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. Note: This Q&A was received after our Sept. 18 deadline to submit answers. We will not run any new Q&A’s after Oct. 16.
1) Why are you running for Atlanta School Board?
I am not running for office. I am running for our children. We must continue to build a new culture in Atlanta Public Schools – a culture of high expectations for our students, talented teachers and leaders, challenging curricula and a system of supporters that makes all students feel like they are cared for. To have the greatest impact, we must address the issue of equity within our school system. We must unify school leaders, students, parents and community around a common mission and a commitment to quality. We must effectively align Pre-K-12 education with the knowledge and skills students will need to succeed in college, career, and life. Our children can do better, and we can do a better job supporting them.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
As the current District 6 school board member, I’ve spent the last four years advocating for our students and their families, staff and schools on the Atlanta Board of Education. For the entire term, I’ve served as Chair of the policy committee for the entire term and created policies on family engagement, affordable housing, progressive discipline, and more. An Atlanta native, attorney and former teacher in Atlanta Public Schools, my work within urban settings has been the combination of my classroom, policy and legal experience. Currently, I serve as the Program and Community Director for Jumpstart, a national, early education non-profit, where I work with organizations and communities to provide high-quality early education to all children. Prior to joining Jumpstart, I taught at A.D. Williams Elementary School as a 4th and 5th grade teacher. I have the knowledge and experience, in and out of the classroom, to make sure all of Atlanta’s children succeed.
3) What do you think is Atlanta Schools’ greatest strength?
Our greatest strength is everyone’s renewed commitment to ensure our children graduate college and career ready. From our district leaders to bus drivers, everyone has worked hard to stabilize the school system. The investment of more resources in our schools and classrooms, recruitment and retention of great educators, a more fiscally responsible budget, heightened transparency and engagement has served the district well.
4) What do you think is Atlanta Schools’ biggest challenge?
Equity – Equity is a major challenge for Atlanta schools. It is the driver of all other issues. From school resources to school closures to accessibility to budget parameters, equity is the common denominator. If we do not make decisions from an equitable lens, we will continue to perpetrate the same system in need of change and further marginalize children with the greatest needs.
Engagement – Restoration of community trust and true partnership is one of biggest challenges. We must create and implement a plan that welcomes our community and partners back into our school system. Allyship is pivotal to the future success of APS and the way we engage communities in our schools is the catalyst for this change.
5) How would you address what you feel is Atlanta Schools’ biggest challenge?
As the current board member, I will continue to advocate and make decisions in the absolute best interests of our children. The conversations have been tough, and the decisions have been even tougher. We must continue to have an open dialogue about progress within our schools and how we, as an entire community, can support them. I will continue to be completely transparent about issues affecting our schools and decisions to support their improvement.
6) What are the top two or three things you plan to focus on during your term as an elected official?
A. Continue to strengthen our family and community engagement, including rebuild our relationships with all stakeholder groups and entities
B. Continue to redirect more resources and funding to our schools while maintaining a strong, stable position to ensure sustainability.
C. Continue to build on APS’s turnaround strategy to support our most struggling schools, including transforming early learning opportunities for all children
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?
As one of the current board members, who hired our current superintendent, I think that Dr. Carstarphen has been a very strong superintendent. At the time of her selection, APS was in the middle of the cheating scandal and trials, unstable school leadership, an imbalanced budget, incomplete infrastructure projects and more issues that impacted student achievement. Over the last four years, the Superintendent, and the team she built, has worked hard to stabilize the school system. Under her direction, we’ve reduced administrative spending and moved more resources to our schools. Our budget, human resources and operational processes have transformed in a more transparent and accountable way. New departments, such as the Office of Partnerships and Family and Community Engagement Office, were created to strengthen our community and external relationships.
Now, this has not been an easy process. Any form of change and newness comes with strong support and criticism simultaneously. Under her leadership, tough decisions were made to remedy long-standing issues in the school system, as well as remove barriers so our children can continue to move forward. We’ve seen increases in our high school graduation rates, more college prep opportunities, and inclusion of wraparound services, social emotional learning and stronger family engagement. We are in the beginning stages of these decisions, and I am hopeful that they will have the greatest, positive impact on our children.
8) If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?
Yes, I do. I always have and will continue to do so.