APN Full Endorsements: APS BOE 2013


(APN) ATLANTA — The Atlanta Progressive News Board of Directors has completed its full endorsement list for Atlanta City Council and Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education (APS BOE) for 2013.



To date, we have already announced several endorsements, along with full explanations.  This list includes all endorsements for APS BOE, including ones already announced and ones that are being announced herein.  We already published our Atlanta Council full list under separate cover.



As previously noted, the primary driver of our APS BOE endorsements is to support candidates who are the most critical of charter schools.  We currently have a very pro-charter Board, and it is important to introduce some counterweights to this trend before we end up with a nearly all-charter school system.









Muhammad is being challenged by Leslie Grant.









One candidate, Matt Westmoreland, is running for this seat.  We are concerned that he had little to no critique of charter schools in an interview with APN.  His ties with Teach for America, and the fact that he is endorsed by former Mayor Shirley Franklin, also raise our concerns that he will be pro-charter.  It is also telling that American Federation of Teachers also declined to endorse in this race.






The incumbent in this race is Nancy Meister.  Meister accepted legal services from pro-privatization attorney Glenn Delk, and public relations services from the pro-privatization Alisias firm, while Alisias was seeking a contract with APS.  Meister supported the rule change that led to the Gang of Five’s ouster of LaChandra Butler Burks.  In questionnaire responses to APN, Meister seemed less critical of charter schools than her opponent Taryn Bowman.



Bowman would have opposed the rule change.



As for charter schools, she wrote: “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.



“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.



“APS has more charter schools than any other school district in the state… 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.



“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.”





There are currently four candidates in the race: Raynard Johnson, Steven Lee, Charles Lawrence, and Mary Palmer.



Palmer did not respond to the APN questionnaire.



APN uncovered that Lee falsely referred to himself as a PhD in resumes submitted to the City Council and Mayor, despite the fact that he purchased a PhD from a diploma mill called Belford University, where the certificate was mailed to him from the United Arab Emirates.



Neither Lawrence nor Johnson were critical of charter schools.  APN was not particularly thrilled with Johnson’s interview with APN, but we feel he has a stronger track record of community involvement, at least that APN is aware of, than Lawrence.






There are currently four candidates in the race: Dell Byrd, Eshe Collins, Anne McKenzie, and Shawnna Hayes-Tavares.



Byrd did not respond to an APN questionnaire.



Collins did not respond timely to an APN questionnaire.  Prior to that, she did not respond to voicemail inquiries.  The fact that she is supported by former Mayor Franklin and is a former Teach for America alum creates the likelihood that she is a charter school supporter.



Hayes-Tavares, as reported by APN, was arrested for speeding, driving without a license, and giving a false name and date of birth to a police officer.  She was suspended from a parent teachers association for fiscal mismanagement.  Despite this suspension, she recently collected money for majorette uniforms, but appears to have converted the funds to personal use.  The collected money for gift cards, but then claims to have lost the cards.  She created fictitious personas to comment on APN.  She also lied about her claim to have graduated from Georgia State University.  She is the most ethically challenged candidate running by far.



McKenzie has been involved in APS, first through years of experience as a teacher; and second as an advocate, attending BOE meetings during the Board’s accreditation crisis.  She also is critical of charter schools.



“I don’t have an objection to charter schools, but I don’t think there is a dime worth of difference in charter and public schools.  The differences might be that they [charter schools] have a full parental involvement.  In some [public] schools, they give second and third chances to students when they misbehave.  Charter schools don’t give students a chance – if they misbehave, they’re out of there,” she said.









The incumbent for this seat is Courtney English.









The incumbent for this seat is Reuben McDaniel.






APN strongly recommends Ed Johnson for this seat.



There are currently five candidates for this seat, including Eddie Lee Brewster, Jason Esteves, Lori James, Ed Johnson, and Sean Norman.



James did not reply to APN’s questionnaire.



Esteves did not reply timely to APN’s questionnaire.  His affiliation with Teach for America raises concerns about his likelihood of support for charter schools.



Brewster, Johnson, and Norman each responded to APN’s questionnaire.  Brewster was the most supportive of charter schools of the three; Norman was fairly critical.  Johnson, however, is probably the most critical of charter schools of all APS BOE candidates for all seats this year.



“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.



“[I]t’s more like one being awake and having one’s eyes wide open… [C]harter 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?



“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.



“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.’



As previously reported by APN, Johnson has also been very active in sending mass emails to APS stakeholders, keeping them informed regarding current events.  He has send over two hundred emails in just the last three years alone.




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