Briscoe Brown Unseats McDaniel, as Pro-Charter Board Cements in APS Runoff


(APN) ATLANTA — In the Run-off Elections held yesterday, December 03, 2013, political newcomer Cynthia Briscoe Brown unseated the current Chairman of the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education (APS BOE), Reuben McDaniel, for the At-large Seat 8.



Briscoe Brown is probably one of the only charter school critics to have been elected to what is an almost entirely new, largely pro-charter Board.



McDaniel, President of RM Capital Management, was first elected in 2009 as a candidate backed by an EduPAC, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce’s education-focused political action committee (PAC).  This year McDaniel was backed by Continue Atlanta’s Progress (CAP), the PAC formed by Mayor Kasim Reed and corporate leaders, including the Koch Brothers of Georgia Pacific.



McDaniel was the only member of the so-called Gang of Four during APS’s accreditation crisis of 2010 and 2011, who sought reelection.  Meanwhile, only two members of the Gang of Five–Nancy Meister (District 4) and Courtney English (At-large Seat 7)–have survived to see 2014.



Briscoe Brown, an attorney and parent with experience volunteering in APS, was the least-funded candidate in a race with three candidates who were extremely well-funded, including McDaniel, Tom Tidwell, and former Board Member Mark Riley.



Riley and Tidwell were extremely pro-charter school candidates, while Briscoe Brown and McDaniel had more mixed approaches and some critique of charter schools.



Briscoe Brown received the endorsements of the Atlanta Progressive News and the Network for Public Education.  APN determined that Briscoe Brown offered the sharpest critique of charter schools.



McDaniel had received the endorsements of both CAP, on the one hand, and the American Federation of Teachers on the other.



In the Run-off, Riley, Tidwell, and City Council citizen activist Dave Walker, who also ran, each endorsed Briscoe Brown.



Briscoe Brown received 65.9 percent to 34.1 percent for McDaniel.



While Briscoe Brown received support from all over the City, she received an extreme amount of support from APS District 4, which includes City Council Districts 7 and 8, thus much of Buckhead.



APS District 4 turned out more voters than any other district, and they overwhelmingly supported Briscoe Brown, in a margin of 4,359 votes for Briscoe Brown to 308 votes for McDaniel.  



Briscoe Brown received nearly as many votes in District 4 as McDaniel did in the whole City.  She also led in APS Districts 1 and 3, while McDaniel led in APS Districts 2, 5, and 6.



Meanwhile, in District 5, Steven Lee won in the Run-off against Mary Palmer, in a margin of 59.44 percent to 40.56 percent.



Lee won despite the fact that, as reported by APN, he deceived the City of Atlanta in several resumes stating that he had a PhD, when in fact he had a piece of paper from a known diploma mill, Belford University.  The only other news medium that chose to report on this scandal was WSBTV Channel 2.



So, now APS, which just came through a cheating scandal, has a new Board Member-elect who cheated on his entire degree.



In District 6, Eshe Collins won in the Run-off against Dell Byrd, in a margin of 59.07 percent to 40.93 percent.



For the At-large Seat 9, Jason Esteves won in the Run-off against Lori James, in a margin of 71.46 percent to 28.54 percent.



Esteves challenged State Rep. Sheila Jones (D-Atlanta) in the House District 53 race in 2012.  According to Atlanta City Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9), Mayor Reed had tried to  recruit Esteves to challenge Moore this year for her Council seat; however, he chose not to make that mistake.



With the election of Collins and Esteves, this makes Teach for America’s (TFA) Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) four-for-four in supporting the election of four former TFA teachers to APS BOE positions.  Courtney English (At-large seat 7), Matt Westmoreland (District 3), Collins, and Esteves are all TFA alumni who received the support of LEE.






“It has been an amazing day.  Now we have to move forward.  This is not the end, it’s the beginning of making APS what it can be for every one of our kids and that’s the really exciting part for me,” Briscoe Brown told APN.



“Sometimes being underestimated can be an advantage,” she told APN.



“This was not just about me, this was a true grassroots effort.  My finances never did take off.  We did the whole thing on less than 50,000 dollars,” she said.



“Reuben sent out a mailer about me being endorsed by the Georia Republican Party, which was hilarious.  He was trying to pull a Mary Norwood,” she said, referring to Mayor Reed’s attacks on Norwood in 2009, which were echoed in Aaron Watson’s attacks on Norwood earlier this year before Norwood regained her Council seat.



“Everybody knows who I am.  My response was to remind people of your [APN’s] endorsement,” she said.



“I think I had an extraordinarily broad base of support and the numbers across the city confirmed that.  School Board District 4 blew it off the charts,” she said.



“One of the prevailing themes in this whole election cycle was that candidates wanted to end the divisiveness and the political and personal infighting within the School Board.  That doesn’t mean we’ll always agree – that’s not healthy either,” she said.  “A Board that rubber-stamps the Superintendent gets us into as much trouble… that’s what the Beverly Hall board did,” she said.



“We have a group of nine people who respect one another and are going to be able to disagree respectfully, to listen to one another, and then to make decisions for the good for every child,” she said.



With regard to charter schools, “I think we’re not quite as far apart as we may appear to be.  I think some candidates over the course of the election may have needed to make statements in order to separate themselves from their opponents,” she said.



“When you get down to the serious business of governing, you take other viewpoints into account.  I’m not going to approve or deny a charter based solely on ideology, but I’ll take it like I expect all my colleagues to do – I will take into account the needs of the community and the system as a whole.  Will the nine of us always see those needs the same way?  I doubt it.  I think we can be collaborative and respectful and make good decisions,” she said.



She noted that the State is requiring school districts across the state to decide whether they want to become charter systems–which gives them more flexibility with respect to statewide standards–by June 2015.



When asked if she thinks APS is in danger of having a majority of its individual schools turned into charter schools in the next four years, she said no.



“That would require a very large number of charter applications either for start ups or for conversions.  I think to have that many come up over the next four years, I think that would be very difficult,” she said.


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