On November 7th during the Municipal elections, voters in the metro Atlanta area will choose representation for a variety of elected seats-including school board seats. As custom for us as an independent news organization, we have approached every candidate who qualified to run with a series of questions for them to answer for the voters of Atlanta.
Once each candidate returns their questionnaire, their answers are posted as-is and without commentary from the editorial team, minus grammatical corrections. If any candidate did not receive a questionnaire, they can email our editorial team at firstname.lastname@example.org
India Epps, Candidate for District 2, Post B Seat
Our first political questionnaire was completed by India Epps who is running for the District 2, Post B Seat for Decatur City Schools that covers the following schools:
Background/Reasons for Seeking (Re)Election:
Why are you running for the Board of Education? If (re)elected, what will be your priorities?
My decision to seek a position on the school board is driven by my values – compassion, communication, and collaboration – and a desire to make a positive impact on CSD students and the broader community. I have been actively involved in the schools on various committees, fundraisers and events over the years and I believe this role will allow me to contribute even more to the success of our children. My priorities will be 1)ensuring that we are able to support all of our students, especially in the areas of literacy and math, 2)Teacher well-being including adequate time for training and professional development, competitive pay, and effective resources and 3) Maintaining open lines of communication with all stakeholders – students, parents, teachers, administrators and the community
Is there a particular issue that motivates you to serve on the board of education?
There are several but one of the major issues is supporting all of our kids in their educational journey, particularly in the areas of literacy and math. Reading is the key to academic success. We need to make sure that there is a consistent and timely process in place to identify and provide intervention for students who learn differently. We need to ensure that we are providing evidence-based and dyslexic-inclusive approaches to curriculum and also providing time for teacher training on any new curriculum.
What experiences or skills have prepared you to be a board member?
My professional background is in Human Resources with a concentration in recruiting. HR is a very people-focused profession. It requires patience, communication, and collaboration. Based on experience, I also understand the importance of frequently reviewing and revising policies, consistent practices, attracting and retaining talent, professional development, and keeping stakeholders informed.
In what school district or community activities/organizations have you been involved?
I have been active in the City of Decatur school district. I have been actively involved in the PTA, and several committees including DEI, a return to school Parent Committee, Room Parent Coordinator. I am also a part of the Leadership team for Decatur Parents Network, an organization committed to supporting parents in our community. I have also been active in the Junior League of Dekalb, serving as a Member Advisory Co-Chair. I currently serve as an Assistant Program Director for the Jack & Jill of America Atlanta chapter.
Why should you be elected to the Board of Education?
I believe our students deserve the very best education and opportunities. I am committed to working closely with our Superintendent and school board members to ensure that we are providing a high-quality education and experience for our kids.
What differentiates you from the other candidates and/or board members?
I have over 20 years of experience in Human Resources. This experience has equipped me with the skills necessary to analyze complex issues, make informed decisions, and advocate for positive change. I have been an actively involved parent and I have seen some of our challenges and successes. I will advocate for an environment that supports the unique needs of each and every student.
Board of Education Governance:
What attributes and behaviors are essential for school board members?
I think some of the essential attributes and behaviors for school board members include- Making informed decisions that are in line with the district’s vision and mission, commitment to always evolving along with the needs of students, effective communication to clearly convey information and keep stakeholders informed about any decisions and initiatives, collaborating with other board members, administrators, teachers, staff, parents and the community overall.
What is the best way to address differences of opinion on or between the board and the administration?
I believe it is important to have diversity in perspectives on the school board. That’s vital to the success of our district. I think the best way to address differences of opinion is through communication, collaboration, and trying to find some areas of agreement. The focus should be on the ultimate goal – the students.
Could you support a board decision you did not vote in favor of? Why or why not?
If I am outvoted in a decision, I would hope that the decision has been thoroughly reviewed and is fair. I will do my best to support you.
How can the board be accessible to the community? To specific community groups?
By holding regular listening sessions, actively engaging the community, communicating changes and initiatives in a timely manner. Establishing and maintaining relationships with community organizations and local businesses.
How can a board of education best communicate with its constituent groups?
By hosting regular meetings/town halls/forums in person or virtually and having open dialogue, communicating through social media platforms, emails, etc. Communication is a two way process and I believe that it is crucial for the board to actively listen to and address concerns and take that into account when making decisions.
What issues do you believe your district needs to address in its academic program and offerings?
I believe our district needs to address literacy and the fact that we do have a demographic of students reading below proficiently. There is an urgent need to address this issue. The district has begun the science of reading training, so I am optimistic that some change will happen very soon. We have also implemented new math standards. We have students who need support and are struggling in this area as well. I have seen many families leave our district for private schools and/or private tutoring that will provide the support with literacy and math that their child needs
What should your school district do to prepare students as citizens better?
I believe that it is important to educate students on the importance of civic engagement including service to the community and activism. This can be done through curriculum, clubs/leadership programs, community partnerships, and discussions on current events.
What can be done to improve student achievement and ensure everyone who graduates is college-ready?
This is a commitment that requires collaboration amongst the board, the community, educators, students, and parents. We have to make sure that our teachers are receiving training and ongoing professional development to deliver instruction. We currently offer AP and IB programs to challenge and prepare students for college. We can always analyze these to ensure that we are offering a variety of courses that meet student needs. We can also offer more tutoring and interventions to support students who are struggling. I also believe partnerships with community organizations and local businesses are important to provide students with guidance, skills, and real-world experiences.
What are your thoughts on your school district’s programs for special education students, English Language Learners (ELL), and gifted students?
I believe that it is important to provide curriculum and instruction that meets the unique learning needs of all students. School districts need to ensure that they are allocating resources that provide training to special education, ELL, and gifted staff to ensure that they are effectively meeting student needs. It is also important for specialists to collaborate with families and the community overall to enhance any support that can be provided to these students.
School Board Issues:
What is your vision for education in this community?
I believe we can be a model school district – a district that is able to inspire and guide other school districts. We all want to see our children thrive. We have the resources and the passion to make this happen.
What are the major issues (s) facing your school district? Public education?
There is a reading crisis in schools across the nation. As I mentioned previously, literacy is a major issue and we need to have a proactive approach to implementing better resources to identify and support all students, especially those that are reading below grade level.
What are your areas of concern regarding student achievement in your district?
There is data that shows that a population of our black students is not performing to standards in literacy and math. I’d also like to ensure that we are supporting the mental health and well-being of both our students and teachers, which if not taken into consideration, can often be barriers to student achievement.
Do you have specific suggestions for improvement?
I would like to see more tutoring and intervention implemented at all of the grade levels. I would like to see our teachers and staff paid competitively and a frequent compensation analysis conducted to ensure that we continue to value and retain them. I would also like to see our district enhance communication and continue to engage with the community so that there is always clear information about decisions and policies. We also need to ensure that our policies promote fairness and inclusivity and that we support professional development that equips teachers/staff with skills to address bias and create inclusive environments. Our children always deserve to feel safe and included.
Early voting started October 16 and continues through November 3rd in select locations. Please visit www.fultonelections.com for more details.