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’m running because I care about the students of the Atlanta Public Schools. I believe I have something to offer students and community in the City of Atlanta, specifically District 2. I have worked in education across the country since 1993. I worked in APS from 2012 to 2015. I’ve led other educators as a college instructor, a mentor, and an area superintendent twice. I started teaching when I was 22. I became an elementary school principal at the age of 27. I’ve been a classroom teacher, an elementary school principal, and a high school principal twice. I’ve served schools and districts in roles from Magnet Director to School Transformation Coach, from Principal Mentor to Executive Director of Small School Innovation, and from School Improvement Officer to Area Superintendent. I am the founding principal of The Early College at Guilford, North Carolina’s first early college high school and one of the first such schools of its type in the world.
Over the last 25 years, I’ve learned from some of the best educators, board members, and educational leaders around. I’ve helped thousands of children and their families grow and learn. I’ve also learned lots from my students. It is a combination of my personal and educational experiences as well as the policy and governance skills I have developed that would allow me to work with board members, the superintendent, and the community to make things better for our students. Together we will do great things for our children and the Atlanta Public Schools.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
Life has a way of changing your plans. I always knew I would be working with a board of education. I just assumed I would be in the role of a superintendent which had been a lifelong goal. After a series of life changes, I reflected and asked myself “How can I continue to serve the children of Atlanta and use the skills, training, and educational experience I have accumulated over the years to benefit my community?” This led me to a decision to run for the Atlanta Board of Education District 2 seat.
I am THE choice for the Atlanta Board of Education District 2 seat because I bring to the table actual educational experience from the classroom to administration. I bring formal training in policy and governance. I have a unique perspective that will guide the way I work with fellow board members, the superintendent, and the community to make things better for our students. I am the only candidate with a 25-year career in education, a career that is defined by what Dr. John Robert Browne defines as “culturally courageous leadership” in support of today’s learners as leaders and innovators.
3) What do you think is Atlanta Public Schools’ greatest strength?
The greatest strength of Atlanta Public Schools is people (our students, our parents and our staff). The way we will transform all of our schools into places where children and adults thrive is by focusing on children and supporting the adults who support children. The core work of education involves relationship and human effort. We must ask the critical questions about how we are supporting students, teachers, and staff, and how we are engaging parents.
4) What do you think is Atlanta Public Schools’ biggest challenge?
Atlanta’s biggest challenge is equity. We operate in a system that is still a tale of two school districts: The Haves and the Have Nots. Equity is just a big word for making sure students and schools get what they need to be successful. Fairness and inclusion are key parts of equity. Equity doesn’t mean equal. For example, being equal would be giving everyone shoes to wear and those shoes would be “one-size-fits-all”. Equity would be giving everyone shoes to wear and those shoes would fit each person (so my shoes would be Size 14 and yours might be a Size 10). The whole point of equity is to remove roadblocks and barriers so our children succeed.
5) How would you address what you feel is Atlanta Public Schools’ biggest challenge?
I would address equity (what I believe to be our district’s greatest challenge) as a two-fold challenge that is financial and educational.
To address equity from a financial perspective: It is no secret that schools and districts operate in permanent financial whitewater with ongoing challenges and concerns. The board is responsible for developing overall policies to support the superintendent in creating and monitoring a comprehensive district budget. The board also serves as steward of the district’s budget and expenses. I am interested in a holistic fiscal management process to support near- and long-term goals (growth and needs) that includes a budget stabilization plan, a student-friendly budget book, engaged GO Teams that inform school-based spending, and an ongoing budget development and monitoring process. I would like to see each school’s budget, as well as the district’s budget, posted in a user-friendly, interactive format on school and district websites.
To address equity from an educational perspective: If APS is truly about continuous improvement, it is important that the Board of Education–as a governance body–removes barriers and roadblocks in order to create conditions for those at schools to do their best work with students. The board can work to ensure administrators, teachers, support specialists, and other staff members provide the support each student needs to be academically and socially successful. Academic and Social support should be available to all students regardless of whether their parents request additional support or whether state and federal policies (e.g., Title I, IEPs, 504 plans) obligate the school to provide supplemental services. 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. The district should also commit to supporting its human capital through comprehensive professional-development opportunities and job-embedded professional learning for all staff.
6) What are the top two or three things you plan to focus on during your term as an elected official?
My top three priorities are children, learning, and community.
CHILDREN/SAFETY. James Baldwin was right, “These are all our children; we will benefit by or pay for what they become.” I want to focus on the overall academic, social, physical, and personal wellness of students and their families to help our students achieve their dreams.
LEARNING/EXCELLENCE. I want to focus on creating conditions that help educators help students. Again, when we remove roadblocks and barriers, our children succeed. We must continue trying innovative things to help our students. Likewise, we also must simply do the right things and do the right things well to help our students achieve excellence.
COMMUNITY/ENGAGEMENT. I know that I can’t do this work alone. In fact, none of us–not teachers and principals, parents and grandparents, the superintendent and her staff–can do this alone. It’ll take us working together as an effective team. When we are visible and transparent, we can connect families to help our students be their best. Public education–at its heart–is about community. I know from my work in Tennessee, California, and North Carolina that community matters. We can have a great idea; however, if it isn’t connected to the community, it won’t be successful and it won’t last. In the end, schools succeed when the community is informed, involved and engaged.
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?
In the years that I worked in APS, I observed a driven district leader. She is hardworking and has innovative ideas. Is she the right leader for APS? I can not answer that question at this time.
As a board member, I would have the opportunity to review data, review the superintendent’s evaluations and goals, the overall district strategy and financial information. I believe that it is important that people are judged fairly. Additionally, people should have an opportunity to discuss their plans and visions for improvement and any concerns. Also the role of board member is both individual and collective. As part of the collective, I would discuss what the board sees as the needs of the district.
8) If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?
Absolutely! I will continue to conduct myself in an ethical and transparent manner as I have done over the course of my career in education.