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VOTE411 Voter Guide

Atlanta Board of Education Member, District 7 At Large

The School Board is the elected governing body of a school district. The School Board provides funds for the operation and maintenance of the system, adopts courses of study, prescribes standards for operation and improvement of the schools, provides for planning, expansion and improvements of facilities, employs personnel, approves the budget, financial reports and major expenditures, and appoints and evaluates the school superintendent
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    Kandis Wood Jackson Attorney

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    Micah A. Rowland Systems Administrator

  • John Wright

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Biographical Information

What experience do you bring to the job and what is your motivation to serve as a school board member?

If elected, what would be your two top policy priorities and how would you work to achieve results?

What are the most significant challenges to quality public education in your school district? List two and explain how you will pursue them.

Which educational reform idea do you believe has the most promise for your school system?

What efforts do you support to raise the student achievement in each of the schools in the local school district and increase graduation rates?

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Campaign Phone (404) 964-6427
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 and impacting policy by rallying for the cause

My main motivation is to protect our traditional public schools from privatization so that all children may have access to one of the greatest gifts in life which is an equitable world-class education. My proven track record of success as an advocate speaks to my tireless dedication and passion to our children.
The first policy would focus on building teacher/staff. Teachers are in need of a protective mechanism that is independent of the school system. Currently, teachers are faced with calling a whistleblower number which is tied directly to the district. Teachers and staff are not comfortable expressing their concerns through this process because it can be compromised. During the cheating scandal, teachers and staff were intimidated and retaliated against for speaking up about unfair treatment. This culture of fear and intimidation still exist today. 100+ teachers over the age of 40 are suing the district for age discrimination. In order for children to reach their highest potential, they must have strong models to follow. If our teachers and staff feel broken, we will continue to have a broken system.

The second policy would evolve around community engagement. The trust factor has eroded over the years with the Atlanta Public Schools. Therefore, a new bridge of must be established. This bridge will be built on transparent communication, effective outreach to our parents and paying close attention to the needs of the community as it relates to the child. These components are essential to the task of achieving a world-class educational system. The next four years will be challenging for the new board. With the community as a strong partner, I believe we can successfully overcome any obstacle as long as we make KIDS FIRST!

The challenges facing quality public education in Atlanta comes from within. It starts at the top. In working with a strong board, I will focus on stabilizing the system by assessing the strengths and the weaknesses of the district. We would then develop a plan of action with milestones on how we are going to effectively change the dynamics of a so-called failing system into a world-class system. We will present our findings to the public in a transparent manner. This will be the start of how we regain trust and support from the community which has deteriorated over the years. We must bring the community back into our schools.
If elected, I will work diligently with my fellow board members on reform. Atlanta Public Schools is in a unique situation where our children were victims of the worst cheating scandal in U.S. history. Most people believe that it was only the erasure of answers on a test, but it was far more heinous. The children were not taught on the level of being prepared for success. Faced with substitute teachers in math and science, no books to take home and schools with no plan of action for discipline, children are now challenged with reading deficits. The impact of the Cheating Scandal will live with us until the year 2021. In order to make our children whole, the board must act with a sense of urgency to supply remediation district-wide.
I support literacy, literacy and more literacy! When a child can read and comprehend what he or she has read, it lends itself to creating a confident student. A confident student will be more than capable of facing new and exciting challenges academically. I strongly believe that literacy is the foundation where the child can visualize a future they’re a part of versus one in which they would feel left behind in. Graduation rates will not be an issue because we will have developed students who are more goal oriented and self-motivated. With consistent encouragement and guidance from a nurturing staff, our children should be prepared for the world’s stage.
Campaign Phone (404) 556-7474
My experience includes: teaching Sixth Grade Social Studies in a Title I school in West Atlanta from 2008-2010. My experience as a teacher in an almost all-Black school where most of my students received free or reduced lunch formed by believe that various social, political, and economic factors can often undermine the community-wide goal of providing quality public education to every student. I am running for the Board to address these challenges. My experience also includes my legal studies at Harvard Law School and my current litigation experience as an attorney at Alston & Bird LLP.

I am motivated to serve as a school board member because education is the most powerful tool we can provide our children to ensure their future success and, for that reason, all children deserve excellent public schools. As a former teacher and a current corporate attorney, I have the right legal training, business acumen, classroom experience, and passion for education to help make the promise of excellence for every child a reality in APS.
I will prioritize five Ls: Leadership, Literacy, Learning, Life, and Love. For purposes of this response, I will focus on the first two: Leadership and Literacy.

As to Leadership, I will prioritize working within the budget to recruit and retain effective, entrepreneurial, excellence-driven leaders -- from the top down. This includes principals and school leaders, administrators, staff, and the superintendent. I will work to make sure that every classroom has a quality teacher in it, and that every school has an effective leader managing it. This is imperative to student success.

As to Literacy, I will invest in strategies that are proven to increase literacy rates, both in reading and math. According to a recent study, only 40% of third graders in Metro Atlanta were proficient in reading in the 2014-2015 school-year. Research shows that, if children are behind in reading in the third grade, they generally stay behind for the rest of their schooling. Moreover, only 38% of eighth graders are meeting state math standards. This is unacceptable. On the Board, I will work within our budget and with the Superintendent to implement strategies known to improve these numbers.
(1) 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. There are zip codes within APS with incredibly low “child scores,” according to recent data from the United Way of Greater Atlanta. This is unacceptable to me. We cannot teach in a vacuum; it is much more difficult for a child who is hungry, hurting, or homeless to learn.

To bring equity to these neighborhoods, I will invest in the 5 L's outlined above. More specifically, and as to the "Learning" prong, I will focus on minimizing external impediments to a child's ability to learn. I know that experiences occurring outside the classroom can have a big impact on a child’s ability to learn inside the classroom. I will work with other Board Members to build community partnerships and offer wraparound services to students and their parents. These will include nutritional, mental health, family support, and other key services.

(2) Earning the respect and trust of our communities. All parents deserve to be able to send their child to their local public school and feel confident that, in doing so, their child will receive a high-quality education. Parents and the broader Atlanta community should be able to sincerely believe that the City prioritizes our children's education in the same way they do. I will bring this spirit to the Board.
I support any initiative that is kids-focused, excellence-driven, and results-oriented. 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 (such as its potential violation of teachers' due process rights, e.g.) while simultaneously earning the respect and trust of the communities that the plan impacts the most.
Among other things, I will support the goals of the five Ls outlined above. In addition to Leadership, Literacy, and Learning (which I've already touched on), this will include:

- Life: preparing students from cradle to college and career. This includes focusing on early learning and college readiness, based on recent research showing that both early education and college readiness are critical to life-long success.

- Love: approaching students, teachers, and schools with love. We need to focus on social emotional learning, restorative justice, and alternative discipline in our schools. We also need to consider how immigration enforcement, the political and cultural climate, criminal injustices, human rights violations, racism, sexism, trauma, mental health, the school-to-prison pipeline, and other issues affect our students' learning process.
Campaign Phone (404) 418-8301
I've served as the Chair of NPU-V in 2012-2014, Chair of Atlanta Beltline TADAC from 2013-2014. During this period 5 of the 6 schools in my NPU were slated to close. I am a member of the Imagine Turner Field team negotiating plans for community partnerships between Georgia State University and Carter USA. We fought to keep them open with ultimately losing a middle school and elementary school. Currently I am employed as a System Administrator at Georgia State University, prior to this I was a lab technician at Southern Polytechnic State University supporting faculty and students at the School of Computing and Software Engineering. I obtained Master of Science in Quality Assurance and a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology. I am certified as a Six Sigma Green Belt and Microsoft Certified Professional. I've taught hundreds of students who struggle learning programming just as I did as a way of helping them get over a hurdle I faced in life. During the cheating scandal I met many children who are now adults who have suffered at the demise of our educational system. We fought hard to mitigate these problems in our communities and I never felt we truly made a difference in the future for our children. This is an opportunity to correct the governance of Atlanta Public Schools and provide a quality education building a path from the cradle to career. I want to be a part of that I want the opportunity to lead it!
This is just a basic summary but my first top policy priorities would be adding a strong component on affordable housing. Any property sold and being used as residential, mixed used and event commercial would be required to provide an appropriate number of affordable housing it could bare or provide business opportunities to minority and women businesses. Teachers and Police Officers could be given first priorities to live and thrive in the districts. This could also be an opportunity for parents who may be transitioning throughout the district keep their family at one of our schools. My second policy is in regards to fiscal management. Right now Atlanta Public Schools have taken on large debts. It’s is critically important to periodically review spending and insuring that money is being spent where need and when need. Done by quality professionals chosen through a responsible and fair process. Open and available to the public. There has been a culture around the way things have been done in Atlanta but now we want a newer process that is more equitable to everyone. We can create a policy that streamlines our process and is inclusive of those who live within the districts of where they live.
Based on my experience the environment in which our young scholars learn are poor based on my experience. Many of the schools in particularly south side Atlanta have conditions that are not appropriate to stimulate learning. Our schools mimic correction centers that have poor infrastructure and lack the needed technologies to provide the type of education that is needed to stimulate educational growth. Improved fiscal management of the contracts and budgeting will allow more efficient use of APS resources. Looking at quality principles such as six sigmas’ we can identify the wastes in all areas of the various schools and reduce them. This will give us additional resource to improve the environment so our young scholars can thrive. Even creating partnerships through philanthropist organizations can provide additional support around improving schools. Another challenge is maintaining a family structure, what I mean by this is that parents married or single struggle with the daily confines of work, family and self. Never having time for each. In families with adverse socioeconomic status this burden may be even greater. Early learning centers give parents the needed educational support from their children resolving that burden. Of course having parent support is critical, having access to an early learning center give children the boost they need while becoming young scholars in Atlanta Public Schools.
I think that the charter school system is promising. It gives educators the opportunity to do some exiting programs where resources are being stretched. I do believe more focus should be given to local organizations that can manage charters, but overall I see the advantage of being able to give a child a specific track and allow them to take an almost competency based style of learning. Children in the appropriate charter can be given the needed time to develop into young scholars. They can look at hiring teachers with special skills to meet the needs of the students. Lastly a charter can take advantage of virtual technologies and provide a virtual classroom exposing a child to many different learning materials. Another reform idea is the introduction of early learning centers within every elementary school. This gives us a head start to create an educational path from the cradle-to-career for every child in our system. For a turn-around strategy to be successful, we have to provide more time exposing our children to education for them to become better young scholars.
Introduction of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) at every school. People generally think of robotics but that is only one aspect of STEAM. The discipline of information technology is a vocation. The tasks of putting a computer system together, maintaining it through system updating and maintained like dusting a computer is a task that is needed to be performed but does not require a college degree. We can engage our superintendent and insure that these disciplines are added to the Atlanta Public Schools agenda. Engaging our community. We have numerous parent networks throughout our school’s district. We can see that at schools where more parents are engaged in their child’s education the higher opportunities for the child’s success. Training can be extended to the parents. Many organizations provide community service incentives for employees. That service can be done with their children right at their schools. Creating a channel for parents and children to begin their educational journey together. For organizations that do not provide the incentive, in-school gardens are a perfect place to create a bond.
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