Atlanta Public Schools has added a new face to its team in an effort to avoid a state takeover.
APS recently hired Gov. Nathan Deal’s architect responsible for the Opportunity School District legislation, which allows state takeover of low-performing schools. The board voted 7-2 to bring in the governor’s departing deputy chief of staff for policy and legislative affairs Erin Hames on a no-bid $96,000 consulting contract. Board members Steven Lee and Byron Amos cast the dissenting votes. Hames will leave Gov. Deal’s office at the end of the month.
The governor’s Opportunity School District (OSD) legislation requires voter approval next year. If approved, the law would give the state the power to take over failing schools to convert them into charters, or shut them down. Currently, 27 schools in Atlanta are eligible for state action. The hope is that Hames will offer consult on matters of policy, legislation, and political strategy. Suggestions for improvement will be specifically tailored to and targeted toward those schools that are currently on the OSD-eligibility list.
APS superintendent Meria Carstarphen has stated that given the fact that Hames is “uniquely positioned”, her contract was not subject to competitive bidding. Hames is just one of the many high-profile staff members who have recently left office following Deal’s 2014 election.
Despite facing many challenges, APS is eager to seek out all possible measures that can be taken to avoid a state takeover. With years of experience working for the state, Hames will offer direct insight as it relates to the Opportunity School District legislation.
Erin Hames is a teacher-turned-attorney who also worked for Gov. Sonny Perdue. She will leave her current position at the state level to become an education consultant.