Four candidates for DeKalb County school board District 4

Coming Wednesday: candidates for District 5. See all candidates now on

Find out who all the DeKalb County school board candidates are and how they answered our questions about issues of importance to the school district on

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 District 4, from near Buford Highway south to Stone Mountain, are profiled today.

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?

Karen Carter, 51, an incumbent, was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal. She chairs the business and social sciences department at Georgia Perimeter College's Clarkston campus and previously chaired the paralegal studies program at Atlanta Technical College. A lawyer, she has a law degree from Ohio State University and graduated from Denison University in Granville, Ohio.

1. Providing all teachers with the tools needed to assess students’ learning levels and then providing them with support for differentiated instruction.

2. Effective communication and capacity building skills as demonstrated through their successful management of an organization comparable in size to (DeKalb) or larger. An effective listener who has demonstrated ability to build coalitions, lead diverse teams and has a heart for education. Knowledge and understanding of the culture of an urban school district.

3. Fund what is needed to deliver the expected level of instruction and engagement.

4. Budgeting innovation in delivery of instruction, organization of class schedules and personnel.

Jim McMahan, 48, an incumbent, is a mortgage broker. He attended Georgia State University and Wofford College. He is married with two school-age daughters.

1. Support the administration (and) hire our next superintendent. This combined with the district’s petition for a “charter system” will have the greatest impact.

2. Established educational leader with experience in a “charter system.” The (school board) should consider creating a framework for “leadership succession plans” from the school house, through the administration and the (board).

3. Continue to request transparency and easily understood financial reporting. Help create an environment of support and customer service from our service centers for our schools and have clear and open lines of communication within the organization.

4. Total control if requested by a fully trained and experienced governing body.

John Oselette, 49, owns a television production company. He attended Scottsdale Community College in Arizona and Chaffey College in California. He is married with one child.

1. Employ a reform minded superintendent who is willing to purge the district of unproductive and unqualified staff (and) hire only the most qualified and competent school administrators.

2. Excellent communication skills, highly motivated, high expectations and accountability. A keen understanding of teaching, be able to emphasize the efficient use of data to break down resistance and drive systemic change. Empower personnel to set goals, measure results, and develop accountability. A record of academic achievement and success in an urban system similar to (DeKalb).

3. Create a policy requiring strict controls on how the district disburses funds to each school.

4. Each school needs to have control over its budget and HR decisions.

Ella "Coach" Smith, 58, is a special education teacher in Fulton County. She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University and has a masters degree from Central Michigan University and an advanced degree in educational leadership from Argosy University in Atlanta. She is a married grandmother with four children.

1. Improve resource allocation to the classroom. Hire a superintendent who has experience in improving achievement. Attract the best teachers by improving/returning great benefits and providing competitive salaries.

2. An honest and fiscally responsible instructional leader who can manage a big school system. Someone that all stakeholders respect and will follow. Cooperative. Great communication skills.

3. By putting sufficient money into each classroom. Funds must be spent on proven programs. Having a social worker (early identification) chairperson who works cooperatively with parents and teachers of struggling students.

4. Reform must occur on the front lines of a school itself with community and parent involvement.