Troup NAACP education chair tells entire school board they should resign

Published 12:48 pm Friday, March 22, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Troup County NAACP Education Chair Glenn Dowell told the Troup County School Board Thursday night that they should all consider resigning.

Dowell was the first of three speakers during the public comment portion of Thursday night’s board meeting, and all three had close ties to the upcoming election. While Dowell isn’t a candidate, he was representing the NAACP, which is led by President Inetha Hatten. Hatten is running for the District 5 seat on the Troup County School Board, as are Thursday’s other two public speakers, Dan McAlexander and Raquel Neal.

Dowell, who called for Superintendent Brian Shumate’s resignation last July, cited several reasons for asking the board to resign. Shumate has since announced he is retiring at the end of June, referencing wanting to get back closer to family in Louisville, Kentucky.

Dowell said the Troup County School System ranks in the bottom 50% of Georgia schools in state testing, referencing numbers he said he found on the Public School Review, the National Center for Education Statistics and the Georgia Department of Education.

However, the numbers he referenced during his speech appeared to come from directly the Public School Review website, which shows outdated data. The website says the numbers reflected on its website are from the 2020-2021 school year.

In that data, it shows Troup County’s reading proficiency rate at 29% and its math proficiency score at 26%, numbers that Dowell specifically referenced Thursday. Deana Brown, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and professional learning, said the reading numbers referenced on the Public School Review website is actually English Language Art data.

TCSS does not have data that breaks down the entire school district in reading or math. Rather, the district has scores by grade and subject, grade level, school type (elementary, middle, high), etc.

Brown said for example, in elementary ELA, Troup County Schools has seen growth from a 28% proficiency rate in 2021 to 35% in 2023. The state average was 39% in 2023.

For reading and math specifically, the 2023 Georgia Department of Education College and Career Readiness Performing Index scores, which were released in December, showed that Troup County has surpassed the outdated numbers Dowell referenced.  The reading proficiency for elementary schools is 64.69%, for middle schools is 60.88% and high schools is 52.28%.

CCRPI data for math — shown under CCRPI’s content mastery — reflects a proficiency score of 68.19% in elementary schools, 54.51% in middle schools and 59.7% in high schools (it notes Algebra I/coordinated Algebra specifically). Brown said the content mastery numbers are scored where developing learners are worth half a point, a proficient learners receive a full point and distinguished learners (those above grade level) earn 1.5 points. Therefore, not all students in the math percentages are fully a proficient or distinguished learner in the subject, but the school district receives credit (via the half point) for students who have made progress toward content mastery.

The CCRPI scores for reading and math are directly from the Georgia Department of Education and can be viewed at Search Troup County on the page.

Dowell also said that the school system has “horrible discipline practices that negatively impact people of color.” He specifically referenced a case from 2023 when a student who was expelled saw that decision reversed in the courts.

“We had a young lady who was expelled by this school system, signed off by this board,” Dowell said. “We used our lawyers to have that decision reversed.”

Dowell did not name the student, but he has on several occasions at NAACP press conferences, and she was also identified by family members for a LaGrange Daily News story published in August 2023. The Callaway High student, Con’iya Williams, threw a cell phone at a student and struck a teacher. The expulsion decision was reversed after a complicated tribunal process where the student was essentially charged with the wrong rule-breaking offense.

“The state board finds that the local board violated the student’s due process rights by conducting a de novo hearing and finding her guilty of a charge for which she was not given notice,” wrote Leonte Benton, Vice Chair for Appeals for the State Board of Education,  in the documents reversing the expulsion.

Dowell also referenced that emails in the past have been sent to White school board members only, and he non-specifically mentioned a past decision to hire a contractor that resulted in cost overruns for the school district.

“This one is very important,” Dowell said. “Not that any of you are to blame for it, but there’s a history of emails sent expressly to White board members only.”

McAlexander and Neal spoke after Dowell.

Neal introduced herself as a candidate for the school board seat. McAlexander spoke of support for Shumate, saying he was sad to see him retire and thanked him for the job he has done as superintendent.

The board did not respond to Dowell’s comments — nor McAlexander or Neal’s — but that is common practice during the public comment portion of board meetings. Shumate responded indirectly through his superintendent report during the board meeting.

“We are continually trying to improve this school district, and we will see improved results this spring,” Shumate said. “We saw improved results last spring, and that’s a testament to our hard-working principals, our district leaders, all of our teachers and our kids in this district.”