McKenzie to Run for Open At-Large Seat on APS Board (UPDATE 1)
(APN) ATLANTA — Anne McKenzie, a former Atlanta Public Schools (APS) teacher, is running for the APS Board of Education (BOE) At-Large Seat 9 that is currently held by Emmett Johnson, who is not running for reelection.
Previously, McKenzie ran against Yolanda Johnson for the District 6 seat in 2005 and 2009. Johnson is also not running for reelection. McKenzie tells Atlanta Progressive News that she received a call from Shawnna Hayes-Tavares, who is running for the District 6 seat this year, asking her not to run for the District 6 seat.
McKenzie also served three terms, from 2007 to 2012, she said, as Secretary of Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) R, one of the most contentious and conflicted NPUs in the whole city.
“I am a thirty-six year [APS] employee. I’m retired, but I did work in the Atlanta Public Schools for 36 years – I was an English teacher – I was at Sutton Middle. I started out in Atlanta at East Lake Elementary, I retired from Sutton. I taught in elementary schools – first grade beginning, and then on up to the eighth,” she said.
“I think that having had the experience as a teacher would allow me to explain or say to others what I think a child needs as far as education. I think I have expertise in that area,” she said.
“I think that school focus, particularly in high schools, should be this pathway that the Georgia State Board of Education and the General Assembly voted on in 2011. They’re supposed to follow this core curriculum. It allows them to choose a pathway they can accomplish. Not everybody is college material, every student needs to be able to find a pathway into the workforce,” she said.
“Students in high schools need classes that are suited to their particular needs, she said.
McKenzie raised concerns about charter schools.
“I don’t have an objection to charter schools, but I don’t think there is a dime worth of difference in charter and public schools. The differences might be that they [charter schools] have a full parental involvement. In some [public] schools, they give second and third chances to students when they misbehave. Charter schools don’t give students a chance – if they misbehave, they’re out of there,” she said.
She declined to say how she would have voted in 2010 on the rule change that led to the ousting of LaChandra Butler Burks (District 5) as Chair.
“I really don’t want to take a position on that, because I think a lot of it was personal, and personality clashes and I really don’t know in real detail, because you always heard different stories from different folks, and I have not had an opportunity to sit with any particular Board Member to find out exactly what actually happened,” she said.
McKenzie points her service at NPU R as an example of her leadership history, but not everyone at NPU R was pleased with her leadership there.
In fact, some NPU R members went to the Planning Department of the City of Atlanta to obtain a ruling that McKenzie was not eligible to serve a third term because all members are limited to serving two terms only.
At one point, Edith Ladipo, another APS teacher who ran for City Council District 11 in 2009 and is part of NPU R, took McKenzie to court, alleging that McKenzie had grabbed her, called her names, and threatened her during a verbal altercation. The case was thrown out of court.
“It was a personality clash. There were some untruths told, and it was clarified in court that the claim was not truthful, there was no merit to it, it was a personality clash. People at NPUs, everybody’s not of the same persuasion. Some of the members of the NPU did not like any of the persons who was in office. They just despised the President [Terry Allen] in particular. Because I didn’t take a stand on him putting certain people in office, they wanted to get on me,” she told APN.
“In order to get their point over, this person [Ladipo] felt she could damage me by taking me to court. Immediately, the judge knew this was some kind of frivolous suit. There were no witnesses to verify. I had ten witnesses,” McKenzie said.
“It didn’t last three minutes,” she said of the hearing.
“Those people wanted to hold office and he didn’t want to appoint them. I didn’t have the authority. As long as I’ve been in an NPU, twenty-five years, I’ve never had a conflict as those people wanted to portray me, it was all because they wanted one thing. This one woman who wanted to be Secretary, she was Assistant Secretary,” she said.
Some NPU R Members, including senior advocate Ben Howard, have taken issue with a letter of support that McKenzie and Allen wrote on behalf of a proposed City of Atlanta street abandonment that has been requested by the Shamrock Gardens apartment community.
“They’re still raising hell about that letter, saying I wasn’t Secretary, I was illegally in office,” she said.
The current NPU R Chair, Ray Abram, who ran for City Council District 11 in 2009, also took issue with McKenzie for cancelling last year’s NPU R elections. He said that McKenzie ran the meeting because the Chair was not present, and the Vice Chair would not run the meeting. He said that when McKenzie came to the point on the agenda that was supposed to be the election of officers, that she adjourned the meeting.
Abram said that after McKenzie cancelled the regular election, that Ladipo, Assistant Secretary, conducted an emergency election, in which the current officers were elected. Abram says that the City of Atlanta Planning Department affirmed the results of the impropmtu election.
“I’ve moved on, I’m not mad at anybody,” she said, adding that she does not want to dwell on the matter.
APN has learned that two additional candidates will be running for the At-Large Seat 9: Jason Esteves, who ran last year in the Democratic Primary for State Rep. Sheila Jones’s (D-Atlanta) seat; and Mary Palmer, a founding member of Step Up or Step Down, a group of concerned parents that was formed in response to the APS BOE governance crisis that began in 2011.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article quoted Ray Abram as stating that the City of Atlanta Department of Planning conducted an election for NPU R; however, Abram says in a subsequent email that he misspoke. Abram says that Edith Ladipo, Assistant Secretary, conducted an emergency election after McKenzie, the Secretary, cancelled the regular election. Abram says that the City did not appoint the current officers, but simply affirmed the results of the impropmtu election.