Atlanta school board race appears headed to a runoff

Alfred "Shivy" Brooks (left) and Tamara Jones (right) appear headed to a runoff for the At-Large Seat 7 post on the Atlanta school board. (AJC file photos)

Credit: AJC File Photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Alfred "Shivy" Brooks (left) and Tamara Jones (right) appear headed to a runoff for the At-Large Seat 7 post on the Atlanta school board. (AJC file photos)

Credit: AJC File Photo

Credit: AJC File Photo

Two Atlanta school board candidates are preparing for an additional four weeks of campaigning.

Neither At-Large Seat 7 incumbent Tamara Jones nor challenger Alfred “Shivy” Brooks received enough votes to win Tuesday’s election outright, according to unofficial results. The two candidates were in a virtual dead heat, with Jones ahead by less than 1 percentage point. The third candidate in the race, William “Will” Sardin, trailed the other two by a wide margin.

Five of the nine Atlanta school board seats were on the ballot Tuesday. Two incumbents, Jessica Johnson and Erika Mitchell, won their races. Another incumbent, Katie Howard, was unopposed. Challenger Ken Zeff handily defeated incumbent Michelle Olympiadis.

Brooks and Jones have been cordial during debates. In interviews Wednesday, both candidates talked about their platforms instead of their opponents.

Brooks would be the first active teacher elected to the school board. Atlanta’s charter used to ban current teachers from serving on the school board. Brooks said he enlisted the help of state lawmakers last year to pass House Bill 792, which changed that earlier this year.

“When I talk about my ability to get things done across different levels of government, this is one example of what that looks like,” Brooks said. “We’re in the business of beating the odds.”

Alfred "Shivy" Brooks kicks off his campaign for Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education across the street from Maynard Jackson High School on Friday, June 16, 2023.  Brooks, a high school teacher, poses with Atlanta activist Porch'se Miller after the formal announcement. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Brooks teaches government at Charles Drew High School in Clayton County and believes that experience would provide an important perspective on the board. Although some former teachers have served on Atlanta’s school board, Brooks says it’s not the same. The pandemic changed the profession, he said.

“Someone who is a current teacher now — or definitely within the last three years — has a perspective about our classrooms, our schools and the needs of our students that is much more informed and nuanced than the past,” he said. “So if you taught four years ago, five years ago, what you understand about our schools and our children and their needs ... does not line up with where we are today.”

The fact that he will likely go to a runoff, Brooks said, means Atlanta believes teachers deserve a seat on the school board. He says his campaign volunteers are ready to knock on doors and wave signs for four more weeks.

“It’s legitimately high school students that are powering my campaign,” Brooks said. “It’s not powered by a bunch of paid canvassers or anything like that. This is truly young people and teachers that are going around and getting the word out.”

Jones, who has a background in architecture and urban design, says she wasn’t surprised by the result. She says her campaign is deciding on a strategy for the next month if the race goes to a runoff, but she’s focused on the daily work of the board.

“When you’re talking about children’s futures, the work never stops,” she said. “So I’m going to continue to do my work because part of the best campaigning is doing the work that I’ve been doing.”

Atlanta Public Schools board member Tamara Jones, At-Large Seat 7, is shown during a work session to discuss the preliminary budget at the Atlanta School Board meeting, Monday, May 1, 2023, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Jones says that work includes developing a districtwide literacy policy and assisting in the process of hiring Atlanta Public Schools’ next superintendent. She hails the board’s decision to hire interim Superintendent Danielle Battle, who worked as an APS principal and administrator for decades.

“We have an interim superintendent … who has deep knowledge of Atlanta public schools,” Jones said in a phone interview. “She has 20 years of experience with APS. We haven’t had that situation before.”

Jones sensed an anti-incumbent sentiment toward current board members this election cycle due to the board’s decision to part ways with former Superintendent Lisa Herring. She says that’s partly due to a lack of messaging from the board itself.

“One thing that I want us to get better at in terms of our communication and how we engage with people is letting them know what it is that we are doing,” Jones said. “There’s … a lot of work underway.”

Election results are unofficial and not certified yet. A runoff election would be held Dec. 5.

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