Laney's problems can't be dismissed

Before school moves forward, a principal issue should be resolved

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The Richmond County school district is about to make wholesale staff changes and to spend $1 million or more in federal grant money to try to turn around Laney High School -- to avoid the state taking it over as a failing facility.

But a growing group of Laney parents and boosters is convinced the principal, herself, needs turning around -- or maybe just to give her the boot.

It is most revealing that Ben Hasan, a civic activist who once attended Laney, stepped forward to offer his help arranging for more volunteers -- and was prepared to come to Principal Toneitha Beasley's defense -- but has come away with a belief that not only should she not be principal at Laney, she should not be a principal anywhere in the district.

Owing to Ms. Beasley's strength in education and curriculum, he says, perhaps she would be best to serve in the central office.

But her chief weakness, according to Hasan and others -- a lack of people skills -- seems to make her a poor candidate for principal of a school that needs drastic help.

Hasan says he has had multiple calls ignored, and that information he asked for from Beasley -- background information to help sell Laney to prospective volunteers -- was promised in a matter of hours several weeks ago, and had yet to be proffered as of late last week.

At a July 8 meeting with 20-plus prospective volunteers, Hasan said, Beasley was strangely short on gratitude -- and, in contrast, bizarrely issued a warning to them that their volunteer efforts could be terminated if the school so chooses. Then she oddly used Hasan's name in an example of a wayward volunteer whose help could ultimately be turned down by the school -- certainly, an impolitic choice of hypothetical examples, since Hasan was one of the leading volunteers.

Nor did she publicly thank him for his exemplary efforts.

Others have cited Beasley's poor record of responsiveness to parents; her poor record of returning messages; and general dismissiveness.

Beasley's public relations problems have risen to the level that the Board of Education member most supportive of her, Venus Cain, told her that she needed an attitude adjustment.

What happened then is a matter of dispute: Hasan says that at a meeting last week of concerned parents and Laney boosters, Cain said that Beasley had responded that she either couldn't or wouldn't change her attitude. Cain maintained to us that she didn't say that.

Regardless, Cain says, "We're working on it." They need to. We're about to sink a boatload of taxpayer money into turning that ship around; the captain had better be capable.

It is frankly alarming that prospective volunteers such as Hasan who want only to help Laney get ahead have been so turned off by the principal that they want her removed.

The group -- there were some 45 at last week's meeting, Hasan says, including students -- is not going away. Members met Friday night to discuss further action, and plan a march from Laney at 4:30 Tuesday to a protest at the Board of Education office downtown at 5:30.

Interestingly enough, we tried to get a meeting with Ms. Beasley, and could not.

Board of Education members, take note: It would be unconscionable if the school district were to allow a million or more to be spent at Laney -- and half the core-curriculum teachers replaced -- if the principal in place is a hindrance to progress.

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powercenter64
15
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powercenter64 07/17/10 - 11:23 pm
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An interesting column. I

An interesting column. I applaud the Chronicle for putting the spotlight on volunteers who want to assist a failing school rise up from an unfortunate state. The schools in this county need more volunteers to stand up and fight for our children. I am sickened to see that these volunteers have been dismissed in the manner that was reported in this editorial. As taxpayers, we should demand that our school board reps do what is right and fill positions with people who are willing to work hand and hand with students, parents, volunteers, and tax payers. Finally, let us not forget that this principal was involved in controversy at Murphey Middle School less than 5 years ago. How many bites at an apple does one get in a leadership position in Richmond County?

factfinder
6
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factfinder 07/18/10 - 06:46 am
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From past information that is

From past information that is public knowledge about this principal, I am surprised that she is still with the school system. I am even more preplexed that some board members and the spokes person for the board keep defending her actions. It is very obvious to the majority of people, who have had contact with her on a professional level, that she has little regard for professional standards. It will be interesting to see how the board responds to this very legitimate complaint.

Riverman1
84914
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Riverman1 07/18/10 - 07:02 am
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The most important piece of

The most important piece of the puzzle to turning around schools such as Laney is the volunteers. Above curriculum and teaching methods, volunteers affect the bottom line to a greater degree. These dedicated people are the only way to break the cycle of the socioeconomic problems in the area that affect kids in school.

If Principal Toneitha Beasley doesn't comprehend the importance and is not able to be a leader and encourage these volunteers, she should go. A new school year is about to begin and the extra funding for Laney is coming. It's time for new leadership at the school.

The principal's talents appear better suited to working alone enthralled with statistics, crossing T's and dotting I's.

momster59
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momster59 07/18/10 - 08:30 am
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I worked with Toneitha

I worked with Toneitha Beasley when she was the vice principal at TW Josey and can say this has always been a problem. She is the reason I no longer teach in Richmond County - I do not ever want to risk having to work with her as an administrator again. Let's not forget her history of her principalship at Murphy Middle School. Given all the things that have happened concerning her, it frightens me that she is the principal of Laney. Those children deserve better. Had someone else had behaved in the way she has behaved, how likely is it that they would have kept their employment? I have always wondered who she is close to/related to that she is able to keep her position.

dstewartsr
20389
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dstewartsr 07/18/10 - 08:54 am
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Even if the facts in this

Even if the facts in this article are correct, what of it? The way the RC school system works, in ten years we will probably see MS Beasley as Superintendent Beasley, with complaints to her PR flack about the same issues-- being ignored.

LCC0256
634
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LCC0256 07/18/10 - 08:53 am
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The ONLY thing that will help

The ONLY thing that will help schools with the same demographics as the once very excellent Lucy Craft Laney School are THESE PARENTS and volunteers WHO CARE ENOUGH AND LOVE THE CHILDREN ENOUGH to help. The problem is 2 fold. There are not enough of them due to the fact that THE MAJORITY OF "PARENTS" AT LANEY are products (some 3rd generation now) of the great social experiment (GIVErnMEnt from cradle to grave) & have no idea, or more importantly NO MOTIVATION to be a real parent. Secondly the cesspool that is now most of the US Public school system is inbred with "educators" like Beasley. THEY ARE THE NORM NOT THE EXCEPTION. Get a clue Augustans YOU DO NOT RUN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS...The federal GIVErnMEnt does...what part of that dont you understand? Go try to make changes without it's approval or consent....you (and those pathetic souls who still send their children to these places) are under a FEDERAL COURT ORDER....Your curriculum, who you can hire, WHERE you can send your children, heck WHAT YOU HAVE TO SERVE FOR FOOD...ALL OF THIS IS MANDATED by the federal GIVErnMEnt....The popular saying goes is one good definition of INSANITY is REPEATING THE SAME BEHAVIOR OVER AND OVER AGAIN AND EXPECTING DIFFERENT RESULTS...talk about appropriate......

just a comment or two
0
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just a comment or two 07/18/10 - 09:00 am
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State or federal paying jobs

State or federal paying jobs create mediocrity often, but not always. It's too hard to fire someone, so let's promote them!

disssman
6
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disssman 07/18/10 - 09:08 am
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I think that we need to turn

I think that we need to turn about half of the schools into alternative (dumb dumb) schools. It is apparent that most kids have no interest in school (other than sports or as a social setting) and are there only because the law demands it. What we need are schools filled with students who achieve their dreams, be it education or a social status. I am sure if the malcontents were removed from the education process and placed in a setting where they couldn't hamper students who really want to learn, we would all be better. Further, the concerned parents od LCL would have a place for their kids to attend and learn, even if they had to be bussed there.

factfinder
6
Points
factfinder 07/18/10 - 09:45 am
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I am not sure of what LCC0256

I am not sure of what LCC0256 point is, the issue being addressed in this editorial is a legitimate complaint from Richmond County taxpayers. The federal government did not appoint the current principal to Laney. And if the unprofessional manner in which Mrs. Beasley deals with parents and the community is the norm (which I doubt) then that needs to be addressed.

justbeasy
0
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justbeasy 07/18/10 - 09:51 am
0
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It will hard to get something

It will hard to get something done about this situation. Cain supports Beasley immensely (the reason I am supporting Shirley Darby) and speculation is that she is the god-daughter of the President of the Board of Education. It seems as if everyone at the BOE is scared to say something about it, but when you talk to all of them personally they all agree it's a big mess at Laney.
BUt not only was it her attitude, but also the fact she got rid of quality teachers, because of personal issues, not because of performance. I thinks speaks volumes that, unrelated to the grant, her department chairs in Language Arts, Science, and Math found other schools to go to. And what's the rationale to send most of those teachers that Beasley determined to be let go, if they were that poor in performance (they are not), to another low-performing school and then bring in mostly new teachers to LCL? As a matter of fact, how do you let an English Teacher, whose EOCT scores showed tremendous gains, who also has done wonders working with the young men on the basketball team, how do you let him go? How can you trust a principal's knowledge in education, when last year she brought in teachers who were not even ceritifed to teach in the areas she put them in? How do you name a valedictorian, that was not even in the top three of the student body and then have the Bookkeeper transferred because she brought light to her erroneous decision? How do you get rid of an assistant principal, who had invested in those children and supported the children of Laney through so much, and has the knowledge and wherewithal to lead the school, has a reputation in the county for being a dedicated and hard-worker, but to allow a friend to come in and have the job?
Does anyone know if the interview scores are public knowledge? I say this because I think it's interesting that she was allowed to score interviewees and well.....you can figure out the rest!!!!

corgimom
33161
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corgimom 07/18/10 - 10:35 am
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disssman, wouldn't it be

disssman, wouldn't it be great if magnet schools of academic achievement were created? Not about arts, not about health careers, but a school for learning and scholarship.

And state it flat out: You are here to learn. If you want sports, are more interested in socializing than getting an education, and you want to engage in anti-social, disruptive behavior, don't bother showing up because you will be wasting your time.

avidreader
3259
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avidreader 07/18/10 - 11:07 am
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I do not know Ms. Beasley

I do not know Ms. Beasley personally; however, I do know that rumors and cheap jabs have been directed at other educators in the past who did not deserve it. Our educational community has a bad habit of not carefully weighing the strengths and weaknesses of an individual. The weakness becomes the issue and this is where the focus is directed. In these times of tough business decisions, the smoke will clear and the facts will be revealed. But for now, let us give the lady a fair shake.

And by-the-way, would any of you like to have her job?

cleanup
0
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cleanup 07/18/10 - 11:19 am
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Avidreader, sure I'd take her

Avidreader, sure I'd take her job and salary, and do as good a job as she or anyone else could do. In reality, most of those teachers she transferred worked a lot harder, and had a lot more sense, than her and 90% of all RC principals. Most of them can't seem to speak English, much less run a school. Oh, and, don't count on that smoke clearing. In the Richmond County BOE, the smokescreen is omnipresent and institutionalized. If people REALLY knew what went on, we'd have a taxpayer revolt that would make the tea party look like...well, the tea party.

powercenter64
15
Points
powercenter64 07/18/10 - 11:25 am
0
0
Avidreader, I am not

Avidreader, I am not personally wired into this situation either, but I do know people who are and I have to say that in regards to your smoke comment that where there is smoke there is fire. I as a taxpayer do not feel that a person who has been under investigation for malfeasance at other schools should be in place to over see a million dollars in funds. The community leaders, parents and students have spoken and it is time for those elected officials to listen. It is time for elected officials to remember that we, the taxpayers, deserve better for our tax dollars that are produced through hard work. Finally, an earlier comment from Justbeasy is correct, the hiring practices, from comments of friends who are in the system, are wrought with favoritism, nepotism, and incompetence. Avidreader, the smoke will reveal a fire that has been smoldering for years. It is time for serious minded people to clean up the decaying system of favoritism in Richmond County. I would be curious to hear how those running for school board positions comment on situations like these.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/18/10 - 11:32 am
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Maybe Beasley will turn

Maybe Beasley will turn around Laney the same way she turned around Murphey Middle. The GDOE named Murphey a "persistently dangerous" school. The following year it had less reports of discipline than CT Walker and Davidson. An internal investigation by the BOE later found stacks and stacks of discipline reports in the principal's office that were never reported to the GDOE.

powercenter64
15
Points
powercenter64 07/18/10 - 11:47 am
0
0
Insider Information, that is

Insider Information, that is exactly what I have been talking about. Why has the local media not connected the dots and shown this? Here is a link to those allegations and investigation:
http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2008/01/30/met_185471.shtml

Look into other articles concerning this principal after her demotion. Let's all see if we can find a common denominator in those articles. I think that once you look closer you will see the "smoke start to clear".

cleanup
0
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cleanup 07/18/10 - 12:36 pm
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0
Business as usual in Richmond

Business as usual in Richmond County. It's all about what church you go to, who yo' mama be, and what sorority or fraternity you joined at your HBCU. It's as far away from a meritocracy as Laney is from Woodward Academy.

bone1
0
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bone1 07/18/10 - 12:39 pm
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hopefully there is a place in

hopefully there is a place in magnet schools for humanities, corgimom; i'd hate to think you are advocating anything that creates li'l automatons. as far as this principal is concerned, people who "know" something should go thru the appropriate channels rather than use the newspaper as a an attack dog.

cleanup
0
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cleanup 07/18/10 - 12:44 pm
0
0
Wow, RC has legitimate

Wow, RC has legitimate "channels" where grievances are actually considered? Please.

cleanup
0
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cleanup 07/18/10 - 12:44 pm
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Wow, RC has legitimate

Wow, RC has legitimate "channels" where grievances are actually considered? Please.

cleanup
0
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cleanup 07/18/10 - 12:46 pm
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God bless A.K. Hasan. That

God bless A.K. Hasan. That needs to be said.

factfinder
6
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factfinder 07/18/10 - 01:11 pm
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Avidreader you don't seem to

Avidreader you don't seem to have a clue as to all of the data available concerning Mrs. Beasley's very questionable job performance. Just as Dr. Bedden, you seem too unwilling to face facts. I hope that the board members (with the exception of her alleged God father) and Dr. Whitson rectify this situation prior to the appointment of a new superintendent, quite frankly this is an embarassment to the entire school district. In response to the excuse of improvements made in the brief time that she served as leader at Laney there is one caveat "she did not teach one class" and many of the teachers that were responsible for those gains were let go or left out of frustration. The fact that a very few teachers opted to transfer to Laney-even with the pay incentives- is also telling.

justbeasy
0
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justbeasy 07/18/10 - 01:50 pm
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Avidreader, when they were

Avidreader, when they were against her coming to Laney, I was in your position. I thought maybe she should get a chance at redemption, but she has been on a power trip and unfortunately she has had the right people in the right places to help her maintain. The problem is eventually it's either going to hurt the taxpayers or the teachers in the system because there are a whole lot of legal issues at play and I wouldn't be surprised if there were number of lawsuits headed RCBOE's way. Unfortunately this system has had to "settle" a lot lawsuits because they were flat out wrong and I am sad that this is another situation.

justbeasy
0
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justbeasy 07/18/10 - 01:57 pm
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I'd be remissed if I did not

I'd be remissed if I did not mention that it was this President of the RCBOE that made way for another family member to be placed in a certain position and this prompted a lawsuit in which we had to settle. I am also concern that when a few parents had something to say about the principal at Hephzibah Middle last year, they moved her quickly to the Alternative Center, trying to push her out, even though the school met AYP. But now a whole community is crying out and little seems to be heard. I wonder why?

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 07/18/10 - 02:33 pm
0
0
cleanup, I agree with

cleanup, I agree with you.
Except that I would say that in Richmond County it's not who you're related to. Instead, it's who you have relations with.

ExaltedServant
0
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ExaltedServant 07/18/10 - 04:19 pm
0
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bone1, have you considered

bone1, have you considered that the proper channels may have been used, but to no avail? Using this newspaper as an attack dog? You should be witness to how she speaks to some of her "subordinates".... not professional at all... And the justification for "getting rid of" certain teachers.... there's no justification.... more like satisying her personal desires..... Last time I checked, it wasn't a requirement to be best buds with the principal (in other words...kissing her butt) to be deemed acceptable ....As long as the teachers are dedicated, passionate, and effective in the classroom, a wise principal would want to keep those teachers in her corner... Overt signs of personal favoritism should have no place in the hiring or firing process (whether it be the school system or any other working environment). I believe karma is real... Hopefully, a change will come sooner than later

cliffk
0
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cliffk 07/18/10 - 04:33 pm
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corgimom, There is an

corgimom,
There is an academic magnet program in RC. It's the International Bacalaureate program at ARC. Not a separate school, but a program within a school. Needs to be expanded because it works. The education my daughter got from it was good enough to get her an academic full-ride scholarship at Emory.

factfinder
6
Points
factfinder 07/18/10 - 05:10 pm
0
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ExaltedServant it is a shame

ExaltedServant it is a shame that this had to be addressed through the newspapers, but I do understand your frustrations.

ExaltedServant
0
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ExaltedServant 07/18/10 - 05:20 pm
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factfinder, I agree with you.

factfinder, I agree with you.

knowledgechaser
0
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knowledgechaser 07/18/10 - 06:46 pm
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finally the public is aware.

finally the public is aware. and i promise you, avidreader and bone1, exaltedservant is right on the money concerning the school's environment and that other channels were sought by concerned parents, students, and staff to improve the existing conditions; however, to no avail. most of those contacting the media had already exhausted other appropriate avenues. and justbeasy, it is a shame that a wonderful teacher, mentor, and coach will not be returning to the students and team that respected and learned from him, and the countless other students who have been cheated out of that experience. an outstanding administrator and many other wonderful, caring, respected, and effective teachers will not be there this coming year (volunteer transfers and those who were forced to transfer), and who will suffer most? it will be the students, the very students this grant is supposed to help--rather ironic, isn't it? hopefully, this situation will finally be addressed and rectified and not put on the back burner and conveniently forgotten.

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