The Atlanta Board of Education will vote tonight on whether to give a $600,000 sole source contract to the Relay “Graduate School of Education” to train school leaders.

Edward Johnson, a champion of public schools and an advocate of systemic change based on the philosophy of W. Edwards Deming, has spoken out against this decision, and with good reason. Deming helped to transform Japanese industry based on principles of teamwork and collaboration and the recognition that accountability starts at the top, not the bottom. (To learn more about Deming, read Andrea Gabor’s excellent The Man Who Invented Quality, especially chapter 9, where she explains Deming’s opposition to merit pay. Her new book, After the Education Wars, directly applies Deming thought to education.)

Relay is not really a “graduate school of education.” It is an organization founded in 2011 by three “no-excuses” charter chains–KIPP, Achievement First, and Uncommon Schools–based on a charter teacher training program called TeacherU at Hunter College in New York City. Graduate schools of education have faculty members with doctorates in their fields; they have research programs; they have departments and courses devoted to pedagogy, psychology, philosophy, sociology, economics, history, and other aspects of education. Relay has none of these features. Its “schools” are managed by charter teachers, some of whom have a masters’ degree; they specialize in teaching how to raise test scores and impose strict discipline according to the canonical texts of Doug Lemov; if you search for a Relay campus, you are unlikely to find one. Relay is one of the ways in which corporate reformers are determined to destroy professional education, for teachers and administrators alike.

I wrote a letter to the Atlanta Board of Education, following Ed Johnson’s complaint, explaining that Relay was not the right choice.

The chair of the education committee of the Atlanta NAACP wrote too, urging that the agenda item for a sole source contract be deferred until other institutions were invited to submit proposals.

From: Lula Gilliam []
Sent: Monday, March 05, 2018 12:12 PM
Subject: Relay Graduate School of Education Sole Source Contract


To:  Atlanta Board of Education (ABOE) members


Good afternoon,


Community education activist, Ed Johnson, included the Atlanta NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) on an email thread that has raised several concerns.  We have been informed that ABOE has an action on tonight’s (March 5, 2018) agenda that includes Item 7.05.

The Board will be voting to enter into a sole source contract with Relay Graduate School of Education (RGSE).  The purpose is “for tuition for school leaders and central office supervisors to participate in the [Relay] National Principal and Supervisor Academy.”  The contract amount is $600,000.00.


We are certain you are aware the terminology sole source denotes that no other entity can provide these services.  Are you all familiar with the Principals Center at Georgia State University (GSU), which provides the very services that are mentioned in this sole source?  Did you contact the Center about the contract and offer them an equal opportunity to provide these services?  If not, please explain.  Just in case you don’t have this, I am including the contact information for the Center’s executive staff:  Dr. James R. Kahrs ( and Dr. Dionne Cowan ( as well as copying them on this email.  Also copied are GSU president, Dr. Mark Becker, and Dr. Brian Williams, Director of the Alonzo Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence (Atlanta NAACP Education Committee – Co-Chair).


Founded in 1913, GSU graduates more African American students than any other college/university in the country. With this impressive distinction and a true testament of leadership training at its finest, seemingly, Georgia State’s longevity and outcomes negate that no other entity can provide the services described by ABOE.    On the other hand, Relay Graduate School of Education was founded in 2011.  What is their track record for success that has ABOE considering a sole source contract in the amount of $600,000.00?


The Atlanta NAACP would caution ABOE to tread carefully in the use of “sole source” and the doling out of public dollars.  We highly recommend tabling this agenda item in order to offer this contract to the best possible provider.  Our children and families deserve nothing less.


In the best interests of students and parents,


Lula M. Gilliam

Atlanta NAACP

Chair – Education Committee

Co-Chair -Labor & Industry Committee

970 Martin Luther King, Jr., Drive

Suite 302

Atlanta, GA  30314

(404)524-0580 (office)

(770)256-0275 (cell)