Learn about the candidates for Atlanta Board of Education. We asked candidates running in next month’s city, school and municipal elections to explain why you should vote for them. See where candidates stand on important issues.
Board of Education Member District 7 At Large
Name: Patricia "Granny P" Crayton (did not respond)
Name: Nathaniel Borrell Dyer
Residence: Washington Park
Profession: Creative director
What experience will help you in office? I believe children should receive an equitable world-class education. For the last 12 years, I have been a staunch advocate for the children in Atlanta Public Schools (APS). My experience includes:
- Visiting the homes of parents to understand issues facing their children at school
- Attending parent teacher meetings to address those concerns
- Supporting qualified APS staff needs to the school board
- Meeting with superintendents to express community concerns
- Holding the system accountable while impacting policy
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? BIG BUSINESS needs are priority over our children’s needs. Billions in development are sprawling throughout Atlanta with little to no impact on the school system or its taxpayers. When Mayor Reed boasts that a Beltline is more popular than APS and Bethune Elementary is closed in the shadows of Arthur Blank’s billion dollar stadium, should we expect to have a world-class educational system? We need a balanced relationship that puts our children's educational needs first.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? With over half of a billion dollar budget, there should be no poor schools in Atlanta. Because resources have not been properly allocated throughout the district, it appears to be a community issue only. This problem has existed since the inception of APS. It’s going to take bold and daring leadership to solve this problem successfully. It will also require candid conversations and bold solutions centered around race and economics.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? The big difference between traditional public schools and charter schools is the population they serve. Traditional schools are open to serve all students while charters serve a concentrated population. This experiment by APS has no accountability measures to monitor success. Georgia voted the governor’s OSD down, however, superintendent Carstarphen is doing what the OSD promised to do. She has closed/merged schools and turned schools over to charter operators. This only destabilizes the system.
Twitter: Nathaniel Dyer @FierceSoul
Name: Kandis Wood Jackson
What experience will help you in office? I am a former APS teacher and a current corporate attorney. My experience in the classroom, as well as my experiences in the board room and courtroom, will help me on the School Board. I taught sixth grade in an almost all-black Title I school, where many of my students received free or reduced-price lunch. I now work at a large law firm in Midtown Atlanta. I will bring to the board: lessons I learned from teaching, my legal training, my business acumen, and my strong passion for education. In addition, I am a graduate of Duke University ... (edited for length)
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? Equity across the district. Although all students in this city deserve high-quality public education, there are wide disparities in the school system that, unfortunately, tend to trend along racial, geographic, and socioeconomic lines. That is unacceptable to me because we have a duty to provide excellence to every child, no matter their neighborhood. I will address this issue of equity by focusing on 5 Ls:
(1) Leadership: recruiting and retaining effective, excellence-driven, entrepreneurial leaders.
(2) Literacy: implementing strategies proven to increase literacy rates in reading and math.
(3) Learning: minimizing external barriers to a child's ability to learn.
(4) Life :...(edited for length)
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? This is critical, because there are zip codes in the APS with incredibly low “child scores,” according to recent data from the United Way of Greater Atlanta. The child score is a composite score of the key indicators that outline important aspects of a child’s ability to succeed. This is relevant to the School Board because we cannot consider education in a vacuum. It is much harder for students to learn when they’re hungry, neglected, or hurting. These educational hurdles are a reality and on the board, I will fight to address and find solutions to these problems. (edited for length)
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? I support any initiative that is kids-focused, excellence-driven, strategically-planned, and results-oriented. I believe the turnaround plan, for the most part, is one such initiative. The reality is that the next board will need to continue the purpose of the turnaround plan -- that is, to provide additional critical support to our lowest performing schools. There is still much work to do in this regard, and we must operate with a sense of urgency and purpose because our kids can't wait.
At the same time, the board will need to address the many valid concerns raised with this plan (edited for length)
Facebook: Kandis Wood Jackson
Name: Micah A. Rowland (did not respond)
Name: John Wright
Residence: Grant Park
Profession: Program director
What experience will help you in office? John brings experience to this position, understands the role of school board members and knows what real governance looks like. John has a proven track record of putting the educational needs of our children first. John is an accomplished and seasoned administrator, whose success was founded by a quality education received from B.E. Mays High School, followed by a Bachelor of Science degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He currently works for AECOM managing over $1.2B of E-SPLOST school construction projects for the DeKalb County School District. John is running for office because he’s dedicated to every child. (edited for length)]
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? John believes the number one job of the Atlanta Public School system is to make certain every family in Atlanta, wherever they live or how much money they have, is able to send their child or children to a high quality and safe school.
We need to close the gap in academic achievement that has already happened by kindergarten. Because if children aren’t reading by second grade, reading for comprehension by third or fourth grade, then it’s really difficult for them to do math, science, social studies, word problems, etc., (the ability to critically think) well in school.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? John believes that equity pertaining to the allocation of resources is one the bigger challenges that APS faces in the future.
John believes investment in early childhood development and wraparound services will help children learn during the most crucial period of brain development. We need to create success for children from birth to six weeks, from six weeks to two years, from two years to five years. We need to double-down our support on pre-K and birth-to-five programs and support those that are quality and not the ones that are just glorified day-care.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? John believes that charter schools are just another public school option parents have when it comes to choosing the right learning environment for their child. Charters by their design are learning laboratories for trying new innovative teaching and learning techniques while being held to the same high achievement standards as district schools. Innovative approaches that prove to be successful can be used at other schools as an alternative or new means of teaching.
As an engineer, I like to see the objective assessment of KPI’s (key performance indicators) so we can invest in proof-based practices. (edited for length)
Facebook: John WRIGHT for KIDS
Board of Education Member District 8 At Large
Name: Cynthia Briscoe Brown (i)
What experience will help you in office? I have 30 years of deep and broad experience as a volunteer, parent, and community leader at every level and throughout Atlanta Public Schools, including four years in Board of Education Seat 8 At Large, numerous PTA leadership positions, helping found 14 school-based foundations, creating school-business partnerships across APS, and co-president of NAPPS. I’ve proved my maturity, commitment to our kids, and knowledge of how we as educators can help children grow and thrive.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? Multigenerational poverty, housing/food insecurity, and other factors mean many of our kids start out way behind their peers. I have and will continue to advocate for citywide 0-5-year-old early education so every child has a good start in school. More wraparound services, like the medical clinics, social emotional learning initiatives, and family engagement opportunities we are providing now also help move more kids farther and faster.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? I strongly support giving every child, every day, everything they need to be successful in school and in life. Since 2014 we have redirected tens of millions of dollars from central administration into local schools, and our budgeting decisions reflect a commitment to equity in every area. I will keep working to ensure we equitably distribute all resources, including money, talent (teaching and administration), programs, and partnerships.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? We have not authorized a single new charter school in four years. I support the APS Turnaround Strategy, which includes partnerships with nonprofits to benefit our most challenged traditional schools. While not perfect, the strategy gives us more human, financial, and emotional resources targeted to our students and schools which need them the most. At the end of its first year, the Turnaround Strategy is clearly yielding positive results.
Name: Charlie Stadtlander
Residence: Midtown/Buckhead (Grady Cluster)
Profession: C.E.O., Stadtlander and Company, LLC; former teacher
What experience will help you in office? Atlanta business owner and former metro-Atlanta public school teacher.
Taught third grade, as well as ninth and tenth grade English literature.
Master’s degree in public administration from Georgia State University; Doctorate in jurisprudence-health law and policy (Loyola New Orleans); Post-doctorate graduate degree in health law and policy (Loyola Chicago).
Served as bullying awareness coordinator, faculty sponsor of H.O.P.E. (Hispanic Organization Promoting Education), and debate team coach.
I have also:
- Testified as an expert before the Georgia General Assembly in support of anti-bullying legislation;
- Served on the Board of Directors of AID Atlanta, the largest HIV/AIDS nonprofit organization in the Southeast (edited for length)
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? APS has much room for improvement in the following problem areas:
1.Recruiting and hiring a superintendent wiling to stay for a long-term contract;
2.Reducing central office excess;
3.Increasing accessibility and transparency to the public;
4.Spending monies effectively and wisely;
5.Ensuring that all schools are safe and welcoming learning environments;
6.Changing a one-size-fits-all approach;
7.Recognizing that all students face unique challenges and that students and parents should be met where they are;
8.Address budgeting challenges through efficiency, accountability, and effectiveness, not on the backs of teachers and school employees;
9.Improve and rebuild the relationship between the Board and City (edited for length)
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? All students, parents, teachers, and schools have unique challenges. We will end our long-standing practice of a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, we will seek input and guidance from stakeholders on the front lines to drive policies.
Pushing institutionalized directives from the central office will end. Instead, we will listen to what our teachers, students, and parents tell us that they need. The board will become responsive to these needs.
Fiscal policies will be designed to set students up for success, not failure. Teachers will have our support. Parents will have confidence in the board and administration. (edited for length)
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? All students in charter and traditional schools are APS students. It is our moral obligation to ensure that all APS students deserve to be provided with a high quality education.
The board has a mandated responsibility to ensure that the superintendent and/or other top administration officials are doing his/her jobs competently, fairly, and appropriately.
The superintendent works for the Board of Education. The Board of Education works for the students, taxpayers, voters, and all other stakeholders. These roles are intricately linked and must operate smoothly for productivity to occur.
Name: Ben Stone
Profession: Environmental insurance underwriter
What experience will help you in office? I feel a background in business is perfect for transitioning to public service. In the current economic environment you have to be nimble and resourceful to make it. I plan to aggressively tackle the challenges and give no execuses as giving the next generation the tools they will need is not something we can fail at.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? Inefficiencies in fiscal responsibility is the number one issue. The district scored a 1.5 out of 5 in fiscal efficiency by the state, which is one of the worst scores in any district in the state. We have a lot of resources in the City of Atlanta and it is imperitive that they be used wisely.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? It's a tough challenge and there are no easy answers. The good news is that we as a district have considerable resources such that it is more about deploying them wisely. One thing that hasn't shown to be effective is turning the problem schools over to private charters. We as a district need to find the answers and manage these schools under local control.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? I do not. The most recent scorecard shows half the charters performing slightly over the average of traditional schools and half below the average. We need to use our considerable resources to manage our own schools.
Board of Education Member District 9 At Large
Name: Jason Esteves (i)
Residence: Bolton - upper west side
What experience will help you in office? While my experience as an attorney and current board member will be important to my work in the next term, nothing is more influential in this work than my experience as a middle school social studies teacher. After college, I devoted myself to teaching at a school in a low-income neighborhood. I worked countless hours with students, teachers, and parents to ensure my students had the resources they needed to succeed. This experience gave me insights into the challenges our children face and the importance of public schools that help children overcome those challenges.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? APS still has a trust issue. Because of the cheating scandal, it has taken years to improve that trust, but that work is not complete. We still have to get our key stakeholders, including our parents, to trust in our decisions and hold us accountable. We also have to instill confidence with families that have not enrolled in APS for a variety of reasons.
I will address this issue by continuing to build a culture of transparency, engagement, and collaboration. There is a lot of work to be done to ensure parents and community members are fully engaged ... (edited for length)
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? To bring equity to Atlanta's poor neighborhoods, we have to address the root causes that have been exacerbated by poverty. I am committed to bringing universal early learning to APS, including 0-3 education to low-income communities in the city. I am also committed to providing universal summer learning programs to reduce the impacts of holidays and summer break on a child's education trajectory.
I will also work hard to improve our workforce to ensure we have a great leader in every school and an excellent teacher in every classroom.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? I support the superintendent's plan to turnaround our lowest performing schools, which includes partnering with local organizations to operate a small number of schools. The first of those schools was Thomasville Heights Elementary, and in the first year of the partnership with Purpose Built Schools, we have seen significant improvements in school culture and test scores. In fact, we've seen improvements in test scores from 15 of 16 "turnaround schools" that received intensive supports.
The turnaround plan, while not perfect, is our best shot of improving our lowest performing schools. (edited for length)
Board of Education Member District 1
Name: Leslie Grant (i)
Residence: Grant Park
Profession: Mother and public servant
What experience will help you in office? Over the last four years, having an opportunity to hear directly from constituents at my independently hosted Community Coffees (www.lesliegrantaboe1.com), has been a powerful investment that I plan to continue. Additionally, serving for almost four years on a board that has 1. Hired a new superintendent 2. Put a transformational plan into place to help some of our lowest performing schools, and 3. Identified some important structural weaknesses that need to be addressed, have all provided me exceptionally important experience for the next term.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? Poverty, politics and governance are the biggest issue(s) facing APS. Poverty will not be solved by APS, but we are doing what we can to attract more and better resources for our families. And we MUST have more educationally-focused partners at the city and state level. The board needs to lead a major shift in governance so that our policy, processes, and procedures are more clear and effective. And we must require a customer service platform that is about transparent accountability so that simple issues are tracked and solved.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? A new governance process needs to be put in place by the next board, to ensure that each population at each school is receiving and properly utilizing their investments for student achievement. We must also work with the city to stop the constant displacement of families and keep our students connected to our schools for a healthier amount of time. More resourced families will be added to the mix of all communities, due to the unstoppable growth projected in Atlanta, and should bring with it more resources to "poor" neighborhoods without displacing our families.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? I more than support the Turnaround Plan. I advocated for, communicated directly and honestly with families, and defended the partnership proposals with Purpose Built Schools and Kindezi when they were under attack from the fear-mongering interests of "politicians" and "federations" who were afraid of losing their foothold of control over chronically impoverished communities. Students and families need more than political posturing and words. They need quality teachers, a supportive culture, advocates, and staunch defenders of THEIR right to a great public school education.
Name: Ade Oguntoye
Residence: Chosewood Park
Profession: Social worker
What experience will help you in office? For the past 16 years I have been providing direct service and developing programs that serve the students of APS. I have worked directly with students, teachers and administrators in dozens of APS schools. Additionally I have served on several boards including currently serving on a $5 million-plus federally qualified health center board.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? I think the biggest problem stems from our lack of using all of our community assets effectively. With all the resources we have available in the city, we should have a world-class public school system. I will build true collaboration with community partners and use best practices in all schools.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? As a school system we can provide some of the resources needed to transform economically distressed neighborhoods. Partnering with early childhood providers to have centers in all appropriate elementary schools, job readiness centers on school grounds as well as making sure we reach out to the community to inform them of employment and contract opportunities with APS are ways we can directly impact community both educationally and economically.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? We have to have accountability for all schools. Charter schools and other public schools are funded by our tax dollars so we should have both ownership and oversight of what is being done in all schools. Some charter schools are doing well while others need improvement so I wouldn't lump them all together. But we should have ownership of the programs so we can use the best practices in all our schools.
Board of Education Member District 2
Name: Byron Amos (i)
Residence: Vine City
Profession: Aviation security
What experience will help you in office? As a dedicated father, community leader, product of APS and a father of an APS student, I have a keener insight on what it is taking and will take to move the district forward. The decisions made over the last few years are now beginning to show positive results, we must continue the work.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? The two most important challenges Atlanta Public School will face are the access to a more equitable education system and the need to improve the number of students reading at grade level. To provide an equitable education system to all, I will propose that we develop an Individual education plan (IEP) for every student. I would also continue to advocate for early childhood education. Early childhood education programs and a comprehensive strategy to address reading must be implemented.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? I would seek to adopt policies like other districts that seek to improve academic opportunities for all students and reduce achievement gaps between groups of students. This is done by proactively working to eradicate inequities that perpetuate negative stereotypes about groups of students, marginalized students or staff who seek to disrupt institutional bias, and restrict access to rigorous academic programs for certain groups of students based on race, special education placement, and other factors.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? I support the development of a quality education system that provides access to an equitable education for all. This is something that I know APS can produce in house without turning over our schools to third party providers.
Facebook: Boardmember Byron Amos
Name: Tony Burks
Residence: Washington Park
Profession: Educational consultant and coach
What experience will help you in office? I've worked in education across the country for 25 years. I've been a teacher, magnet director, college instructor, and school transformation coach. I've also been a principal, a principal mentor, and an area superintendent. I started teaching at 22 and became an elementary principal at 27. I am the founding principal of The Early College at Guilford, North Carolina’s first early college high school and one of the first of its kind in the world.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? Equity is among our biggest problems; we operate in a tale of two school districts. I’d address equity as financial and educational matters. Board members are interpreters of the budget, the budgeting process, and expenditures. I’ll advocate for transparency and budget education. I’ll advocate for schools and the district budgets be posted in a user-friendly, interactive format on school and district websites. I’ll advocate for sustainable academic and social support for all students.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? If APS is truly about continual improvement, it’s important that the Board of Education removes barriers and roadblocks to create conditions for those at schools to do their best work with students. The district policies should enable the schools to provide supports that are flexible, timely, and responsive to the intensity, length, and manner of support each student needs to succeed. Academic and social support should be available to all students as a standard.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? My career as a leader and supervisor of leaders focused on school improvement. I am not in favor of turning over schools and washing our hands clean of continual improvement work. Data shows that APS needs change. Atlanta’s systemic challenge is implementation, programmatic fidelity, and leadership stability. We should be asking, “Is this the right change that will usher in continual improvement?” It’s important to examine the progress of the current APS School Turnaround Plan.
Name: Keisha Carey
Residence: Atlanta Historic Vine City community
Profession: Wireless corporate business Sprint
What experience will help you in office? As an elementary and high school graduate of APS and having served as a former substitute teacher, my experience which will help me in office is the knowledge that the role of a Board of Education member is to serve as an advocate for fair education rights, structure and policies while keeping in mind that casting a single critical decision vote among peers will impact students, parents, teachers, staff, community, city, state and the nation as a whole.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? There is a need to review charter versus public schools in the areas of low performance. I will work diligently in order to determine and provide solutions for learning so that students can maintain and achieve higher performance .
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? Partnerships with organizations and business within the community and abroad to create programs of interest that will enable students to learn skills and trades most specifically for those that may not be college bound. For those who are college bound, work with these same groups to create more revenue to earn academic scholarships.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? No. There have been many discussions surrounding this subject. Although it appears that the push has become a reality, the current Board of Education has not focused on obtaining enough feedback nor listened to the needs and wants of the community including parents, teachers, students and classified employees which represent the entire APS system. Instead they have made drastic changes opposed to improvements which has created an environment of unevenness and uncertainty for the future.
Board of Education Member District 3
Name: Adzua Agyapon
Profession: Kindergarten Teacher
What experience will help you in office? As the only teacher, education advocate, or former elected official running, I am uniquely qualified to represent our district. I know first-hand how policies created in the boardroom impact our students in the classroom. This experience coupled with my past tenure as an elected leader in the city of New Haven, while a student at Yale, has prepared me to serve.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? One of APS’ biggest challenges is educational equity, specifically a lack of consistent high-quality instruction and uneven access to early learning programs across the district. I plan to address these issues by expanding crucial early learning programs, as well as recruiting, training, and retaining the best teachers.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? One way to bring equity to underserved communities is to make sure we are reaching kids from birth to age five. By age 3, children from low-income families have heard 30 million fewer words than children from more affluent families. Accordingly, one of my top priorities is to expand access to early learning opportunities and pre-K through collaboration with city council and the mayor’s office.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? I support the turnaround plan because, so far, it appears to be working. The turnaround plan provides intensive support to our most struggling schools and students by leveraging the strengths and proven leadership of educators in our city and providing them with the wraparound supports needed to ensure equitable access to an excellent education.
Phone number: (404)919-1879
Name: Lewis Cartee
Residence: East Atlanta
Profession: Territory sales manager
What experience will help you in office? From leading both a community association and school governance team to representing NPU and the educational cluster, I bring a balanced approach to leadership that makes me uniquely able to view issues from multiple perspectives in order to provide a solution that is best for all students and communities.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? Equity: This is not only the single biggest issues facing public education, but the number one issue facing our city. By working to create equity in our schools, we will also, concurrently, do the same for our city.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? Early childhood education: Universal birth-pre k allows for proactive use of dollars for the greatest impact on achievement.
Local governance: Building a more productive voice within each school, teachers, principals, parents and community members can make specific changes impacting equity.
Partnerships: By electing public servants that truly believe in order to acquire the equity we all want, the diversity we all need and the city we all deserve we must first focus on our schools.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? Using nonprofit partners, bringing new, fresh and proven ideas, can allow the district to support the whole child both in and outside of the classroom. I support exploring any idea that pushes forward student outcomes, but only while including all children in the academic opportunities presented.
Name: Michelle Olympiadis
Profession: Real estate manger and coordiantor of afternoon Greek language program
What experience will help you in office? An APS parent since 2007 with three children - (1) high school, (1) middle school and (1) elementary school, and with local, council and district levels of leadership in Parent Teacher Associations, service on local governance teams, state, district, and cluster advisory panels, I am positioned as the most engaged candidate. My work experience includes marketing positions with The Coca-Cola Company and Wachovia Bank, and service with the Consulate General of France in Atlanta.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? The management of our budget. Until we fully understand where the money is, we will not have equity. We must continue to question where dollars are being budgeted so that we can move more dollars directly into our schoolhouses to support wraparound services and enrichment. We must create stability in our communities that have deficits by addressing the need for health and mental services and adequate affordable housing and food.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? Wraparound services - Equity begins with stability.
There are circumstances outside of the schoolhouse that impact children, families and communities. We need to understand the deficits facing communities and get them addressed. The solutions will vary but can be solved through reallocated budget dollars and partnerships to ensure that needs are being met such as adequate health care, mental health services, additional tutoring, additional enrichment, safe affordable housing, adequate food, and birth to preschool education.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not?
Yes. It addresses students today in some of the lowest performing schools in the district. As we continue to look for strong leaders and at the budget to find dollars to go directly into schoolhouses, we must support our current population. The biggest controversy with the Turnaround Plan was the lack of direct involvement with the communities involved. That is an important takeaway that needs to be better implemented in the future.
Name: Antoine Trammell
Residence: Druid Hills, Virgina-Highland
Profession: Physician, educator, public health professional, and researcher
What experience will help you in office? I have experience helping people solve real-world situations through evidence-based approaches and policy advocacy. I have firsthand knowledge of the effects of limited education and the importance of effective policy to improve them. Public health training and research experience equip with skills to interpret and design studies necessary to answer critical questions and obtain data upon which policy is based. I am also experienced evaluating policy impacts and engaging policymakers for change.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? The diminished value of public education. Education outcomes of our school system are inconsistent with the financial investment as the APS budget exceeds the budget for Atlanta. Budget review to eliminate non-essential spending while improving educational delivery can restore the financial and educational balance. System efficiency can be improved by evaluating the effectiveness of current programs. Business community partnerships can be explored as additional sources of education funding.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? Property taxes and local resources alone may be inadequate to overcome challenges to educational delivery. First, draw on the experience of people in the communities. Engage and work with them to determine specific barriers and possible solutions to achieving educational equity. Next, investigate business partnerships to equalize educational opportunity with program and service funding. Education investment supports the well-being of Atlanta with the return of a productive future workforce, leadership pool, and social equity.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? I do not support the privatization of public education. Governance structure in the charter system contract is the local governance council, superintendent, and school board except for the charter schools specified in the agreement. Communities best know their needs including education demands and what is required to meet them. Local empowerment over local education should remain. Awareness of needs and capacity to meet needs differ, but assistance fulfilling needs can occur without turn over.
Name: Rashida Winfrey (did not respond)
Board of Education Member District 4
Name: Nancy Meister (i) (did not respond)
Board of Education Member District 5
Name: D'Jaris "DJ" James
Residence: Cascade Commons
Profession: HR talent acquisition
What experience will help you in office? I feel my experience in talent acquisition will allow me to give a better insight on career planning and development with our youth. Receiving a bachelors degree in psychology gives me a clear understanding of how to interpret data and make recommendations that will produce results.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? Budget and the inability to increase both graduation CCRPI rates. Both go hand in and I would have experts come address the faculty and staff to explain the data including sample error. Target students that have been identified as “low hanging fruit” and implement additional class sessions even if it means I help with the facilitation. Ask principals to consider subgroups that will focus on drills or partner stars and developing students together.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? Identifying the needs of the children as early as possible so that additional services can be provided for them. Along with investing in the community through other avenues outside of education such as partnering with the community and fostering growth. Making sure low-income areas are aware of opportunities that will lead to better outcomes.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? No, however but I do believe a collaboration is needed so best practices can be discussed and properly implemented. I feel as a board when turning schools over to charter operators it would leave the stigma of either the board or the schools’ leadership is ineffective.
Facebook: D'Jaris 'DJ' James (https://www.facebook.com/djaris4district5
Name: Raynard Johnson (did not respond)
Name: Jatisha Marsh
Profession: Human resources manager
What experience will help you in office? I worked for Atlanta Public Schools as a teacher, homeless tutor, after-school program director, virtual academy teacher, and human resources analyst. I have a master’s of public policy from the Andrew Young School at Georgia State University; I completed my graduate internship in the APS Office of Policy and Governance. I had the opportunity to shape policy in my role in human resources and as a graduate intern.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? Students must feel safe before learning can take place. The school must be a welcoming environment for students, parents, staff, and community.
The board is charged with hiring and evaluating a superintendent and approving a budget. The superintendent must be ultimately accountable for the climate in our schools through the annual evaluation process. I will support budgetary outlays that are proven to improve school climate and safety.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? APS has commissioned equity studies in the past; another has been proposed. APS has to engage parents, community members, teachers, and leaders for their feedback. Stakeholders must have a shared definition of equity. We know some of the significant areas for inequity. Actual implementation and regular monitoring of recommendations must take place. The district must hold itself accountable for taking action. As a board member, I will make decisions through the lens of equity.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? Many APS charter schools have a long waiting list because parents are not pleased with the climate in their neighborhood school. Going forward, it is the job of the district to provide a world-class education to the students. APS should elevate, find, and hire staff that can increase student achievement. The district should engage parents to find out what they find attractive about individual charter schools and what can be replicated in traditional schools.
Name: Erika Yvette Mitchell (did not respond)
Name: Bobby K. Montgomery
Residence: Northwest Atlanta
Profession: Entrepreneur/media partner
What experience will help you in office? I have experience in the classroom as a teacher for grades K-12 and special education. I was also certified in early education per the GACE standards for the State of Georgia. This firsthand front lines experience intimately qualifies me to speak on behalf of the needs of the teachers, administrators, and most importantly the children. I have seen with my own eyes the problems that are plaguing our classrooms and destroying the morale of our teachers that give everything to a system that is constantly taking away from them. This cycle must be addressed and has to change.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? Many times teachers and administrators are called on to be "super heroes" for the children. While many go above and beyond, it takes a village to raise thriving healthy children. One major problem that I will address is to begin welcoming the local community and parents into the plans for APS and local schools. I will create events and more opportunities for the community to be a part of the children's educational journey and have an idea of APS budget plans for the district. The community must have a vested interest in the local education of its youth. (edited for length)
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? It starts in taking care of the little things. We need to get feedback from the teachers and the children on the things that can be done right away to change the environment or the culture at these schools. We must get the local business support and even the corporate support of companies that benefit off these communities. This will help offset the lack of resources available from the residents. There are many concerned business leaders that understand the importance of having all of Atlanta's young future being the best and the brightest. (edited for length)
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? I support what works and what is most effective. In some instances, charter schools provide a viable option to help get the children and struggling schools to a more equitable position. This has only become a popular option due to the lack of leadership transparency, integrity, and faith that APS has the children's best interest in mind. In other examples, a charter school would not make sense. Especially if the results are not dramatically creating a better opportunity and environment for the children. We have to do right by the children ... (edited for length)
Name: Jackye Rhodes
Residence: Chalet/Peyton Woods community
Profession: Retired educator/ Realtor
What experience will help you in office? Both of my children were educated in and graduated from APS schools. During the time when my children attended APS schools, I served as treasurer of Garden Hills PTA and other support committees for their schools. I am the only candidate with 38 years of experience teaching APS students. I have experienced firsthand the impact of board policies on the abilities of both teachers and administrators to provide a quality education for our kids. I served as member of a visiting team for SACS with the responsibility of making recommendation about how those schools could improve their academic programs.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? The biggest problem is that 66 percent of our student cannot read by the end of the third grade! Given that this skill is a central component in our overall educational program, when a student finishes the third grade without being able to read, that student is condemned to largely remedial work for the remainder of his/her stay in high school. We can solve this problem by assigning reading specialists at underperforming schools.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? Work with Go Teams to establish appropriate goals for the schools and then provide whatever wraparound resources are necessary, within reason, to achieve those goals. For example, schools in poor neighborhoods might be provided with the financial incentives they need to keep their better teachers and to attract other caring and competent teachers to work at their schools.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? No! Schools should be the center of our communities. Parents and other community leaders should be equipped with the skills they need to guide and monitor the operations of their schools.
Board of Education Member District 6
Name: Eshe' Collins (i)
Residence: Princeton Lakes
Profession: Program and community director
What experience will help you in office? As your current District 6 representative, I am an Atlanta native, attorney and former educator in Atlanta Public Schools. My experience is the combination of my classroom, policy and legal work. Currently, I serve as the program and community director for Jumpstart, a national, early education nonprofit. I earned a B.A. in psychology from Spelman College, M.S. in urban teacher leadership from Georgia State University and J.D., cum laude, from North Carolina Central University School of Law.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? Equity is the major issue facing Atlanta Public Schools. If decisions are not made from an equitable lens, we will continue to marginalize children with the greatest needs. The investment of more direct resources on the school level, recruitment and retention of great educators, a more student-based budget, heightened transparency and engagement are avenues to address this issue. Allyship is pivotal to addressing equity, and the restoration of community trust is imperative to overcome inequities.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? Poverty and inequity is a harsh reality for Atlanta Public Schools. Our academic programming must incorporate a wholistic approach, such as the inclusion of early education and literacy, wraparound services, social emotional learning and stronger family engagement. We must strengthen our partnership with other entities to support our children after school hours. Lastly, we must align funding and budgets to support this direction.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? I believe the Turnaround Plan is a solid, comprehensive start to helping some of APS’s most struggling schools. The plan encompasses a variety of interventions such as intensive student support, talent development, and partnerships with other education organizations, such as charter school operators. These partnerships are not relinquishments, but collective efforts to help support our schools. While everyone does not agree on every strategy of this plan, it provides strong opportunities to improve student achievement.
Facebook: Eshe Collins for APS
Name: Patreece Hutcherson
Residence: Brentwood community
Profession: School counselor
What experience will help you in office? I am a concerned parent that wants to stop school closings. I have also been in education for 15 years. I know what it is to be a working parent with limited time that needs support from city leaders. I didn't get that support from the current school board. That is why I am running to change the way people are treated.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? The school closings are the biggest issue. It was given a name to make it seem like it was helpful by saying school turnaround. That is how the current board operates. They mask and cover up things in order to confuse people. Then we end up with empty buildings in our community. That has to stop. I will be more transparent in order to listen to the voice of the people.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? Going out to the community and sharing information where they are. The same way people campaign to get in office, should be the same way they share information once they are elected.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? Absolutely not! My son was in the APS system when the school turn around started. His teachers started fleeing because they were in fear of losing their jobs. My son thought he was a failure because his school was called low performing. It was and still is awful and must change.
Name: Donta A. McMichael
Residence: Hidden Creste Apartments
Profession: Youth mental health assistant (Peachford Hospital) and after-school teacher (T.H. Slater Elementary)
What experience will help you in office? I've worked as Co-chair of policy council for Easter Seals of North Georgia, teacher and gym Instructor for The Boys & Girls Club, counselor for Youth Villages, after-school teacher for Charles R. Drew Charter, APEC Learning Center, and T.H. Slater Elementary. I also started a collegiate organization that focused on community engagement, which was recognized as Georgia Southern University's "Best New Student Organization" in Spring 2012. Currently, I’m a Lead Youth Mental Health Assistant.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? APS needs to create solutions that address the deficits in literacy and math in our primary and secondary schools, as well as the graduation rates within our high schools. This can be made possible by enhancing strategic leadership at the school, local, state and federal levels. Engaging and partnering with parents, cultivating relationships with both students and teachers, and creating school communication plans are just a few things I plan on incorporating when in office.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? Some of the changes that I wish to implement once elected include; finding the resources necessary to provide underfunded schools with technological equipment, and furnishings to support state-of-the-art teaching and learning. Promote academic and workforce development programs that prepare students for high-demand jobs to assist with breaking the cycle of poverty within our communities. I also plan to find the proper resources to gain high-quality infrastructure within our schools that’ll profoundly help shape student outcome.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? I do not support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators. Carstarphen’s turnaround strategy will fail or, at best, yield short-term results. As seen with Gov. Deal’s proposed OSD plan, a majority of voters aren’t too fond of the idea of our schools being taken over by outside entities, especially charter schools that are known for profiting and privatizing our schools instead of prioritizing our students. This plan is simply too risky!
Name: Valrie Walker Sanders
Residence: Cascade/Adams Park
Profession: Census field officer
What experience will help you in office? My legal training, as well as my training in the master's program at Georgia State, working with English language learners and struggling readers, has helped me to understand the needs of many students. I engaged students as a substitute teacher for Atlanta Public Schools; utilized strategies to help struggling students in an after-school program; and successfully tutored under-performing students in Fulton County Schools, for the CRCT. Additionally, I have volunteered for several years with community groups such as SCLC/W.O.M.E.N. and connected immigrant communities with the wider population.
What is the biggest problem facing Atlanta schools and how will you address it? Currently, two-thirds of Georgia’s third-graders are unable to read at grade levels. This lack of literacy will impact a student's ability to learn content. Failure to read may also lead to discipline problems, dropping out of high school, unemployment, and trouble with the legal system. I would advocate for healthy food for brain development; mandatory physical activity; and a diversified curriculum to include music and the arts. This will give students the motivation to learn the mundane skills needed for the standardized tests in the fundamentals.
What changes would you propose to bring equity to Atlanta schools in poor neighborhoods? First, it is imperative that these schools have fair and adequate funding, and that the teachers have the requisite skills and knowledge. Students can learn in any environment if they feel valued, safe and have pride in their neighborhoods. Because of the ethnically diverse communities in Atlanta, students are able to learn from each other, especially when this diversity is also reflected in the curriculum. This has the potential to prepare students to compete and live in a global setting wherever they choose to live as adults.
Do you support the superintendent's push to turn schools over to charter operators? Why or why not? I am opposed to the "turnover" policy because there is no evidence that charter schools have outperformed properly funded public schools with skilled teaching staff. Innovation is impressive, but not at the expense of students learning the fundamentals. Additionally, I am also concerned about the possibility of public funds being used without adequate accountability. I know that some charter schools have been unsuccessful and have had to close; however, there little discussion about the funds expended.