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Alisha Thomas Morgan and Erin Hames take their clout on education issues to schools

Two high-profile government officials who shaped state education policy are moving into new positions.

Former state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, D-Austell, who staged an unsuccessful run for state school superintendent last year, is now taking charge of a charter school network she long supported.

Policy adviser Erin Hames is leaving the Governor's Office where she helped design the Opportunity School District to become an education consultant. Atlanta Public Schools voted last night to retain her services.

From Ivy Preparatory Academies:

Alisha Thomas Morgan, the state legislator who co-sponsored a Constitutional Amendment expanding school choice in Georgia, will continue her advocacy in public education as the new head of Georgia's first single-gender charter schools network.

Morgan was recently named as executive director of Ivy Preparatory Academies, which serves more than 1,300 students in three metro Atlanta public charter schools. She was appointed by the Board of Directors of IPA to lead the charter network after a national search for a new executive director picked Morgan as a top contender among 100 applicants.

"Ms. Morgan has been very involved with public education in the state of Georgia, especially within the charter school movement," said Christopher Kunney, chair of IPA’s governing board.  "She is very passionate about providing students with a quality education. Her commitment to kids will resonate well with our teachers and the community that we serve. Under her leadership, we will build Ivy Preparatory Academies into a national model for single-gender education."

“I am extremely excited that the board selected Ms. Morgan as Ivy Prep’s new Executive Director,” said Dr. Nina Gilbert, founder of IPA. “Locally, many only know Ms. Morgan as a politician. However, I also know her as passionate and bold leader who understands what it takes to improve student achievement. In addition to her work as a legislator who fought tirelessly for the children she now serves, she is also a Broad Fellow and is among an elite group of individuals who lead some of the nation’s largest urban districts and charter school networks. She has great plans for Ivy, and I have complete confidence in her ability to advance the mission and vision of our schools.”

“I remember my floor speech about the ‘Little Girls In the Green Jackets’ who, like all Georgia students, deserved quality public schools that met their needs,” Morgan said. “After advocating for Ivy Prep as a state legislator for many years, it feels like coming home to now serve as their leader. My work as a public servant and education reformer has prepared me for this moment. I am looking forward to partnering with parents, the community, and our stakeholders as we make Ivy Prep a proof point for what is possible in public education.

“We need to lead the nation in innovation and producing scholars who are critical thinkers for the 21st century,” Morgan added. “With the support of the board, I’m excited to lead the organization to the next level. We will work together, leveraging every resource that we have, to achieve that vision.”

And from the Governor's Office comes news that longtime adviser Erin Hames, a teacher-turned-attorney who worked for both Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal, is leaving to become an education consultant.

The AJC reports:

The architect of Gov. Nathan Deal's Opportunity School District legislation, which could allow state takeover of low-performing schools, will advise one of the legislation's chief targets on how to avoid state takeover. On Monday evening, the Atlanta Public Schools board voted 7-2 to hire Erin Hames, Deal's departing deputy chief of staff for policy and legislative affairs, on a no-bid, $96,000 consulting contract. Hames is leaving Deal's office at the end of the month to go into private consulting practice.

Board members Steven Lee and Byron Amos cast the dissenting votes.

The governor's Opportunity School District legislation, which requires voter approval next year, would give the state the power to seize control of failing schools, convert them into charters or shut them down.

There are 27 Atlanta schools eligible for state takeover. Hames is "offering to consult" with APS on "matters of policy, legislation, and political strategy, " according to the school board agenda.

It states APS would be hiring an entity called "Reform Ed." APS spokesman James Malone confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Hames was the principal of that entity.

The topics Hames will consult on would include "developing strategies for chronically low performing schools in the district, to include those schools presently on the OSD-eligibility list," according to her draft contract.

When Hames announced she was leaving the governor's office, Deal said she was "the right person at the right time for my administration" and that she played a key role in developing his agenda the past five years.

"This move will allow her to focus her full attention on improving classroom outcomes so that every child has access to a great education, and it will allow organizations that share her vision to also benefit from her talents," Deal said.

Hames often told skeptical lawmakers who peppered her with questions about Opportunity School District legislation that the ultimate goal was to improve struggling schools so there was no need for the district.

Hames is a former middle school teacher who joined Gov. Sonny Perdue's staff as education policy adviser after graduating from law school.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.