APN Chat with Byron Amos: APS Board Candidate, Organizer, Rap Producer

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(APN) ATLANTA — With two months left until the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education (District 2) Special Election to fill the seat formerly held by Khaatim El, Atlanta Progressive News sat down with Byron Amos, one of the five remaining candidates in the race.

As previously reported by APN, Kwabena Nkromo dropped out of the race last month.

The other four candidates, who will also be invited to complete interviews, are Angela Brown, Dwanda Farmer, Michael Jeter, and Donald Walker.  Amos was selected first because of alphabetical order; and while it’s good to be first, keep in mind Amos did not previously get to see the questions, which future interviewees will obviously be able to know in advance.

Amos is a father of several children in Atlanta public schools, a Parent Teachers Association President at Bethune Elementary School, a community organizer, and for years served as Vice President of UGK Records, the Underground Kingz.

Amos previously ran for the same seat in 2003, in a Special Election against El, and lost by 69 votes, he said.  Amos ran again in 2005 against El.  Amos also challenged Councilman Ivory Young (District 3) and lost in 2001.

Amos said he is receiving the support of Council Members Young and CT Martin (District 10).

Amos learned how to be a community organizer from former State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas, who, during her first term in the legislature, took him “under her wing as a page at the Capitol,” Amos said.

Since then, he has started a nonprofit called Capacity Builders, has served as Board Chair and Vice President of the Vine City Civic Association, and helped to organize Friends of Vine City Parks and the Atlanta Youth Fitness Alliance.

As for UGK Records, “my involvement started as a favor to a friend, Chad Butler.  I do paperwork for the company and security.  It has allowed me to see the other side of the entertainment industry, that is able to help with education.”

“It has allowed me to create change from within, to get in front of our kids, when they’re listening to a lot of videos and music,” Amos said.

“It actually allowed me to be freer to do so [be a community organizer].  I found better ways to relate to students and the community,” Amos said.

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON CHARTER SCHOOLS?

I support charter schools to a certail level because it provides alternatives.  There’s a lot to be learned from charter schools.  One thing is for certain; they’re here and they’re here to stay.  First and foremost, we must support public education, and see charter schools as an alternative, as another way to educate our kids.

We’ve gotten away from providing a high quality education and are taking fewer field trips.

We need to find a way to stand in the middle and build a bridge between the two [public and charter schools].  It should not be a divide between the two.  We need to learn from the charter system.

WOULD YOU HAVE VOTED IN FAVOR OF THE RULE CHANGE CONCERNING THE TYPE OF MAJORITY NEEDED TO ELECT A NEW BOARD CHAIR?

The way that it was done, no, it took away the ability of the Board to work together.  There was a voting bloc, but the school system suffered.

We had in-house counsel and outside that said maybe it shouldn’t have been done.  I probably would’ve voted no because it became a legal issue that began to jeopardize the entire school system.

WHAT IS YOUR PLAN, IF ANY, TO IMPROVE INSTRUCTION OF CIVICS?

I plan to have children and parents come to the Board meeting to understand the process.  We need to look at the curriculum, there needs to be a mandate that civil, civic engagement take place.  75 service hours required for graduation is a great idea.

WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ABOUT THE APS BOARD OF EDUCATION’S ETHICS BOARD AND THE WAY IT HAS BEEN FUNCTIONING OVER THE PAST YEAR?

I haven’t been following the situation too closely.

WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON PRIVATIZATION OF SCHOOL SERVICES?

I would be open to what works better.  The school system lost a bridge into the community when we privatized; the uncles, brothers, mothers, and cousins that was hired into the school system.  The advocates of privatization will say it’s cheaper.  Are we looking for a cheaper price, or a better educational system?

DO YOU SUPPORT THE RENEWAL OF THE PENNY SALES TAX FOR EDUCATION?

This gives us an opportunity to look at the entire budget, half a billion dollar budget.  Because it’s additional money for public education, I personally will vote yes.  I want the Board to look at concerns of whether we’re getting the best value for our money, have we earned this investment?

WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON USING ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS TO PLACE STUDENTS FOR BEHAVIORAL ISSUES?

I totally disagree with it.  For years, the concept behind Community Education Partners and Forest Hills has been totally wrong.  They doubled the enrollment, they sent students for behavioral problems, other students they forcibly removed because they were not making the academic cut.  It was a way to raise that school’s test scores.

IF A MALE STUDENT IN A SCHOOL WANTED TO WEAR A DRESS OR SKIRT TO SCHOOL, IF IT WAS THE APPROPRIATE LENGTH PER THE DRESS CODE, WOULD YOU SUPPORT THAT STUDENT’S RIGHT TO ESSENTIALLY CROSS-DRESS?

As a Board Member, I’d have to look at, does your individual right affect the rights of others?  How does it affect the educational day of that system?

HOW WILL YOU HELP APS REGAIN OR MAINTAIN ITS ACCREDITATION WITH ADVANCED/SACS CASI?

We’re on probation simply because the Board failed to govern, to ensure the Superintendent stay within her boundaries.  We gave too much power to the Superintendent.  When legal counsel and accounting are not reporting to you, how can you run a system when you’re not getting first-hand information about the system?

WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS OF DISTRICT 2 PARENTS AND VOTERS THAT ARE PERHAPS MORE UNIQUE TO THE DISTRICT TO THAN OTHER DISTRICTS?

In District 2, there’s a lack of educational investment.  My daughter doesn’t have books to take home.  I’ve heard teachers talk abbout the lack of chalk.  The first thing would be textbooks and just supplies.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO INCREASE EDUCATIONAL EQUALITY, TO ENSURE LOW-INCOME STUDENTS HAVE THE SAME QUALITY EDUCATION AS MIDDLE AND UPPER-INCOME STUDENTS?

We as a Board must get away from the cookie-cutter mentality that all kids learn the same.  Kids in my District deal with a lot of socioeconomic issues before they get to school.  We need more focused social services, a more complete plan.

(END/2011)

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