APN Chat with Angela Brown, APS Board Candidate
(APN) ATLANTA — In continuing a series of interviews with candidates for the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education District 2 Special Election, Atlanta Progressive News sat down with Angela Brown.
APN previously interviewed candidates Byron Amos, Dwanda Farmer, and Donald Walker, and left a voicemail requesting an interview with candidate Michael Jeter on his personal cell phone.
Brown served as a key volunteer and supporter of Khaatim El’s campaign for APS back in 2001. El, who previously held the District 2 seat, resigned after orchestrating a Board takeover in 2010, which led to a governance crisis that caused AdvancED/SACS CASI to revoke full accreditation for APS.
APN asked whether Brown would effectively be Khaatim II, “I wasn’t a Khaatim I,” she replied.
“After his first run, I had issues and we took Khaatim to task on a lot of things. A lot of it had to do with the Superintendent. For many years, part of it was the conditions we saw with young people, and the continued support, he gave her ultimate support,” Brown said.
Brown owns a small business in non-profit consulting, Imani Services, and serves as Interim Executive Director of the First African Community Development Corporation in Lithonia.
She previously served as Interim Executive Director at Charis Circle, the non-profit sister organization to Charis Bookstore.
Brown served as Executive Director of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma, Alabama, from 2007 to 2009. She said she commuted back and forth from Atlanta.
She still serves as co-pastor of Northern Heights Presbyterian Church in Selma. “And I will do. I go down every first and third Sunday. I drive, and come back,” she said.
Candidate Dwanda Farmer filed a residency challenge against Brown based on her work in Selma as well as other issues, but Atlanta Municipal Clerk Rhonda Dauphin Johnson ruled that Brown had indeed lived in District 2 for at least the last year.
Brown also served on the Board of the Fund for Southern Communities, was one of the 18 founding organizers of the Southern Partners Fund, and co-founded the Youth Task Force.
From 1985 to 1990, Brown worked for the Leadership Initiative Project, where she worked to empower youth in civic engagement in rural North Carolina.
Brown recently sent a campaign email through the Atlanta Queer Organizers Facebook group. When asked if Brown considers herself a queer organizer, she replied she is a feminist.
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON CHARTER SCHOOLS?
I’m cautiously optimistic about charter shcools. However, I think they need to continue to be mandated by the public school system, that their charters are still at the end of the day signed off by the Board of Education. APS still needs to have full control.
There are some concerns, when we look at all the data, not all of it is in favor of charter schools, especially when you look at the third and fourth grade, especially for students who come out of a district like District 2. There’s also a problem with retention of quality teachers, about forty percent of their teachers are new. A lot of them are leaving as soon as they come in. Your investment is in your people.
A lot of voters feel it’s siphoning off funds from the public school system.
WOULD YOU HAVE VOTED IN FAVOR OF THE RULE CHANGE CONCERNING THE TYPE OF MAJORITY NEEDED TO ELECT A NEW BOARD CHAIR?
As a citizen, I believe that my representative was wrong on this issue. I would’ve voted no, not that there were not problems with the current leadership or the administration of APS, but I would have to err on the side of a democratic process. When are we gonna get to the greater good?
WHAT IS YOUR PLAN, IF ANY, TO IMPROVE INSTRUCTION OF CIVICS?
My very first project as a community organizer was to develop a citizenship project among young people in rural North Carolina in the 1980s, the purpose was how do you get young people engaged and empower them to be engaged in their communities through citizenship.
I pulled the [civics] syllabus from Booker T. Wasthington High School. As Board Member, there is nothing I would change. As a person, absolutely it’s important, it’s mandatory I think. That’s the crux of how you educate young leaders in a democratic process.
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 think each stakeholder shares responsibility for the welfare of the total APS community. In order for kids to receive a quality education, it has to be based upon mutual trust, honest behavior that permeates throughout the community. We can’t say to young people we want you to have ethical behavior and at the end of the day those of us who represent them don’t.
There has to be ethics throughout this entire process, it doesn’t just start when you are elected [but also as a candidate].
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON PRIVATIZATION OF SCHOOL SERVICES?
I think again if you look at the data… privatization often times will hurt local schools because those jobs that become private, the workers have a tendency to no longer feel ownership of the school.
Sometimes the bus driver will be more caring if they’re part of a larger institution that cares for workers, as opposed to private workers who want to start and end their job on time without going over.
DO YOU SUPPORT THE RENEWAL OF THE PENNY SALES TAX FOR EDUCATION?
Yes, with caution, and the caution is that if you look at it in terms of soft money that needs to be renewed over and over again, we need to make sure we’re good stewards, and what happens if it doesn’t pass? I want to make sure we have in place sustainability for our schools in case the voters decide [not to renew the tax].
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON USING ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS TO PLACE STUDENTS FOR BEHAVIORAL ISSUES?
Any time alternative schools are used as dumping grounds as opposed to as corrective measures for young people… If it’s a temporary measure where they’re placed to make sure they end up back into the mainstream, alternative schools have shown to have some success. The problem is, even here in Atlanta, with Community Education Partners, that wasn’t the case and it was disastrous.
I often worked with youth who were at CEP, because I do a lot of motivational speaking. It was a horrible situation. The model that we used in Atlanta through CEP does not work, is not effective.
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?
I had pink hair with a long earring and a short earring, my mom allowed me to do it. When it violates school policy, we have to adhere to the school policy. But whether it’s pink hair or gender bending on issues of dressing, I am definitively supportive of students doing that.
HOW WILL YOU HELP APS REGAIN OR MAINTAIN ITS ACCREDITATION WITH ADVANCED/SACS CASI?
I think the APS is on track to doing that itself no matter who gets elected to District 2. I think under Ms. Muhammad’s leadership they’re doing fine.
WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS OF DISTRICT 2 PARENTS AND VOTERS THAT ARE PERHAPS MORE UNIQUE TO THE DISTRICT TO THAN OTHER DISTRICTS?
What I hear most now from parents, I hear questions of supplies and teachers. There are still classes that are not staffed.
The thing from voters I hear the most, believe it or not is the question of charter schools and the funding for it [voters are not supportive of charter schools]. We have more charter schools, that is why it’s such a hot issue in District 2. There’s a huge question on whether or not to fund charter schools through this SPLOST and at the same rate as APS; charter schools are requesting that.
I think what makes District 2 unique as a District is we are also the highest recipients of the Title I funds, which is not true for other districts.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO INCREASE EDUCATIONAL EQUALITY, TO ENSURE LOW-INCOME STUDENTS HAVE THE SAME QUALITY EDUCATION AS MIDDLE AND UPPER-INCOME STUDENTS?
I do believe Johnson’s War on Poverty, which created the largest federally funded legislation that’s known, which is Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), I think we, particularly, in District 2 have a responsbility to include those who fought from 1965 to present on the question of giving a quality education to the least in our society.
And so, given that, in District 2, I think it’s a glaring place, it’s a new battle in an old war on poverty. It’s going to be collaboration and innovate ideas. If people elect me, I’m committed to working to ensure that kind of quality education.
APS can’t do it alone. We’re going to have to have other partners, specific to District 2. Whoever represents that District has to have enough passion to want to go out and make sure we’re partnered with some of the best.