Hayes-Tavares to Seek Open Seat on APS Board of Education


(APN) ATLANTA — A parent-advocate who has been vocal during the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education accreditation crisis and who opposed the proposal to close certain public schools has entered the race for APS BOE District 6, the seat currently held by Yolanda Johnson.

Shawnna Hayes-Tavares attended all of the copious meetings held by the APS BOE to addresses the SACS/AdvancED accreditation crisis, and made public comment at several of them.  Her involvement in the school system dates back twenty years as a parent-activist, and even earlier than that as an APS student.

APN previously broke the news last year that Johnson would not be running for reelection this year.

“I’ve decided to definitely put my hat in there for District 6.  It’s my first time running for office.  I never really thought about running.  For the last two or three School Board runs, people have tried to get me to run,” Hayes-Tavares told Atlanta Progressive News.

“I’ve been on the other side, as an advocate and parent.  I think it is a good opportunity for me to be on the other side [on the Board] as a representative of the parents and community,” Hayes-Tavares said.

In 2009, Johnson had faced two challengers in the election: Anne McKenzie and Akokwo Redhead.

Hayes-Tavares told APN that she had spoken with Redhead and that Redhead said she would not be running.

McKenzie told APN in May 2012 that she would be running for the District 6 seat.

“I have very close ties with my district, Southwest Atlanta,” she said, adding it would be amazing “to represent the school zone and the school that I went to as a child.  It was Walter F. Georgia High School, now South Atlanta… I graduated in 1983.”

“I have a long history with Atlanta Public Schools.  I didn’t just pop out of the blue,” she said.

Hayes-Tavares serves as President of Southwest and Northwest Atlanta Parents and Partners for Schools (SNAPPS) and as founder of The Parent Advocate/Educator, Inc., a nonprofit organization where she seeks to inform, educate, and empower parents so that they can help their children reach academic success.

She has a BA in Mass Communications from Wilberforce University and an MA in Sociology from Georgia State University.

She has held numerous community positions including PTA President and Parent Liaison, and served on numerous APS committees, such as the Parental Involvement Task Force and Committee, Special Needs Task Force, Middle School transition committee, Parent Handbook, and Placement Focus Group.

She has served on two Neighborhood Planning Units, K and I, as vice-chair and education committee chair.

She also got involved in the 2009 Mayoral race, where she led a group called Parents and Educators for Kasim Reed, which held a press conference on Reed’s behalf in November 2009, during the Run-off Election between Reed and former Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood (Post 2-at-large).

“I’ve asked for a moratorium on any more charter schools in Atlanta,” she said.  

“Atlanta has been quite charter-school friendly.  I don’t want to be a charter school basher per se, I think we’ve had an open door policy, we have not taken the time and resources to truly work on our public schools.  You close the public school and allow a charter school to come in,” she said.

“I think we’re at a limit, and we need to halt.  Every charter school is not created equal and not every charter school is successful.  Whether it says it has open enrollment or not, it still creates a more cherry-picked type of environment,” she said.

“Our board members have been so quick to say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, but we’ve shot ourselves in the foot.  We can see what communities they’re putting the charter schools in,” she said.

Hayes-Tavares was vocal against certain proposed public school closures in her community, including Beecher Hills Elementary School and Bethune Elementary School.  Both schools were taken off the list for closure.

During the student cheating crisis and the contemporaneous SACS/AdvancED accreditation crisis, Hayes-Tavares made frequent public comment at APS BOE meetings.

She supported the takeover of the APS BOE by the Gang of Five, saying she believes it was legal, and she opposed SACS’s actions.

On SACS, she said, “For one, I felt like the business community had really gained too much power.  I am opposed to business community control over an elected board and a school system.”

“I was upset with how Mark Elgart came in and did it.  When Board Members say we need to do something and make a change, now SACS comes down, that was very political to me,” she said.

The APS BOE election is shaping up to be quite competitive.

DISTRICT 1 – Brenda Muhammad is running for reelection, and she is being challenged by Leslie Grant, an APS parent.

DISTRICT 2 – Byron Amos is expected to run for reelection.

DISTRICT 3 – APN broke the news last year that Cecily Harsch-Kinnane is not seeking reelection.  Matt Westmoreland, a former Grady High School student, and Nicole Foerschler Horn, a member of Step Up for Public Schools [formerly known as Step Up or Step Down], are running for the seat.

DISTRICT 4 – Nancy Meister is expected to run for reelection.

DISTRICT 5 – LaChandra Butler Burks told APN last year that she is not yet decided whether to seek reelection.

DISTRICT 6 – Yolanda Johnson is not seeking reelection.  Hayes-Tavares and McKenzie are seeking the seat.

AT-LARGE SEAT 7 – Courtney English is expected to run for reelection.

AT-LARGE SEAT 8 – Reuben McDaniel is expected to run for reelection.

AT-LARGE SEAT 9 – APN broke the news last year that Emmett Johnson would not seek reelection; no news of anyone yet running for that seat.