All seven seats that survived a redistricting of the DeKalb County school board are up for election May 20. It’s a non-partisan race, so this serves as the general election. Candidates in two voting districts are profiled today, with the others coming over the next four days. District 1 covers Dunwoody and Brookhaven. District 2 runs south from there to the Emory University area.
Each candidate was asked these questions. Their answers were edited only for brevity:
1. What should the school board do to improve test scores and graduation rates?
2. What qualities do you think the district needs in its next superintendent?
3. What should the school board do to ensure all students receive equitable support from funding and resources?
4. How much local control are you willing to cede to schools, and in what administrative areas?
Stan Jester, running unopposed, works in the information technology field and is a blogger and school volunteer. He has three children with wife, Nancy, who was removed from the school board by Gov. Nathan Deal.
1. Push resources into the classroom, ending the practice of requesting class size waivers from the state. Make sure we have the best teachers.
2. A proven track record of student achievement in a school district having comparable size and demographics.
3. A defined portion of the money should follow the student to the schoolhouse. Reduce the portion of resources flowing to the central office.
4. I will advocate for the central office to transform into a support role with critical HR and finance decisions being exclusively controlled at the local schoolhouse level.
Don McChesney, who held this seat until the election two years ago, is a retired DeKalb teacher. He has undergraduate and master's degrees from Georgia State University and has been married 42 years.
1. A strong superintendent is critical, making sure that there is a capable principal and strong teachers in every building.
2. A proven record of raising achievement in an urban school system, articulate and open to new approaches, a listener first and able to win over skeptics, able to take bold steps in restructuring our system.
3. Audit our HR department making sure the funding is focused on the schools. Look at our spending per pupil from school to school.
4. The BOE will be necessary to oversee budget, policy, and superintendent issues, but achievement issues need to be placed in the hands of those who produce achievement. Charters, Independent school districts etc. do not bother me.
Marshall Orson, 54, the incumbent, has held this seat two years. He and his wife of 16 years have two children in middle school. A lawyer and former executive at Turner Broadcasting turned media consultant, he has undergraduate and law degrees from Duke University and has served on numerous organization boards and school councils.
1. Be more effective at targeting the needs of students, move away from the one-size-fits-all strategy, and provide options that match post-graduate goals. Ensure resources are directed to the classroom.
2. Should champion innovation, embrace governance models that allow more local decision-making, provide support to schools rather than manage the schools, partner with other community-based organizations to address issues such as poverty, and question all assumptions regarding our educational system.
3. Ensure resources are available in each school to meet the specific needs. Every school and every child should receive an agreed upon base. But there are instances where greater investments may be needed.
4. I am a strong proponent of allowing more local control and governance including decisions over budgeting, personnel and day-to-day operations.
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