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Crying Foul: Washington High Parents and Alumni want mold, leadership issues resolved

By D. Aileen Dodd Contributing Writer | 8/16/2013, 6 a.m.
In the high school where Martin Luther King Jr. earned his diploma, mold has been found growing on walls and ...
Parents protest conditions at Booker T. Washington High School during a school board meeting. (Photo by Vincent Christie.)

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Valerie Williams and her son Victor. (Photo by Vincent Christie.)

School board member Courtney English said he visited Washington and did not venture far inside.

“If I had a kid, I wouldn’t want my kid there,” English said.

Charlotte Scott, who graduated from Washington in 1988, believes there is a direct connection to the condition of the campus and struggling academic programs at Washington.

“How can students have good test scores when their environment is not conducive to learning,” she said. “The current administration needs to go.”

Resources at Washington High are split between three small schools that have their own budgets and principals. They are: Early College; Health, Science and Nutrition; and Banking, Finance and Investment.

In 2012, the Health, Sciences and Nutrition School had the lowest performance rating among metro Atlanta high schools with only 46 percent of students meeting state testing standards to show they are being prepared for college and careers. The Banking, Finance and Investment school at Washington also was on the state list of failing schools.

That same year, the percentage of Washington High students earning their diplomas in four years plummeted from 65.6 percent in 2011 to 60.4 percent in 2012.

APS board members this week delayed a resolution that would have reunited Washington as one school and recruited an administrator to oversee the transition to small learning communities by June 2014. 

“You have principals that have presided over failing schools,” board vice chair Amos told the superintendent during Monday’s board meeting. “We have been at this for five-to-six months. Your inability or refusal to move has put us in this situation.”

Nevertheless, Davis advised against the change saying that hiring a new principal for Washington in the middle of the school year would cause a “disruption.”

The school board discussion on remedies for Washington will continue next month.

When Washington was the only Georgia high school for blacks through 1947, its enrollment climbed to nearly 4,800 students and hundreds graduated at a time. Its enrollment has dropped over the years. Last year, there were about 1,000 students.

Williams, the 1982 Washington grad recalled how staff and students once shared pride in the school, and the volunteered the aid of alumni like herself.

“We bleed blue and white,” Williams said. “Our heart is in that school.”