Candice McKinley, who is running against Whitney McGinniss and Bowden, also disagreed with the firing.
In District 4, incumbent Allyson Gevertz was critical of the board’s action and applauded Watson-Harris’ performance. Her opponent — Bonnie Chappell — took issue with the board’s decision-making process.
“The latest firing of a superintendent is symptomatic of a deeper issue, probably within the bureaucracy or board itself,” said District 6 candidate Janet Hughes.
That perspective was echoed by her opponent, Venola Mason, and District 2 candidate Wendy Hamilton.
Lance Hammonds, president of the DeKalb County NAACP, told board members on Monday they had put the students and community at risk by not doing the job they were elected to do.
“The buck does not stop with the superintendent. It does not stop with the school board. The buck stops with the citizens of DeKalb County,” he said. “We have a choice on May 24 to get this right.”
This month’s election is happening just weeks after Kemp signed into law legislation that curbs teachers from discussing “divisive concepts” in schools.
The divisive concepts bill is another hot-button issue for voters. The DeKalb candidates are also split over what a school system’s role is in teaching students about potentially controversial topics.
Bowden, Chappell and Hughes said schools should stick to ensuring students are proficient in academic basics.
“Educational programs should promote facts based on history, solid research, unity among people and avoid finger-pointing,” Chappell said.
Gevertz, Hamilton, McGinniss and McKinley agree that education should be fact-based, but said teachers should be able to talk to students about topics like race in age-appropriate ways. They questioned whether the new law was necessary.
“Teachers are highly trained professionals, adept at handling kids’ queries,” Gevertz said. “Instead of questioning our teachers’ ability to handle potentially controversial topics, I would like to see lawmakers dramatically increase teacher pay to align with our teachers’ tremendous impact on our children and our society.”
The winners of the election won’t begin their term until January.