In her first school visit, Battle attended a Virginia Highland Elementary school meeting with parents to garner input about the most pressing issues they were facing.
In her first school visit, Battle attended a Virginia Highland Elementary school meeting with parents to garner input about the most pressing issues they were facing.
Sierra Pape

Interim superintendent Battle takes the helm, pledges visionary leadership

Back in the District

After working in Atlanta Public Schools for nearly two decades, Dr. Danielle Battle has returned to serve as interim superintendent until July 2024.

Before her retirement in June 2021, Battle held a range of leadership roles in the district during her 19-year tenure, including principal of Parkside Elementary and Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School. She also served as associate superintendent and interim chief of schools and academics.

“It is a privilege to be back working in the APS,” Battle said. “I feel like APS is truly in my blood, and I have a lot of faith in the possibilities of this district, but we need to work.”

Battle was sworn in by the Atlanta Board of Education after former Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring’s contract was not renewed by the school board. 

“This should give the board sufficient time to find the best candidate for the next superintendent,” social studies teacher Mary Van Atta said. “Depending on the conditions under which a superintendent leaves, it may be vital to have someone in that position for a temporary amount of time to make everyone feel at ease with the transition.”

An Esteemed City Official

I have worked in APS for 30 years, 17 as principal, and now 10 in the central office, and she is single-handedly the best administrator I have seen.

— David York

David York, former Sutton Middle School and E. Rivers Elementary School principal and now APS Executive Support Specialist, has worked closely with Battle for six years.

“I have worked in APS for 30 years, 17 as principal, and now 10 in the central office, and she is single-handedly the best administrator I have seen,” York said. “She’s down to Earth, organized, smart and people trust her.” 

 Battle said her district experiences have prepared her for this role.

“As superintendent, I know how to run a school, and I know what teachers need because I’ve been a principal,” Battle said. “The biggest goal always is to support teachers and connect to principals.”

Former Maynard Jackson High School PTO president Suzanne Mitchelle has been a community member in the Maynard cluster when Battle served as principal of King Elementary and said she believes Battle is perfect for the job. 

“She is a serious educator and a champion for children,” Mitchelle said. “She has a lot of knowledge in teaching children how to read. In her time at Parkside, it was one of the most high-performing schools. Additionally, she is an expert communicator with the community and fellow staff. She is transparent, and she will unify the community to fix what is broken.”

Progress in Battle’s Term

Battle will lead day-to-day operations of the school system, charter policies, and continue to support the school board’s educational goals around literacy and numeracy proficiency, post-graduation preparedness and college and career readiness, according to Battle. 

Intown Atlanta (Midtown Cluster) PTO leader Annsley Klehr said she is looking to Battle’s interim term as a possibility for better communication from the central office.

“We need to be able to have open dialogue with the central office,” Klehr said. “It is the job of the PTO to speak out for the community, and there has been such a lack of proper communication in the district under Dr. Herring.”

Battle said she anticipates her term as interim superintendent will be productive.

“We have to make movement; we cannot risk having a stagnant year in APS,” Battle said. “We need to address the common issues that parents are bringing up all throughout the system and things can definitely get done in ten months.”

Despite Battle’s tenacity, Van Atta believes the purpose of the interim tenure is to provide stability for the district.

“The nature of an interim superintendent is not to shake things up,” Van Atta said. “Their purpose is to assure that all stakeholders, community members, teachers, students and parents are communicated with and allow APS to transition to the next person without rocking boats.”

Literature teacher and debate coach Mario Herrera shares this sentiment.

“With the last interim superintendent (Errol Davis) after Dr. (Beverly) Hall we had, their job was just to create stability,” Herrera said. “But, instead, Dr. Murray (former and late Principal Dr. Vincent Murray) was asked to leave, we started getting rid of the magnets and there were changes in the small learning communities. This just created so much transition at one time, and that was the first time I ever spoke out against the school board.”

We have to make movement; we cannot risk having a stagnant year in APS.

— Dr. Danielle Battle

York believes that Battle has the unique ability to address issues while also making change for the better.

“[The district] can survive without the best, but we flourish under good leadership,” York said. “[Battle] is excellent at building and managing teams and understands deeply how to connect with others because she’s transparent. She’s real and authentic.”

Future of the District

The school board will continue the selection process for a national search firm to help identify the next superintendent, who will start in July 2024. School board member Jessica Johnson believes the importance of finding the right firm at this stage is vital to the process.

“The search firms are the ones that will actually conduct the national and international search to identify top candidates,” Johnson said. “We hope to have the firm confirmed soon so that we can start the interview and candidacy process in the next few weeks.”

Battle believes in the importance of a successful search. In a meeting with parents at Virginia-Highland Elementary School, she spoke on the ways that she hopes to be engaged in the search process.

“My role is to truly be transparent,” Battle said in the meeting. “It’s all about coming out and talking with parents like you. It’s all about doing due diligence, being financially responsible and being responsive to the asks of parents and the needs of schools.”

Perri Chandler, parent of a seventh grader at Howard Middle School and North Atlanta graduate herself, believes there was a need for change in central office leadership, but has concerns about the next superintendent transition. 

“At Howard, I have now seen the firing of two principals in the past year that were wrong for the job, and parents were the ones who brought that to the attention of the district,” Chandler said. “We really need to look in regard to hiring policies and learn lessons of accountability and trust. It is important to have a good person for the next ten months, but we need to ensure that there is someone here for us after that.” 

Mitchelle believes Battle’s prior work as a principal has led her to understand the search process for different positions.

“One of the biggest things she did in her time at King Elementary School was opening up their pool, in which she hired extraordinary people, like Philip Luck, who ended up taking over at Parkside for her for years,” Mitchelle said. “She has a really strong track record of picking great talent.”

Already several weeks into her term, Battle hopes to make positive change in the APS system for not only the schools but the community, as a whole.

“In order to draw world-class people and business to Atlanta, we first and foremost need world-class schools,” Battle said. “Atlanta is an international city, with citizens from all over the world, and our students should be able to compete with anybody coming in.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Sierra Pape
Sierra Pape, News Managing Editor
Sierra Pape is a junior and this is her third year on the Southerner staff. When she is not writing, you will find her running for the Midtown cross country team, working for Midtown Votes and political organizations outside of school, and singing and playing the guitar. She is excited to contribute to the paper for years to come.

Comments (0)

The Southerner intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. Furthermore, we do not permit any of the following inappropriate content including: Libel or defamatory statements, any copyrighted, trademarked or intellectual property of others, the use of profanity and foul language or personal attacks. All comments are reviewed and approved by staff to ensure that they meet these standards. The Southerner does not allow anonymous comments, and requires a name and valid email address submitted that are variable. This email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments. Online comments that are found in violation of these policies will be removed as quickly as possible.
All the Southerner Online Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *