Ed Johnson, APS Seat 9 Candidate, Responds to Questionnaire
(APN) ATLANTA — There are a lot of candidates for Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education (APS BOE) this year who have shown up out of the blue. Others, like Cynthia Briscoe Brown and Anne McKenzie, have been at the table, attending Board Meetings while the school system was navigating the troubled waters of its AdvancED/SACS CASI accreditation crisis.
Ed Johnson, candidate for At-large Seat 9, is someone who has made his presence known electronically, by following and commenting on matters involving the APS Board in an ongoing series of mass emails to APS stakeholders.
According to APN’s email archive, Johnson has sent around three hundred emails to APS stakeholders since December 2010. That date, however, is when APN began receiving the emails; he had already begun sending the emails for some time by then.
Johnson’s emails have covered a wide range of current events involving APS, sometimes referencing and commenting on news articles, including articles appearing on APN.
One of the recurring themes of Johnson’s emails is his promotion of systems thinking, especially the systems thinking framework promoted by the W. Edwards Deming Institute. Johnson has sponsored the attendance of local education stakeholders at the annual conference of the Deming Institute each year.
Johnson has run twice before for the At-Large Seat 9, in 2001 and 2005.
Johnson is running for the At-Large Seat 9 being vacated by Emmett D. Johnson [no relation; although, ironically, Ed Johnson and Emmett D. Johnson have quite similar email addresses].
Also running for the seat are Eddie Lee Brewster, Jason Esteves, Lori James, and Sean Norman.
APN sent questionnaires to all five candidates in the Seat 9 race on September 08, 2013; this email requested that the candidates acknowledge receipt of the questionnaire. The responses are due September 23. Norman has acknowledged receipt and indicated his plans to respond. Brewster and Esteves have not responded. The email to James bounced. Neither Brewster nor James immediately responded to a voicemail follow-up.
Esteves has made his positions known in other APN venues. In a questionnaire for his 2012 run for State House, Esteves expressed his support for charter schools. And in an interview regarding his affiliation with Teach for America earlier this year, Esteves declined to say that he supports teachers’ unions, clarifying that he supports teacher empowerment [a likely code word vague enough to both connote, and not connote, privatization, depending on the audience].
Ed Johnson–who is highly critical of charter schools– responded to APN’s questionnaire immediately, as follows:
APN: (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?
Johnson: Here’s the “why” first, if you don’t mind. For the longest I tried to get El to open his eyes to the self-aggrandizing game Beverly Hall, the Chamber, and the Chamber’s agent, EduPAC, were playing with the lives of students and teachers years before the CRCT cheating scandal broke. El, like some other board members, wanted disparately [sic] to believe the extraordinarily higher test scores were proof positive of what “our” (read “Black”) kids could do. And so he remained with eyes closed, until it was too late. When he finally opened his eyes Butler-Burks [sic] involvement in the wicked cover-up effort became crystal clear to him. From having observed him since he’d been on the board, I can reasonably assume El then cordially but privately tried, at first, to rein in Butler-Burks, but got stonewalled. I can then reasonably assume that once stonewalled, El’s only rational course of action became to courageously deal with Butler-Burks openly per APS Statutory Charter; hence we got the so-called “Gang of Five.” Given this scenario, I applaud El for being willing to open his eyes, though belatedly, whereas the “Gang of Four” steadfastly refused to do the same and opted to keep playing the politics. Now, having first given you a “why,” I now say, yes, I would have supported the initial rule change. It would have been a moral and ethical thing to do, although gut-wrenchingly revolutionary.
APN: (2) (a). What is your overall position on charter schools?
Johnson: Kindly allow me to unequivocally say my overall position is to stop the injections of the pathogen called “charter schools” into the public good called “public schools.” Once stopped, my position would shift to focus on whatever amount of pathogen that was originally injected.
APN: (2) (b). Do you have any concerns about charter schools; if so, what are they?
Johnson: Concerns? Actually, it’s more like one being awake and having one’s eyes wide open. Remember El and the “Gang of Five?” Look, charter schools can be no better than a distraction to learning to improve public schools. Why? Simple. Charter schools operate mostly under the very same prevailing style of business management that many public schools do. This is especially the case with our Atlanta Public Schools. Thus charter schools have the effect of, say, water poured on a grease fire that can only result in spreading the fire around. Don’t you think it best to work the fire where it is, in one place?
APN: (2) (c). Do you believe APS, or any district within APS, is already unduly oversaturated with charter schools?
Johnson: Definitely. We have oversaturation – actually, super-saturation – in District 2, where Byron D. Amos is the ABE member, and in District 7 At Large, where Courtney D. English is the ABE member. But allow me to be clear, one charter school in any district amounts to oversaturation.
APN: (2) (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.]
Johnson: I shall always take as a touchstone the “Oath of Office” per the Atlanta Independent School System Statutory Charter, where it states: “I will be governed by the public good and the interests of said school system.” Charter schools, by their very definition, 1) cannot possibly serve the public good, for they are a kind of private good; and, 2) cannot possibly be a part of the school system, for as a kind private good charter schools necessarily are systems unto themselves. So, on the one hand, to vote against a charter school is to hold to the “Oath of Office” and, on the other hand, to vote for a charter school is to ignore the “Oath of Office.” I shall commit, unequivocally, to holding to the “Oath of Office” so as to give undistracted attention to another aspect of the Atlanta Independent School System Statutory Charter that is a school board responsibility, to wit: “Adopting district-wide policies that support an environment for [continual] quality improvement and progress for all decision makers in the district, as well as for students.”