In an effort to help voters prepare for the Nov. 7 elections, Atlanta Loop sent questions to candidates running for Atlanta City Council, Atlanta Mayor and Atlanta School Board. Early voting begins Oct. 16. To see district maps, click here.
1) Why are you running for Atlanta School Board?
I am running for re-election because I know that our work to make APS the school system Atlanta’s families deserve is not done. Since you elected me three years ago, I have worked hard with my colleagues to stabilize a school system that had been rocked by scandal and dysfunction for years. We shored up APS’s finances and redirected more money than ever to school sites and classrooms. We reduced the size of the central office, and empowered school leaders and neighborhoods to drive the direction of their schools. And we developed and have begun to implement a plan to turn around APS’s lowest performing schools.
Because of these actions, we have seen positive movement. The graduation rate has increased by double digits in four years. Approximately 2/3rds of our schools improved on state-mandated exams last year. We have increased our partnerships with non-profits and business, which has significantly increased access to needed wraparound services. And there is more interest to join APS as a teacher or staff member to help our students thrive.
The school board’s next term will be pivotal to ensuring that APS remains on an upwards trajectory.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
Fortunately, I do not have any opponents, which makes me the best candidate by default!
3) What do you think is Atlanta Schools’ greatest strength?
APS’s greatest strength is its students. Our students want to succeed. They are just as ambitious and willing to work as hard as anyone reading this publication. We just need to engage each student in the educational process and provide them with the opportunities to succeed and receive a quality education.
4) What do you think is Atlanta Schools’ biggest challenge?
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 and community, 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.
5) How would you address what you feel is Atlanta Schools’ biggest challenge?
To address this issue, we have to continue to work towards the first part of our mission: With a caring culture of trust and collaboration, every student will graduate ready for college and career. Building a culture of transparency, engagement, and collaboration with our stakeholders is that we’ve focused on since the first day of our term. But there is still work to be done to ensure parents and community members are fully engaged in our work and the results of that work. That will take a lot of communication and feedback, so we have to provide opportunities for that to occur.
6) What are the top two or three things you plan to focus on during your term as an elected official?
In addition to tackling the issue discussed above, my top three priorities are:
A. Ensure every classroom and school has a great teacher and principal; recruit and retain the best talent in the state.
B. Provide universal early learning and summer learning for all children in Atlanta.
C. Engage key stakeholders to improve culture in APS and community.
7) What is your opinion of the current superintendent? Are you happy with her leadership or do you want the school system to go in a different direction?
Dr. Carstarphen has done a great job in leading the charge to put the school system on an upward trajectory. Along the way, she has always put students first and made the tough decisions necessary to ensure that APS is doing its best to provide students with a quality education.
It is important that we stay the course and implement our plans with fidelity.
8) If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?