APS BOE Candidate, Mary Palmer, Responds to APN Questionnaire


(APN) ATLANTA — In the Run-off race for Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education District 5, Steven Lee and Mary Palmer are facing off to replace LaChandra Butler-Burks.



APN interviewed Lee during the summer and revealed that he falsely represented himself as a Ph.D. in resumes submitted to the City of Atlanta.  As reported by APN, Lee said he had a PhD from Belford University, a known diploma mill operating out of the United Arab Emirates that provides diplomas in exchange for cash.



Other than subsequent coverage by Channel 2, there has been a media blackout on this issue.  This is striking because, for all the purported concern about the APS scandal over cheating on a certain test, Lee–who cheated on an entire degree–has received the endorsement of Kasim Reed’s PAC, Continue Atlanta’s Progress; and the Buckhead Coalition.



Palmer did not respond timely to an APN questionnaire submitted to several BOE candidates.



APN endorsed Raynard Johnson in the General Election.



Following the General Election, APN re-opened the questionnaire response period for any Run-off candidate whose questionnaire had not previously been published.



Palmer, who was endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers and the Network for Public Education, responded as follows:



(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?



Having served on executive boards, I understand many things go on in executive sessions that the public and general body is not privy to.  What I know from having attended just about every open CRCT and Accreditation board meeting in 2010, that the look or feel of how this decision was made was not pretty.  



Charters, policies, rules, and guidelines exist to help governing bodies make fair and impartial decisions.  It is always best to go with what is “right” as outlined by these entities in making decisions.



Therefore, I would not have supported the initial rule change, mostly because of the way it was done.  However necessary or urgent one side felt it may have needed to be done, there were policies and processes in place for handling the concerns as they were presented to those of us not in the executive sessions.





(a) What is your overall position on charter schools?



The new board will have to visit what the true issues are surrounding charter school discussions.  In addressing the question of “for charter schools or against charter schools,” there can be only one answer.  We all must be for great schools that produce great educational


outcomes for all students of APS.



(b) Do you have any concerns about charter schools; if so, what are they?


Initially (about 5 years ago), I became concerned over the process by which charter schools got approved in that our school board appeared to be basing their approval on simply the vote from the community’s Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU).  I was also concerned at that time with regards to how students were chosen for acceptance into charter schools, the concept of “cherry picking” and “lemon dropping” seemed to be the process of selecting and keeping students enrolled in a given charter school.



Fast forward a few years to today and I am most concerned over the competitiveness that has arisen between Charter Public Schools and Traditional Public Schools much like the competitiveness of Public vs. Private Schools in the past.



The idea of “Choice” today is creating an environment of negative competition where choices are being made as to which group of children gets resources and which group of children may be denied funding and resources.  We must have a school system where our focus is on producing great educational outcomes for all students.



(c) Do you believe APS, or any district within APS, is already unduly oversaturated with charter schools?



I believe there is an imbalance in the number of charter schools that have been approved in APS School District 1 and District 2 compared to the other APS school districts.  I also believe that the APS Board has offered limited oversight to its existing charter schools, reviewing performance and metrics only when charters are up for renewal.



Charter proponent touts innovation and a leading point-of-difference in the success of some charter schools.  But for traditional public schools to learn from any innovation success stories, there must be more Board oversight.



(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.]



I believe the existing APS requirements for charter start-ups are fairly sound.  They have certain financial, geographic, leadership and curriculum metrics that must be met.  So obviously I would vote against any charter that did not meet those basic metrics.  But I would also vote against any charter school that I believe would undermine the success of neighboring traditional public schools.




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