District’s hiring process flawed, needs accountability, transparency


Atlanta Public Schools

The situation at Howard Middle School with former principal Janet McDowell leaving the school, and Kari Schrock being recommended to take her place has highlighted the need for more transparency in APS’ hiring practices.

Editorial Board

In the wake of former Howard Middle School principal Janet McDowell’s departure and the recommendation of Kari Schrock for principal of the new Midtown Cluster elementary school, issues surrounding the hiring process within Atlanta Public Schools are coming to the forefront. These issues have highlighted that there is a need for more transparency in the hiring process within APS.

Transparency in the hiring process is necessary to reduce turnover and ensure that qualified candidates are selected, two things highlighted by McDowell’s six weeks as principal. Now, with McDowell gone, two interim principals, Barbara Shea and Paula Snowden, are filling in at Howard, causing uncertainty for both parents and students. Students need consistency and dependability from their school’s administration. Having three principals in one year, with likely other changes coming for the 2023-24 school year is a cause of confusion for middle schoolers and their families, and this can cause harmful future mistrust towards administration. 

McDowell’s departure as principal came after backlash from frustrated parents and students, with many in the community upset over the lack of communication between administration and parents over big changes implemented by McDowell. McDowell left after a slew of complaints were made, something that shouldn’t be necessary for APS to make decisions about administration. 

The community should have had input in the principal hiring and the changes she made, long before it got to the point of needing a replacement. Feedback should be received before a principal or administrator is hired, not after the fact. Lack of thorough evaluation in the selection process led to a dramatic first few months and stressful situations for the Howard community. There seems to be a complacency with mediocrity and only after complaints are the correct choices made. All of this could have been avoided with a little more attention to detail, thoughtfulness and transparency in the hiring process.

In the case of Kari Schrock, extremely important information about Schrock’s work history was concealed. Lenora Patterson, the now former Director of Leadership Staffing, did not reveal to Supt. Dr. Lisa Herring that there had been concerns about Schrock while she was principal in DeKalb County. Again, it was the parents who made the discovery and brought the concerns to APS’s attention. It is not the parent’s responsibility to inform APS of shortcomings in their evaluation of candidates, but without the due diligence of the parents, yet another potential bad hiring would slip through the cracks. 

The research and thorough evaluation of candidates should be standard policy when going through the hiring process. It’s not like the information about Schrock’s employment history was hidden in a secret file, but APS was not extensive enough in its examination of Schrock. 

APS needs to take a deeper look and make the necessary changes to ensure this problem is not recurring. Whether this means implementing further checks into applicants’ history or giving the community more room for input, changes need to be made. It is a waste of time and resources and a cause of frustration to not hire a good candidate the first time around, and to not complete a thorough background check. This cycle of negligence in the hiring process cannot continue to happen. Hiring qualified people to lead our community’s children should be a priority, not an afterthought.