On May 21, during the General Primary elections, voters in the metro Atlanta area will choose representation for various elected seats, including school board seats. As is customary 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 editor@educationinatlanta.com

District 1 : Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville, and Dunwoody  

Why are you running for the Board of Education? If (re)elected, what will be your priorities? 

● For us to achieve our vision of safe, healthy, thriving schools where the best teachers want to work, where parents want to send their children, and where the environment and culture allow all students to have the best start to their futures, the Board must get back to basics: 

Sound fiscal policy and accountability. Ensure taxpayers’ money is used wisely and get our finances in order. Currently, DCSD is operating with two financial systems, wasting more than $23M on a never-ending software transition. In addition to fixing this accounting software debacle, we need to provide taxpayers with more transparency on how our money is being spent. 

○ Fix our school buildings. The Board has failed to repair and/or replace our crumbling and unsafe schools across the county. Our capital improvement plans have largely been ignored. This is an area of expertise that the School Board is lacking and one that I have a proven successful track record in. Specifically, I will dust off our plan and put it into action. I believe we can address those properties with the most need while making improvements across all our schools. 

○ Develop an atmosphere where safety and mental health are valued. Students and teachers cannot succeed when they feel unsafe. Just one way we can make an immediate impact is by enacting protocols so that families receive timely and accurate communications about school safety, and earmark budget items toward wellness providers and mental health services. 

Is there a particular issue that motivates you to serve on the board of education? 

● As a part of the community, I have frequent conversations, particularly regarding concerns about student safety, acceptance, the shortage of mental health services in schools, the recent anti-LGBTQ+ bills coming out of the Capitol, and most importantly, opportunities DCSD creates for young adults leaving High School. Parents are also

concerned with the fiscal health and overall stability of the school district, the high turnover, and particularly, the frequent superintendent turnover. 

What experiences or skills have prepared you to be a board member? 

● Professionally, I delivered the world’s first Internet banking software and have 30 years of experience innovating, managing, and leading large teams in both IT and Commercial Real Estate at multi-million-dollar companies successfully. 

● I am most proud of the work I’ve done to improve our communities locally. I am a past carpool dad and 13-year active volunteer and parent of a DeKalb County School District student. I was elected to two Principal Advisory Councils, volunteered on the Peachtree Middle School Foundation and I co-founded the cross-cluster school communication network in my district that DSCD later formalized. 

● Our child was diagnosed with a rare medical condition at three months old which prompted me to help organize and create a non-profit that formed a support community for families. The PHACE Syndrome Community is still active today, over a decade since its founding. 

● I’ve also been involved in several DeKalb community organizations focused on improving the lives of children and families. One recent project was collecting used computers and printers that would be repurposed and given to lower-income families with school-age children. 

● Through these experiences, I have seen firsthand all aspects of DeKalb School’s triumphs and missteps. I am ready to help and solve complex problems. 

In what school district or community activities/organizations have you been involved? 

● DeKalb School of the Arts Principal Advisory Council 

● Peachtree Gateway Middle School Foundation Volunteer 

● Peachtree Gateway Council on Schools Dunwoody Representative 

● Dunwoody Elementary School Principal Advisory Council 

● Dunwoody Elementary School PTO Volunteer and Technology Committee Chair ● Kyle Pease Foundation, Ambassador and push assist volunteer 

● PHACE Syndrome Community, founder, past Treasurer and Board Member

Why should you be elected to the Board of Education?

● I am running for this position to make an impact on the future of our young adults, to give them all a chance at a healthy, happy, and meaningful life. 

● When our students are in their final years of High School, there should be many options to give them a strong start either with job training, technical school, or college. I firmly believe that a public school education sets the tone for the local community, its desirability, economic development, and its future. 

What differentiates you from the other candidates and/or board members? 

● To effectively govern the state’s third-largest school district with its myriad of complex financial, infrastructure, and leadership problems requires a seasoned executive leader. My 30+ years of innovating, managing, and leading large corporations means I am ready to start fixing our school district’s problems from day one. I am the only candidate in my race with executive expertise and experience in managing multi-million-dollar budgets, commercial real estate projects, and facilities planning/maintenance. In addition, my 20+ years in Information Technology will add a skill set lacking on the school board. Also, I have been in most of our local schools for the past thirteen years working as a volunteer to make our schools better for our students. 

What attributes and behaviors are essential for school board members?’ 

● School Board members represent the school system and should conduct themselves in a manner consistent with ethical standards, transparency, and should be not politically driven. 

What is the best way to address differences of opinion on or between the board and the administration? 

● The foundation of professional relationships will always be trust and respect. Part of my current job is to invest on behalf of my family and friends. If there is no foundation of trust and respect, the business model does not work and no one will invest. 

● Applying this to the School Board and the Administration, the professional relationship is the foundation for working together. Respecting differences and truly understanding another perspective will be the best tool for satisfactory or compromised solutions to complicated problems. 

● Each Board Member should also have a clear understanding of their fellow Board Member’s needs in their local community to ensure decisions are made with the greatest

need considered first. When resources are limited, areas of greatest need should be established with data-based decisions, rather than loud voices. 

● The Board should act as a team and if there is disagreement, it needs to be managed professionally and internally. Of course, Board members are allowed to disagree with each other, and it is fair for them to voice that dissent. However, when Board disagreements spill out into the community, our students and stakeholders lose. 

Could you support a board decision you did not vote in favor of? Why or why not? 

● Ideally, all opposing parties on a decision should walk away feeling like they won something, and lost something, in the decision made. That’s when you know that a true compromise was reached. I am hopeful that when on the Board, we can work together to bring only decisions that everyone feels like they have come away with some progress and can tolerate the outcomes they disagree with. 

● However, that doesn’t always happen in real life. The most straightforward answer is “it depends” based on the circumstances. I can say that I think the DeKalb County School Board has a history of airing board grievances in the public with unprofessional manners, and I don’t abide by that. 

How can the board be accessible to the community? To specific community groups? 

● Feedback from my local community is that they want to see the school board representative visible and actively communicating with stakeholders. Keeping an active channel of communication via regular electronic communications such as email newsletters and social media is important and needed. Regular in-person community meetings are also important to stakeholders, especially when important topics arise. It is critical that extra attention is paid to being present and communicating with groups representing underserved and marginalized community members. 

How can a board of education best communicate with its constituent groups? 

● Stakeholders in DeKalb have a communication channel with their elected district representative. What is missing is direct communication with a local District to understand problems in non-local districts. 

● When challenges are identified by DCSD and advertised to stakeholders across districts, it creates a better appreciation of the complex problems in a local district. Changing the stakeholder perspective from a very local lens to a County-wide lens will create better understanding and possibly unexpected partnerships.

What issues do you believe your district needs to address in its academic program and offerings? 

● In District 1 DeKalb County, there are several critical issues that need to be addressed in its academic programs and offerings to ensure the success and well-being of students. Here are some key areas of concern: 

○ Equity and Access: It’s crucial to ensure that all students, regardless of their background or circumstances, have equitable access to high-quality educational opportunities. This includes addressing disparities in resources, funding, and access to advanced coursework and extracurricular activities. 

○ Diversity and Inclusion: District 1 should strive to create a learning environment that celebrates diversity and promotes inclusion. This involves incorporating culturally responsive teaching practices, fostering a sense of belonging for all students, and providing cross-cultural learning and dialogue opportunities. 

○ Academic Rigor and Support: There needs to be a balance between challenging students academically and providing the necessary support to help them succeed. This may involve offering a diverse range of courses and programs to meet the needs and interests of all learners, as well as providing targeted interventions and support services for students who may be struggling academically. 

○ STEM Education: With the increasing importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields in the 21st-century workforce, it’s essential to prioritize STEM education in District 1. This includes expanding access to STEM courses, providing hands-on learning opportunities, and promoting STEM career pathways. 

○ Social and Emotional Learning: District 1 should prioritize the social and emotional well-being of students by incorporating social and emotional learning (SEL) into its curriculum and programming. This includes teaching skills such as self-awareness, empathy, and resilience, as well as providing support services to address the mental health needs of students. 

○ Community Engagement: It’s essential to involve parents, caregivers, community members, and other stakeholders in the decision-making process regarding educational programming and offerings. This can help ensure that programs are responsive to the needs and priorities of the local community and promote a sense of ownership and accountability.

○ By addressing these issues and prioritizing the needs of students, District 1 DeKalb County can create a more inclusive, equitable, and effective educational system that prepares all students for success in school and beyond. 

What should your school district do to prepare students as citizens better?

● Here are some key initiatives that I believe would make a meaningful impact: 

○ Civic Education Curriculum: Implementing a civic education curriculum that provides students with a deep understanding of democratic principles, government structures, and their rights and responsibilities as citizens. This curriculum should be integrated into various subjects and grade levels to ensure comprehensive coverage. 

○ Hands-on Civic Engagement: Provide opportunities for students to actively engage in civic activities both within and outside the classroom. This could include organizing mock elections, participating in community service projects, attending city council meetings, or volunteering with local organizations. 

○ Media Literacy Education: Equip students with the critical thinking skills necessary to navigate an increasingly complex media landscape. Teach them how to evaluate sources of information, and identify bias and misinformation. 

○ Experiential Learning: Offer experiential learning opportunities that allow students to apply their knowledge of civics in real-world contexts. This could involve internships with local government offices, participation in youth leadership programs, or simulations of civic processes. 

○ Diverse Perspectives: Ensure that the curriculum reflects the diverse perspectives and experiences of our community. Incorporate materials and resources that highlight the contributions of marginalized groups to our nation’s history and civic life. 

○ Partnerships with Community Organizations: Forge partnerships with community organizations, nonprofits, and government agencies to enhance civic education initiatives and provide students with access to resources and opportunities beyond the classroom. 

○ Teacher Professional Development: Invest in professional development opportunities for educators to strengthen their knowledge and skills in teaching civics effectively. Provide ongoing support and resources to help teachers integrate civic education into their instruction.

○ By implementing these initiatives, our school district can empower students to become informed, engaged, and active participants in our democracy. By instilling a strong sense of civic responsibility and providing them with the tools and opportunities they need to make a difference, we can help prepare the next generation of leaders and citizens in District 1 DeKalb County. 

What can be done to improve student achievement and ensure everyone who graduates is college-ready? 

● Improving student achievement and ensuring college readiness are crucial goals for District 1 DeKalb County. Here are some steps that can be taken to achieve these objectives: 

○ Early Intervention and Support: Implement targeted interventions and support services to address academic challenges early on and prevent students from falling behind. This could include providing additional tutoring, academic enrichment programs, and personalized learning plans tailored to individual student needs. 

○ High-Quality Instruction: Invest in recruiting, training, and retaining high-quality teachers who are equipped to deliver rigorous and engaging instruction. Provide ongoing professional development opportunities to ensure that educators have the skills and knowledge to meet the diverse needs of students. 

○ Curricular Alignment: Align curriculum, instruction, and assessments to college and career readiness standards to ensure that students are adequately prepared for the expectations of higher education. Provide access to rigorous coursework, including Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, as well as career and technical education (CTE) pathways. 

○ Individualized College/Career Planning: Offer comprehensive college and career counseling services to help students navigate the college admissions process, explore postsecondary options, and develop personalized plans for achieving their educational and career goals. This includes providing information about financial aid, scholarships, and other resources to make higher education accessible to all students. 

○ Dual Enrollment and Advanced Placement: Expand opportunities for dual enrollment and AP courses to allow students to earn college credit while still in high school. Provide support to ensure that students are successful in these courses and have access to resources such as exam preparation and academic tutoring.

○ Focus on Literacy and Math: Prioritize literacy and math skills across all grade levels and subject areas to build a strong foundation for academic success. Implement evidence-based strategies to improve reading comprehension, writing proficiency, and mathematical reasoning skills. 

○ Data-Informed Decision-Making: Use data to identify areas of improvement, monitor student progress, and inform instructional practices. Establish systems for tracking student outcomes and adjusting interventions and supports based on evidence of effectiveness. 

○ Family and Community Engagement: Foster partnerships with families, community organizations, and higher education institutions to create a supportive ecosystem that promotes student success. Provide resources and workshops for parents to support their children’s academic and college readiness goals. 

○ By implementing these strategies, District 1 DeKalb County can improve student achievement and ensure that all graduates are prepared for success in college and beyond. By fostering a culture of high expectations, providing targeted support, and fostering collaboration among stakeholders, we can empower every student to reach their full potential. 

What are your thoughts on your school district’s programs for special education students, English Language Learners (ELL), and gifted students? 

● Addressing the needs of special education students, English Language Learners (ELL), and gifted students is vital for fostering an inclusive and equitable educational environment in District 1 DeKalb County. Here are my thoughts on the district’s programs for these student populations: 

○ Special Education Programs: It’s essential for the district to ensure that special education programs provide comprehensive support and services to meet the diverse needs of students with disabilities. This includes 

individualized education plans (IEPs) tailored to each student’s strengths and challenges, access to qualified special education teachers and 

support staff, and a range of accommodations and modifications to 

facilitate learning and participation in the general education curriculum. 

Additionally, there should be a focus on promoting inclusion and fostering a supportive and inclusive school culture where all students feel valued and included. 

○ English Language Learners (ELL) Programs: District 1 should prioritize providing high-quality English language development programs and supports to help ELL students achieve proficiency in English while also 

ensuring access to grade-level content and academic rigor. This includes effective English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction, bilingual education options where appropriate, and culturally responsive teaching practices that value students’ linguistic and cultural backgrounds. It’s also important to provide opportunities for ELL students to participate in extracurricular activities and engage with their peers to foster social and academic integration. 

○ Gifted Education Programs: The district should ensure that gifted education programs are adequately resourced and structured to meet the unique needs of gifted students. This includes providing differentiated instruction, enrichment opportunities, and acceleration options to challenge and engage gifted learners at their appropriate level of readiness and ability. It’s also essential to identify gifted students from diverse backgrounds and ensure equitable access to gifted education programs, as well as to provide support for the social and emotional development of gifted students. 

○ Overall, the district’s programs for special education students, English Language Learners, and gifted students should be inclusive, equitable, and responsive to the diverse needs of all learners. By prioritizing the provision of high-quality instruction, support services, and resources for these student populations, District 1 DeKalb County can create a learning environment where every student has the opportunity to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. 

What is your vision for education in this community? 

● My vision is very simple – Create an environment where: 

○ Teachers want to work for DCSD as a first choice in the Atlanta Metro area. ○ Parents want to send their kids to a DCSD school as a first choice. 

○ An environment exists that supports and appreciates teachers as well as their professional development. 

○ Students and teachers are in a school building that is well-maintained and supports learning. 

What are the major issues (s) facing your school district? Public education?

● District 1 consists of Dunwoody High School, Chamblee High School, and some of the feeder schools to Cross Keys High School. In District 1, the major issues include: ○ Overcrowding at Cross Keys and Dunwoody High School. 

○ Overcrowding at Montgomery, Kittredge, Ashford Park and High Tower Elementary Schools. 

○ Aging classroom trailers at Peachtree Middle School. 

○ Low graduation rates at Cross Keys High School. 

What are your areas of concern regarding student achievement in your district? 

● The main concern I have is the low graduation rate at Cross Keys High School. This is where the most opportunity exists to give students forward-moving job and technical skills. 

Do you have specific suggestions for improvement? 

● If the student is not destined to graduate, offer a GED program or other intervention programs with job training. If the student is not destined for college, make them aware of Piedmont Technical College and other similar programs. Provide opportunities that are meaningful and will provide the best head start considering their circumstances. ○ .

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