takes an ‘L’
DeKalb County Public Schools brand has been hit hard over the last twenty years. DeKalb County has now seen eleven school superintendents since 2002. For DeKalb Public Schools, this couldn’t have come at a worse time as 2022 is the year of renewal of accreditation after receiving a 5-year renewal in 2016 after the school system saw its accreditation be downgraded from "on advisement" to "on probation" from 2012-to-2014 from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the regional school accreditation system. That 5-year renewal took effect from 2017-to-2022.
Kemp has a new opening in his race for governor.
Kemp has all the pieces aligned to move on the county if he wants to. Adding into his coronavirus plan, culture warrior strategy, and the unanimous passage of former Governor Sonny Perdue, a 70-year-old man, who has zero higher education experience. Kemp now has an opportunity to take on the 3rd most populated school system in the state, in a deep blue county. This could be an even deeper wedge of a political strategy for Kemp against Stacey Abrams.
From my February newsletter, Sonny Perdue, a man with zero higher ed experience is about to run the Georgia higher educational system:
But considering Governor Kemp’s appointment of loyalists to the board, including four this year, there will be no dissenters in the decision-making process.
Kemp is armed with a toothless State Board of Regents, a puppet Chancellor, and a media ecosystem that is poised for an attack that can make things very difficult for both DeKalb County Public Schools and the Dems at large. The county’s reputation over the last two decades has taken a beating and looks to take another one. There is a need for change, but now with the eyes on the county once again, its no telling what will happen next.
The abrupt departure of the Superintendent of the DeKalb County Public Schools System has bipartisan support for inquiries by Democratic State Senator Elena Parent (who represents DeKalb) and Republican Governor Kemp has both issued concerns over the county. For both, who are seeking re-election, especially Kemp, this could be an in-roads to creating an even bigger, more metro-Atlanta-focused culture warrior strategy.
Special shoutout to Decaturish for being the lead on this developing story.
2. Governor Kemp signs into law a slew of controversial education bills
In Forsyth County, a rising white and conservative stronghold in the state, Governor Kemp held a press conference to sign a slew of controversial education bills. Including the anti-critical race theory bill, the parental bill of rights, and the anti-trans athlete’s bill. The governor is hoping these bills sure up a base of conservative voters and build upon the successful culture warrior strategy seen in Virginia.
Again from my February newsletter, Sonny Perdue, a man with zero higher ed experience is about to run the Georgia higher educational system:
The state GOP’s recent heavy swing into culture war tactics included changing laws to enshrine a GOP majority on both a state level (the Board of Regents), changes to local redistricting, which saw two board members be removed as a result.
Kemp and the GOP’s heavy move into following this nationalist pattern are in-line with an overall shift in views on America by Republicans and conservatives. This strategy helped Virginia elect Glenn Youngkin as the first Republican Governor in 12 years as well as a sweep of the upper house positions in ‘blue’ Virginia
One that has used a bit of help from the national conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. Which has aided directly in states like Georgia to create anti-CRT bills.
I would suggest reading my February guest edition newsletter, Georgia's Anti-Critical Race Theory Bills with Sylvia Johnson and listen to the subsequent podcast episode.
3. It looks like Emory now will also not be getting LRT service
It looks like MARTA is now adding the Emory/Clifton Corridor to the list of places that were promised some sort of rail service only to be ‘downgraded’ to bus service.
The move from BRT to LRT is a financial one, but one that echoes once again a perceived downgrade of choice for residents who voted for the More MARTA campaign of transit expansion. Due to the shift once again from LRT to BRT it will likely make it harder for another TSPLOST to pass, as well as likely not be as embraced as LRT. Which is associated with larger economic development and greater public support in the US. Which could not have come at the worst time for MARTA.
You may remember my March newsletter, The Campbellton Road MARTA controversy explained:
Emory’s LRT was one of the impetus for leaving for Atlanta in the first place. There was no way then or now, that the city would’ve not made sure MARTA will give them their LRT project. Additionally, if Atlanta has to expand further into the county as a hedge against another cityhood initiative, the proposed City of DeKalb, Emory’s LRT transit line is of even greater importance. The Emory LRT would then serve as a connection point of more importance into the newly established eastern end of the city. An eastern end that would go potentially as far as Lithonia and Rockdale county, with a corridor of nearly 300,000 residents—60% of the current population of the city of Atlanta.
MARTA needs expansion, it needs funding, but in Atlanta, it’s hard to get people separated from cars. And with the problem of the Auburn Avenue streetcar (which never had the additional routes ever built), this may be another case of Atlanta making a temporary choice instead of a long-term one.
4. Recognition of Juneteenth is causing uproar in some counties
Marietta and Tucker have recently run into a skirmish regarding the recognition of Juneteeth. The two cities and their GOP-leaning leaders have stated their qualms with making the holiday recognized on the city level. This comes after this previous 2022 state legislative session made it an official state holiday a few weeks ago.
The heated debate in the Marietta City Council video listed above shows the discrepancy in support of the holiday. It wasn’t until the inclusion of Veteran’s Day as also a paid holiday that it passed. While in Tucker, the council is debating keeping Juneteenth off of the official city holiday calendar. While one Tucker lawmaker instead chose December 6th instead of June 19th, to be the date of remembrance.
5. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene was in court
Georgia freshman Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene was in court regarding a petition to have her dismissed from running in 2022 due to her alleged involvement in the January 6th insurrection. It should be noted that Greene’s district is overwhelmingly Red, including being redrawn in October to dilute the Black and Democrat-leaning Cobb County. It will take nearly a miracle for her to be unseated.
7. Vernon Jones has been accused of rape
Vernon Jones, the former Democratic CEO of DeKalb County who left the party to join the GOP in 2020, has been accused of rape. Jones denies the allegations.
Other Red Clay News
New Georgia Project Nse Ufot is stepping down from the organization, Ufot is being rumored to be joining Stacey Abrams's gubernatorial campaign.
Governor Kemp signed into law a $1 billion dollar tax break today.
A Georgia woman has contracted a mammal product allergy via a tick bite.
USPS mail is about to get slower, the Biden administration hasn’t still removed Louis DeJoy from Post Master General nor the Trump-appointed positions.
California is considering instituting a 32-hour workweek for larger companies.
A recent survey cites that over 50% of women intend to leave their jobs.
Despite the #DeleteSpotify campaign in January, Spotify’s users are up.
The Ever Forward shipping vessel has been removed from the Chesapeake Bay after being stuck for a month.
Texas-based Petroleum company Exxon has stated that it will be banning gay pride flags ahead of June alongside any Black Lives Matter flags.
Taiwan has introduced its first war handbook in anticipation of Chinese aggression.
Home sales in Hong Kong have dipped as record prices have persisted, with residents leaving the city, many to Singapore.
Ottawa, Canada is keeping its mask mandate despite the US doing the opposite.
-Have a good weekend! It’s gonna be May soon!