APN Chat with Dwanda Farmer, APS Board Candidate
(APN) ATLANTA — In our ongoing series of interviews with candidates for the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education District 2 Special Election, Atlanta Progressive News sat down with Dwanda Farmer.
Previously, APN has interviewed Byron Amos. APN also has requested an interview with Angela Brown and did receive a response from her campaign. In the near future, APN hopes to interview Brown and candidates Michael Jeter and Donald Walker.
APN previously interviewed Farmer in 2009 when she ran for City Council Post 1-at-large. Farmer ran for the same seat in 2001 and 2005.
Farmer serves on the Summerhill Mechanicsville and Peoplestown Board and the Mechanicsville Civic Association. Through these capacities, she developed myriad afterschool programs that foster academic achievement, fitness and nutrition, anti-bullying, and safety. Also, through her leadership, thirty to fifty youth had summer employment in Mechanicsville between 2002 and 2009.
Farmer was a founding member of Fulton County’s Restorative Justice Board and a founding member of the Fulton County Workforce Development Board, responsible for implementing the Workforce Investment Act of 1999.
Farmer served the US Department of Treasury in helping to provide billions of dollars to low-income communities through community development financial institutitions and new market tax credits. She also has experience working with several programs of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Farmer believes that this experience working with federal grants and programs, in program development, implementation, and reporting under federal compliance, will enable her to help APS better comply with the No Child Left Behind Act.
Farmer is currently completing a PhD in Community Economic Development through Southern New Hampshire University, while living in Atlanta. She is completing her dissertation on the demolitions of public housing in Atlanta under the HOPE VI program.
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON CHARTER SCHOOLS?
I’m a fan of parent choice. I think the public charter school is a good option. I believe there’s something about the charter school model that’s working. I’d like to see more about what it is, and expand that to the traditional public schools. Implementing those things, to contribute to academic achievement that needs to happen in all the schools.
None of my charter schools [in District 2] were cheating and those kids are making AYP [annual yearly progress].
WOULD YOU HAVE VOTED IN FAVOR OF THE RULE CHANGE CONCERNING THE TYPE OF MAJORITY NEEDED TO ELECT A NEW BOARD CHAIR?
I’m not a politician. I would’ve spoken up frankly with other Board Members and shown them the black and white paper [regarding the cheating scandal]. I would not have been conniving and acting under-handedly to unseat the Chair. If they had emails, I would’ve put it out there rather than throw a rock and hide my hand.
I told Khaatim not to do it, the real problem is Dr. Hall. But if I had been on the Board at that time, I probably would’ve voted with them [the Five]; she [former Chair LaChandra Butler-Burks] was a problem.
WHAT IS YOUR PLAN, IF ANY, TO IMPROVE INSTRUCTION OF CIVICS?
The children now have 75 hours [of community service] they need to complete. I think that’s a good amount of hours.
We should be registering students to vote if they’re 18, when school starts and closes.
They should take a field trip to City Council or the Capitol.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ABOUT THE APS BOARD OF EDUCATION’S ETHICS BOARD AND THE WAY IT HAS BEEN FUNCTIONING OVER THE PAST YEAR?
We don’t have an ethics board because everybody quit, they didn’t do their job. Granted it’s a precarious position having been appointed by someone you’re being asked to make an adverse ruling toward. Someone else should appoint members of the ethics committee.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON PRIVATIZATION OF SCHOOL SERVICES?
I don’t support privatization of anything government. You can’t tell me a private company can do it faster, better, cheaper, than the government, and make a profit. If it is, then we need to streamline government. They [private firms] might be doing part-time jobs, no benefits, being bad employers.
DO YOU SUPPORT THE RENEWAL OF THE PENNY SALES TAX FOR EDUCATION?
Absolutely. Because the environment a child is learning in is an important part of their overall well-being at school. They need to be in a safe environment, somewhere that’s not depressing.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON USING ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS TO PLACE STUDENTS FOR BEHAVIORAL ISSUES?
The focus in alternative schools needs to be on educating children, or else we have a problem. If their behavior was so bad they had to end up there, that’s their parents’ fault. When I’m elected, discipline procedures for all teachers and students will be clear and consistently applied.
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?
Yes, especially now since I saw the Princess Boy on television. If the school don’t have a dress code for uniforms, then they should be able to wear what their mama want to let them wear. Would they send a girl home for going to school with a neck tie? Then why is it fair?
HOW WILL YOU HELP APS REGAIN OR MAINTAIN ITS ACCREDITATION WITH ADVANCED/SACS CASI?
It’s my hope they’re going to regain that at the end of this month. I’m going to work cooperatively with all Board Members so we can speak with one voice. With me being honest, I can’t imagine we’re going to go down this road again.
WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS OF DISTRICT 2 PARENTS AND VOTERS THAT ARE PERHAPS MORE UNIQUE TO THE DISTRICT TO THAN OTHER DISTRICTS?
Some of the parent concerns are as simple as wanting children to have a safe route to school, a sidewalk, not having a street of abandoned buildings. They don’t have books. Some parents are worried their child will be held back because they were pushed up [a grade level] and they shouldn’t have been.
Books, that should be the first thing. We don’t have a money issue. We have a budgeting issue. We have a priority issue.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO INCREASE EDUCATIONAL EQUALITY, TO ENSURE LOW-INCOME STUDENTS HAVE THE SAME QUALITY EDUCATION AS MIDDLE AND UPPER-INCOME STUDENTS?
Unfortunately, in a low-income community there are needs unmet. I’m sure people in upper-income communities would be like, really? It’s so important to get breakfast and lunch at school, because for dinner they might be getting a frozen pizza. They’re not getting a meat and a vegetable and a starch. You’ve got to make sure eligible kids are enrolled.
I would look for additional partners, boosters. We have to find unique ways to increase parental involvement.