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Metro Atlanta schools announce Friday plans after snow day closures

After two straight snow days, metro Atlanta schools are announcing plans for Friday, and many have decided to make it three in a row.

Cobb, Fulton, Cherokee and Clayton County Public Schools will remain closed.

Forsyth County Schools plans to reopen.

Atlanta Public Schools initially planned to reopen, but decided just after 6 p.m. that it would remain closed, too.

DeKalb County Schools will be closed to students, but 12-month employees should report on a two-hour delay, barring any bad roads.

Gwinnett County Schools and City Schools of Decatur will open for students on a two-hour delay. Classes will end at their regularly scheduled times.

Marietta Schools will begin on a three-hour delay.

Bartow County Schools will be closed Friday, though faculty and staff are to report by 10 a.m. Additional Friday school closures include: Carroll County, Coweta County, Douglas County Schools, Newton County Schools, Walton and Paulding County.

Carrollton City Schools will have a two-hour delayed start Friday, according to the district’s website. 

Other districts, such as Cherokee County School District, are still waiting to assess road conditions. Cherokee officials said a decision may not come until 5 a.m. Friday.

The district acknowledged the difficult decision in a post to its official Twitter page. The post stated, in part: “If you think I’m happy about this situation, think again. While we wait, please stay calm, do your homework, eat a milk sandwich.”

Clayton officials announced Thursday afternoon it would not reopen because of “continued icy conditions on secondary roads throughout the county combined with continued below freezing temperatures.”  

“We realize that our school buses mostly travel on secondary and housing development roads and streets,” said superintendent Morcease Beasley, in a written statement. “Those roads continue to be covered with ice that makes them difficult for safe bus travel. Our desire to keep our children and staff safe led us to this decision.” 

Beasley said he’s “confident” the district will reopen Monday and urged students to access online resources even though they aren’t in class Friday.

APS officials also are trying to decide how to make up some of the seven days the district has taken off, and they came up with six options to review. The school district joined other metro Atlanta school systems in closing on Wednesday and Thursday after ice and cold temperatures gripped the region. 

Morehouse College prepares for its next chapter

On New Year’s Day, David A. Thomas begins his tenure as president of Morehouse College.

The famed Historically Black College & University, near downtown Atlanta, had a tumultuous 2017. Here’s a timeline:

Jan. 15 - Morehouse announces it will not renew the contract of its president, John S. Wilson Jr., when it expires at the end of June. Several student leaders sue, arguing the college’s board of trustees violated its bylaws by not permitting them in the decision-making process.

February - Morehouse kicks off its 150th anniversary celebration.

Feb. 14 - A Fulton County judge rules Morehouse College’s board chairman acted legally in January when he excluded student trustees from its vote not to renew Wilson’s contract.

April 7 - Morehouse’s Board of Trustees announces it has removed Wilson, embattled board chairman Robert Davidson and board leadership, effective immediately. William Taggart is named interim president.

June 8 - Taggart dies. Board member Harold L. Martin Jr. is named interim president.

Oct. 15 - The board hires Thomas, former dean of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, to become its president.

VIDEO: Previous coverage on this issue

Georgia lost notable leaders in 2017 who blazed paths in civil rights

Like World War II veterans, the civil rights pioneers in Atlanta and Georgia are aging, and the state lost a number of them in 2017.

Here are six of the many men and women we wrote about after their deaths -- people who lived through the era of falling barriers, often times leading the way.

• J.B. Smith

The Atlanta Student Movement of the turbulent 1960s had a story to tell. And J.B. Smith was determined to be a part of that. 

 John B. “J.B.” Smith Sr., retired educator and longtime editor and publisher of the historically black Atlanta Inquirer, died at 81 in the spring.

Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves said of him, “Along the way, he was a trailblazer for other African-American journalists who would follow in his footsteps.”

 

Isabelle Daniels Holston

On Dec. 1, 1956, before more than 100,000 spectators, four young women lined up inside the Melbourne, Australia, Cricket Ground for the 16th Olympiad’s 4- by 100-meter relay.

Nineteen-year-old anchor Isabelle Daniels, who trained in high school by running alongside the school bus her father drove, hit the wire at 45.4 seconds.

They were probably the first all-African-American women’s team of any sport to compete in the Olympics. Their time was good enough for a bronze, but all three medal-winning teams — Australia won gold and Great Britain silver — broke the previous world record.  

When she retired as an amateur in 1959 she still held a world record in the 50-yard dash. Holston spent 35 years teaching and coaching track and basketball in several DeKalb County schools.

Read about this remarkable Decatur woman’s life here.

Frank Bates

Frank Bates grew up on a farm in Crawfordville, this historic home of Alexander Stephens, whohad served as Georgia governor and then as vice president of the Confederate States of America. Before Bates’ career ended he worked for two modern state governors,  Zell Miller and and Joe Frank Harris, also for the state technical college system.

Bates became involved in the civil rights movement as a teenager, protesting the firing of five black teachers and advocating the schools’ desegregation. 

 After leading a student walkout, he was bused to an all-white school in a nearby community. On his third day at the new school, he had his jaw broken. 

Fifty-two years later and hours before he died from a heart attack, one of those moments of karmic serendipity occured. His attacker tracked him down, called him and apologized.

Preston Mobley Sr.

In, February, the city said goodbye to Preston Mobley Sr.

Mobley was the program manager and an on-air personality at Atlanta’s WERD, the nation’s first African-American owned radio station from the late 1950s onward.

The station was in the Prince Hall Masonic Temple building on Auburn Avenue, and one floor below it was the headquarters of the newly formed Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Mobley played a role in the civil rights movement, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. relied on him to get the news out.

Erna Bryant

Erna Bryant was a soldier for good in Atlanta and also Boston, where she completed her doctorate in education at Harvard University.

The teacher had a knack for getting to the bottom of a problem, would open her door to anyone that was wanting to do something peacefully, and she did plenty, including taking a leading role in desegregating the Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority while living there. She died in March.

Lorenzo Wallace

 

Lorenzo Wallace, a World War II Marine, U.S. Postal Service employee, Congressional Gold Medal recipient and a state Capitol fixture, who ended as Senate sergeant-at-arms, died in March at age 97.

A graduate of Booker T. Washington High School and Morehouse College in Atlanta, Wallace held many jobs - he worked well into his 80s - and lived a notable life, including joining the Marines in World War II. You can read about him here.

More Atlanta news obituaries from 2017

Spelman faculty join #WeKnowWhatYouDid campaign

More than 60 Spelman College faculty members signed a letter distributed Monday supporting a student-led effort to stop sexual assault and harassment on the Atlanta campus.

Spelman, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University students last week began a campaign on social media with the hashtag #WeKnowWhatYouDid urging students to share information about individuals who’ve hurt others and complaints that administrators aren’t doing enough to stop such acts.

“As an institution, we have an obligation to protect you,” the letter, in part, says. “Because of your bravery and courage, change starts now. You have shown us that our silence does not protect any of us and especially not you.” 

Spelman College president Mary Schmidt Campbell wrote a message to students and staff Thursday urging accusers to report complaints to campus police or officials. 

Spelman College announces plan to address student hunger issue

Spelman College and its food service vendor have created a plan to help students who sometimes cannot afford meals, the college announced Thursday.

Spelman president Mary Schmidt Campbell released a statement to students and staff that it will help provide 2,000 meals by the end of this year and 7,000 meals next semester to current Spelman students who live off campus and who have a need for a meal. Starting Monday, Spelman will give free meal tickets to students who live off campus to use in the dining hall.

The changes were made after a group of students involved with the National Action Network Spelhouse Collegiate Chapter announced a hunger strike last week to raise awareness to food insecurity on campus. The students ended the hunger strike, Campbell wrote.

Spelman will explore additional ways they can address the problem, Campbell wrote.

Kennesaw State rescinds change that kept cheerleaders off field during national anthem

Kennesaw State University president Sam Olens announced Wednesday he’s ending a controversial change that kept some cheerleaders from kneeling on the football field during the national anthem to protest police misconduct.

KSU has been under the national microscope since five African-American cheerleaders took a knee during the anthem before the football team’s Sept. 30 game and the decision days later to keep all cheerleaders off the field during the anthem. Some felt KSU’s decision violated the students’ free speech rights.

“While I believe there are more effective ways to initiate an exchange of ideas on issues of national concern, the right to exercise one’s freedom of speech under the First Amendment must be protected,” Olens wrote in a letter to students, faculty and staff.

The Georgia Board of Regents is conducting a special review of how KSU responded to the cheerleaders’ actions.

Please return to www.myajc.com for updates.

 

Cheerleaders continue to take a knee at Kennesaw State football games

Four Kennesaw State University cheerleaders were seen taking a knee in the stadium tunnel during the national anthem at the university’s football game Saturday evening, continuing their protest to raise awareness about police misconduct and racial inequality.

The protest is part of an ongoing controversy on the 35,000 student campus that has drawn national attention over free speech rights and patriotism.

About three dozen students remained seated during the anthem, with some raising their fists in solidarity with the cheerleaders. A dozen students marched around Fifth Third Bank Stadium chanting “land of the free but we can’t take a knee.”

Most spectators stood during the anthem.

The cheerleaders first took at knee at the Sept. 30 football game, and since then the university makes them wait in the tunnel during the national anthem.

Woodstock resident John Smith, 55, said he was dismayed by the protest as he arrived at the stadium Saturday.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “When they put that uniform on, they’re representing the university. They shouldn’t be protesting. It’s a respect thing.”

KSU has been under a national microscope after five cheerleaders knelt during the national anthem at the Sept. 30 football game to protest police misconduct and the subsequent decision to keep cheerleaders off the field during the anthem, which many feel violate the students’ free speech rights. KSU officials have said the change had nothing to do with the cheerleaders.

The state Board of Regents announced Wednesday it’s conducting a review of how KSU responded to the cheerleaders’ actions after text messages obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren boasting to state Rep. Earl Ehrhart that they convinced KSU president Sam Olens to keep cheerleaders off the field.

Several campus protests have taken in support of the cheerleaders during the last two weeks. But many Cobb residents have described the cheerleaders’ actions as unpatriotic.

Students kneel during national anthem as Olens takes president’s office

As Sam Olens was being installed as president of Kennesaw State University, students took a knee during the national anthem to protest how the school handled cheerleaders who knelt at a football game.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Eric Stirgus, on the KSU campus, reports that about a dozen students knelt at their seats during Olens’ investiture.

Students have also scheduled a sit-in on the campus green, where Olens is supposed to celebrate officially taking the office that he has held for about a year.

Students are not the only ones protesting.

Some faculty are also boycotting the ceremony because they believe Olens appointment -- he is the former state attorney general -- was a political appointment rather than one based on solid academic experience.

“We are boycotting the Olens ceremony because he is not our President,” wrote Susan S. Raines, a professor of conflict management at KSU. “He was not chosen through a transparent, traditional hiring process. He is not qualified for the position which was gifted him by the Governor through the Board of Regents.

She continued, “He has repeatedly shown that he does not know how to carry out the duties of the office, including recent violations of constitutional rights on campus. He will never be our President.”

Reporter Meris Lutz, also on the campus, spoke with Mark Robinson, a staff member who was crossing the green outside the convocation center. Robinson did not appear surprised that some would boycott the ceremony after the handling of the protest and apparent intervention of public officials. 

“It’s a public university with public funds and I do believe the cheerleaders’ first amendment rights come into play,” he said. “It’s understandable that people would protest.”

Robinson emphasized that he was expressing a personal opinion. 

Olens did not address the controversy in his remarks at the campus convocation center. He got choked up speaking about his parents and talked about his goals of helping students succeed. 

 State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, a Cobb Cobb Republican, indirectly addressed the situation, acknowledging there are some times "rough waters," but KSU is in good hands with Olens. 

"I've never seen anyone more honest than Sam Olens," Tippins said in his speech. 

Stirgus reports that the building where Olens ceremony is taking place is about half empty, and a plea was sent out to professors last week to come and even bring classes with them because too few RSVP’s were coming in.

The recent events started Sept. 30 when five cheerleaders knelt during a football game’s as the national anthem played. Various KSU officials had been in discussion about what to do if this happened, and local politicians, including a state representative and the local sheriff called Olens to pressure him to take action.

The school decided to keep the cheerleaders off the field during the national anthem, sparking both praise from many in the community and criticism by others.

The Georgia Board of Regents announced Wednesday it’s conducting a review of how KSU responded to the cheerleaders’ protest.

 Olens said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon he regrets how the situation was handled.  

MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.

The AJC's Meris Lutz keeps you updated on the latest happenings in Cobb County government and politics. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories: 

Never miss a minute of what's happening in Cobb politics. Subscribe to myAJC.com.

Spelman College to admit transgender female students

Spelman College president Mary Schmidt Campbell announced Tuesday the all-women institution will accept students, starting next school year, who “consistently live and self-identify as women, regardless of their gender assignment at birth.”

The college sent a letter to students, faculty and staff explaining the new policy. The Historically Black College & University (HBCU), located near downtown Atlanta, had been considering such a policy since the prior semester, according to news accounts. A task force of students, faculty, staff and alumnae looked at the potential changes, Campbell said.

“In adopting this admissions policy, Spelman continues its fervent belief in the power of the Spelman Sisterhood,” the letter said. “Students who choose Spelman come to our campus prepared to participate in a women’s college that is academically and intellectually rigorous, and affirms its core mission as the education and development of high-achieving Black women.”

The letter also contains frequently asked questions about the policy. Transgender students who identify as men will not be admitted, Spelman explained. Housing accommodations will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Students who transition to male after they’ve enrolled at Spelman will still be awarded a degree.

Spelman, one of the nation’s most prominent single-gender institutions, has about 2,100 students. Spelman’s decision was a hot topic for alumni and on social media. Some blasted the college while others called the change progress.

“I applaud my beloved alma mater’s proactive stance while still honoring the institution’s traditons,” said Charmagne Helton, a 1994 graduate. “I am as proud of Spelman College as I was the first moment I set foot on campus more than 25 years ago.” 

Campbell’s letter said Spelman will have a committee to consider the impact on the campus resulting from the new policy. 

In recent years, more single-gender colleges and universities are admitting transgender students. Since 2014, at least eight women’s colleges have moved to allow transgender women, according to Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

Agnes Scott College, located in Decatur, adopted a policy in 2015 that accepts students who were assigned female at birth as well as those who were assigned male or female at birth who now identify as female or transgender.

Bennett College, the nation’s only other all-female HBCU, located in Greensboro, N.C., also allows transgender female students.

Staff writer Ernie Suggs contributed to this article.

Brad Pitt, Michael B. Jordan sign on to Atlanta school cheating movie

Michael B. Jordan will star in a movie about the test cheating scandal that resulted in criminal convictions for 11 former Atlanta educators and Brad Pitt will be one of the producers, Deadline Hollywood reports.

The movie will focus on Parks Middle School, one of dozens of Atlanta schools where educators cheated on the state tests Georgia students take each year in an effort to meet ever-increasing performance targets set by then-Superintendent Beverly Hall.  

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported on highly improbable improvements in student test scores in 2008, and in a series of articles uncovered the extent of a cheating conspiracy that included dozens of schools. State investigators eventually found cheating in 44 of the 56 schools examined and implicated about 200 educators  in the cheating and cover up.

Parks Middle School was among the most egregious cases and its former principal, Christopher Waller, became the self-described “poster child” for the Atlanta school cheating scandal. 

In the movie, titled Wrong Answer, Jordan will play Damany Lewis, a former Parks teacher profiled in a 2014 New Yorker story. Ryan Coogler will direct and Ta-Nehisi Coates will write the script,  Deadline Hollywood reports.

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