Meister, Bowman Respond to APS BOE Questionnaire
(APN) ATLANTA — Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education (APS BOE) District 4 candidates, including incumbent Nancy Meister and challenger Taryn Bowman, both responded to a candidate questionnaire from Atlanta Progressive News.
APS BOE District 4 covers Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhoods.
Meister began serving in 2010 and was one of the five Board Members who, in 2010, voted to change the rules regarding how to remove a Board Chair; and then ousted LaChandra Butler Burks (District 5) as chair. This controversial decision led to APS temporarily losing its full accreditation status.
During the period following the ousting of Butler Burks as Chair, Meister received legal services from Glenn Delk, an attorney who supports privatization of public schools; and pro bono public relations services from the Alisias Group, a public relations firm and think tank that promotes charter schools, demolition of public housing, and privatization generally.
As previously reported by APN, Alisias’s tactics on behalf of Meister [as well as Khaatim El, Courtney English, and Yolanda Johnson] included creating fictitious people to send out press releases and mass emails to stakeholders that appeared to be from concerned parents and citizens.
Bowman has received the endorsement of the American Federation of Teachers.
The candidates’ responses to the APN questionnaire are as follows:
(1) If you had been on the Board in 2010, when the so-called Gang of Five voted to change the rules regarding how to oust a Chair, and then ousted LaChandra Butler Burks as Chair, would you have supported the initial rule change? Yes or no, why or why not? If an incumbent, please explain your vote.
BOWMAN: We have to remember that the controversy around board leadership and the rule change led to accreditation probation for APS high schools. I would not support any decision that would jeopardize the education of our students. Adults should be able to put their differences aside to do what’s best for students.
MEISTER: I was on the Board during this time period and voted for the leadership change. This was an extremely important vote. I felt it was in the best interest of our district to ascertain the truth of what happened. [Meister likely referring to “what happened” in connection with the APS cheating scandal, although it is quite possible the information would have come out anyway.]
(a) What is your overall position on charter schools?
BOWMAN: There are a number of successful charter schools and traditional schools. However, some charter schools underperform, just as some traditional schools underperform. We have to look at all models to identify programs that work best for students. There is no cookie-cutter solution for all students. Charter schools provide school communities with an opportunity to test unconventional practices that, if proven successful, can be implemented at traditional schools. However, we must be very careful in how we reallocate public money and manage charter schools. It’s important that we keep students first and remember that charter schools are public schools funded by tax dollars and all students should benefit from a good education, whether they are enrolled in a charter school or traditional school.
MEISTER: I believe charter schools are an important part of our education system. They allow for innovative educational models to be implemented and give more access and choices to the children of our district.
(b) Do you have any concerns about charter schools; if so, what are they?
BOWMAN: Charter schools have been framed as the solution to the problem with public education. Just like traditional schools, charter schools thrive when they have strong leadership, effective teachers, and engaged parents. We have to maintain the same expectations for all schools and not assume that a charter designation will automatically solve the public education puzzle.
MEISTER: Charter schools can be powerful in addressing the needs of a particular community. I get concerned when the public system is forcing the creation of charters because we are not meeting the needs of our students and parents.
(c) Do you believe APS, or any district within APS, is already unduly oversaturated with charter schools?
BOWMAN: APS has more charter schools than any other school district in the state. APS is home of the State of Georgia’s charter school of the year, Drew Charter. I don’t think that we can put a number on how many schools we should have if the schools are meeting the needs of our students and communities. However, I’m confident if we invested more time and effort into our traditional schools, we will have programs that benefit all students. We can’t turn our backs on our traditional schools. We have to improve them to ensure that all students receive a quality education.
MEISTER: We are robust with charters in some regions. It is important as a system that we closely monitor their progress while understanding their best practices, to better serve our traditional schools.
(d) In what circumstances, if any, would you vote against a charter school application? [If an incumbent, please note any votes in which you did oppose a charter school application.]
BOWMAN: APS has one of the most effective charter application processes in the state. The APS Office of Innovation, led by Allen Mueller, offers board members detailed assessments and evaluations of all charter applications, which is a benefit to the board and Atlanta taxpayers. As a board member, I would not approve charters that appeared to be profit-driven, with no real educational leadership base. But, most importantly, charter schools need strong fiscal management and an ability to recognize programs that are appropriate for students. I think it’s important to look at the financial impact of the charter school on the community as well as how the charter school would compliment [sic] the programs that are already in place within the community.
MEISTER: I would vote against the application of a charter school for two reasons: (1) the charter did not meet the requirements of the system and (2) the community is not in favor of the charter school. I have voted against a charter because that application failed to meet the requirements of the system.