Westmoreland Seeks APS School Board District 3 Seat
(APN) ATLANTA — Matt Westmoreland, 25, former Grady High School student and the son of a former Fulton County Superior Court Judge, Melvin K. Westmoreland, is seeking the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Board of Education (BOE) District 3 seat currently held by Cecily Harsch-Kinnane, who is not seeking reelection.
To date, Westmoreland is the only candidate seeking the seat. Previously, Atlanta Progressive News reported that Nicole Foerschler Horn was running for the seat, but she has since changed her mind. Westmoreland said he consulted with her before deciding to enter the race.
As of the March 31, 2013 disclosure, Westmoreland had raised some 28,141 dollars, one of the largest amounts of any APS candidate this year, although less than Leslie Grant, who is running for APS BOE District 1.
Westmoreland graduated from Grady High School in 2006, where he served as Editor of the Southerner student newspaper.
He received a Bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton University, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Princetonian student newspaper.
Since returning to Atlanta, Westmoreland has taught history at Carver Early College High School in Southeast Atlanta, participating in the Teach for America program.
In a speech given to APS valedictorians and salutatorians in 2011, posted on the APS Youtube channel, Westmoreland spoke about his concerns about the segregated, unequal nature of the APS school system. He noted that in his experience at Grady High School, Black students and White students attended school together but often continued to self-segregate into racially homogenous social groups.
The speech is available online here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mevspKFCfw
“We need to have a better conversation around addressing those gaps,” Westmoreland said in an interview with APN. “I got a great education. Not everyone has the same opportunity at APS. We need to fundamentally address disparities that exist.”
He said the way to address the disparities is to “hire better principals” and to provide them with the “infrastructure to hire, retain, and keep good teachers.”
When asked whether he believed that funding was the issue, Westmoreland said, “We should better spend the money we have.”
Westmoreland believes too much is spent on the central office and said he would want to more closely examine vendors and contracts.
Westmoreland said he does not know how he would have voted, had he been on the Board in 2010, regarding changing the rules to oust an APS BOE chairperson.
“I think it’s hard to answer that question not being part of every conversation that took place,” particularly in executive session, he said.
As for charter schools, Westmoreland appears to be a supporter and offered little critical view.
“Atlanta has some very effective charter schools. Some say they’re stealing the best teachers and the best kids. We need to realize we have kids in traditional schools and we have kids in charter schools. Things take place that can be shared,” he said.
“Every charter school is not successful. Charter schools are not themselves the solution,” he said.
Westmoreland also says he supports early childhood education as a way to reduce disparities in educational outcomes.
To date, the candidates who have announced their campaigns for APS BOE for 2013 are:
DISTRICT 1 – (INCUMBENT) BRENDA MUHAMMAD, LESLIE GRANT
DISTRICT 2 – (INCUMBENT) BYRON AMOS
DISTRICT 3 – MATT WESTMORELAND
DISTRICT 4 – (INCUMBENT) NANCY MEISTER
DISTRICT 5 – RAYNARD JOHNSON, STEVEN LEE
DISTRICT 6 – SHAWNNA HAYES-TAVARES, ESHE COLLINS
DISTRICT 7 – (INCUMBENT) COURTNEY ENGLISH, NISHA SIMAMA
DISTRICT 8 – (INCUMBENT) REUBEN MCDANIEL
DISTRICT 9 – NO ONE HAS ANNOUNCED, INCUMBENT NOT SEEKING REELECTION