APN Chat with Donald Walker, APS Board Candidate
(APN) ATLANTA — In our continuing series of candidate interviews for the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education District 2 Special Election, we sat down with Donald Walker to learn about his qualifications and positions on issues.
Previously, Atlanta Progressive News has interviewed Byron Amos and Dwanda Farmer. Tomorrow, APN is scheduled to interview Angela Brown. APN has attempted to reach candidate Michael Jeter by telephone but does not seem to have a working phone number, and will continue attempting to reach him.
Donald Walker is a college instructor at DeVry University where he teaches Psychology, and an adjunct at Atlanta Metropolitan College, where he teaches social science.
He also served as a School Social Worker in Cobb County Schools from 2004 to 2007, and has served for the last five years as a substitute teacher for various topics at the middle and high school levels, also in Cobb County.
Walker received a BS in Psychology from Georgia State University, and a Masters in Social Work from Clark Atlanta. He is currently working on his PhD in Psychology from Walden University.
As the only certified teacher in the race, Walker says he can understand “the unfair burdens and demands placed on teachers under No Child Left Behind.”
Walker previously ran for the seat in 2009, when he challenged former Board Member Khaatim El, who resigned earlier this year.
“I thought then there was a need for a change. I didn’t like the climate, the reporting of the numbers [test scores]. I was looking at the statistics, and knowing how learning comes about, not in a massive change, but the data showed a massive change,” Walker told APN.
“It suggested to me something was going on. I heard rumors that things that shouldn’t have been going on, were going on,” Walker said.
“I thought being a product of that environment, I could serve students better, and being an educator, I thought I was a better fit,” Walker said.
“I think Khaatim was much aware of the problem, but only at the point that the Governor stepped in, did it become an urgency for the Five [Gang of Five]. It went from a rumor mill to a legal issue,” he said.
In response to the eleven questions APN has been asking each of the candidates, Walker provided typed responses. The answers are provided verbatim below.
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON CHARTER SCHOOLS?
I support Charter Schools and their unique and flexible ways of delivering innovative instructions to a diverse learning community of students.
I particularly applaud Charter Schools in their approach in prioritizing parental engagement towards a holistic learning process.
I am also impressed with the early results of the New Orleans model that former mayor Shirley Franklin is supporting but not to the point that I want APS to adopt the model. I prefer a balance!
WOULD YOU HAVE VOTED IN FAVOR OF THE RULE CHANGE CONCERNING THE TYPE OF MAJORITY NEEDED TO ELECT A NEW BOARD CHAIR?
My question here is to understand why there was an almost coup type overthrow of the board president and vice president.
The urgency to overrule the three fourth majority rules that was in place and very alarming to me [sic] and provoke questions that went further than basic personality and professional conflict.
The “infamous 5” had to be convinced that laws were being violated or they were engaging in activities that perhaps crossed the legal lines of the law.
WHAT IS YOUR PLAN, IF ANY, TO IMPROVE INSTRUCTION OF CIVICS?
I do believe that 75 hours are required in this area. First, let’s discuss increasing this number because there are life skills learning in the dynamics of civics that in class lectures do not provide. Second, the environment for civic learning for students should be both public and nonpublic with emphasis on understanding concepts towards application. This would be especially useful if the student has some idea of a career. A Capstone project would be ideal!
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ABOUT THE APS BOARD OF EDUCATION’S ETHICS BOARD AND THE WAY IT HAS BEEN FUNCTIONING OVER THE PAST YEAR?
This is certainly an entity that needs to be totally dissembled or given complete autonomy from outside influences, coercion, or undue pressure to investigate ethic complaints.
If these conditions are met, I can vision an Ethic board that is objective in all instances including issues that may impact Board members. In addition, this Ethic [sic] Board must be able to report objectively and have their decisions carried out by the board without adjustments or modifications. Finally, this process must be transparent.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON PRIVATIZATION OF SCHOOL SERVICES?
First, I can’t support total privatization of APS school services. However, there are areas where public and private collaboration may be in the best interest of APS. For example, APS has a great process of bidding that other agencies [sic], and with fewer regulations than other agencies. Another example is transportation where the vendors would be responsible for their own fuel; post the signing of a contract. Given the flux in gas prices this could save APS thousands of dollars.
DO YOU SUPPORT THE RENEWAL OF THE PENNY SALES TAX FOR EDUCATION?
Absolutely! This is important money that supports continuous building improvements, technology, and new school infrastructural. The nearly 513 million annually helps with retaining low taxes for property owners. This tax must be retained, although Mayor Reed is opposed.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON USING ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS TO PLACE STUDENTS FOR BEHAVIORAL ISSUES?
Alternative schools can be a valuable resource for school systems as long as the criteria for placement is fair, continuously and effectively monitored, and fairly implemented.
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?
Let me first start off by saying that the one constant in life is change and the impact change has on individuals, culture and institutions. If this was a question put forth to me decades ago my response would certainly be no! I would be concerned with the well-being of the child. However, since its 2011 an aged [sic] of diversity, I would support the right of the student.
As background to support my decision here, in 1969 the Supreme Court ruled in, Tinker vs. Des Moines that the rights of students are not “left at the doorsteps.” All public school systems including Atlanta must at all time protect the rights of students. This is Federal law, which in this case protects that male student rights to wear a dress or skirt to school. Finally, as a Social Worker, and college Professor, I am bound to uphold the rights of minorities, women, and individuals living with disabilities, homosexuals and transgender in the classroom.
HOW WILL YOU HELP APS REGAIN OR MAINTAIN ITS ACCREDITATION WITH ADVANCED/SACS CASI?
I fully support the accreditation process and the training and recommendations that SACS has mandated to the board to ensure that the Board members understand their roles in governance, including effective managing a superintendent. However, it’s important here to note that hopefully SACS is not looking to micro manage the Board this would only lead to more hostility and dysfunction. Nor do I hope that SACS objective is to have Board members be part of a governance committee without independent thoughts. This would violate the critical thinking process which involves analysis and evaluation that must be a part of the Board’s deliberation process on issues ranging from finance to instructions. Without his freedom to exist as autonomy, the board decisions would be vulnerable to Groupthink.
WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS OF DISTRICT 2 PARENTS AND VOTERS THAT ARE PERHAPS MORE UNIQUE TO THE DISTRICT TO THAN OTHER DISTRICTS?
If you would please refer to my support for the penny sales tax and SPLOST because they both are needed to address district 2 most critical needs: resources in the classroom for charter and public schools, tutoring programs, and after school programs. Importantly statistics indicates lower pregnancy rates, drug usages, and illiteracy are affective positively [sic] when these concerns are appropriately addressed by learning communities and schools.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO INCREASE EDUCATIONAL EQUALITY, TO ENSURE LOW-INCOME STUDENTS HAVE THE SAME QUALITY EDUCATION AS MIDDLE AND UPPER-INCOME STUDENTS?
My response is simply because Title 1 is associated with your child’s economic status should not equate to any less education benefit or opportunity provided by a school system or community that involves objective holistic learning. In addition, to remedy any economic disparity between the groups, collaboration between social services and the school system must be established to fill gaps in services and be open to support from foundations such as Coca Cola, Ford Foundation, Wal-Mart and the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.