Atlanta board of education candidates list is final – 27 candidates qualify

August 31, 2013

As of 5 p.m. yesterday, the list of candidates qualifying for the Board of Education is final with 27 candidates vying for the nine seats on November 5th.

Let me be one of the first to congratulate incumbent Byron Amos (D-2) and newcomer and teacher Matt Westmoreland (D-3) on their likely victories in November – both are running uncontested races. You both can now relax and enjoy the show!

On a personal note, I will add that my wife (who is a very smart lady) said that Matt was the “clear winner” at the NAPPS candidate forum this past Wednesday. Keep an eye on this young man – he is an impressive individual.

The rundown on the rest of the districts, with some thoughts on how they are shaping up, are as follows:

District 1 seat – Incumbent Brenda Muhammad, who has served for 14 years on the BOE and is also the executive director of the Atlanta Victims Assistance organization will face off against Leslie Smith Grant who is a small business owner, volunteer and education advocate.

My sense is that this race will come down to the voters evaluating Ms. Muhammad’s experience and record on the BOE versus Ms. Grant’s connections with the local organizations in the community she is running in.

District 4 seat – This will be a two-way race between realtor Nancy Meister and film consultant Taryn Bowman.

  1. Nancy Meister is the incumbent finishing up her first term and it is likely that Meister will tout her record on the Board including her strong advocacy for smaller class sizes and greater fiscal restraint.
  2. Taryn Bowman, who has prior experience as a film production accountant will likely focus on the many financial issues the BOE will face and her commitment to work on Board of Education issues full time.

My sense is that this race may focus on the many budgeting and financial issues that need to be addressed and ultimately frame the dialogue for the upcoming budget discussions in FY14. This race will be hotly contested and the future candidate forums that include Meister and Bowman will be fun to watch.

District 5 seat – This is a four way race with information technology professional Raynard Johnson, business owner and community advocate Steven Lee, information technology professional Mary Louise Palmer, real estate broker Charles Lawrence and new entrant Kathy Green.

  1. Raynard Johnson is a fiery and entertaining speaker – he knows his positions on issues and states them strongly.
  2. Mary Louise Palmer, who initially filed for the At Large 9 seat, has now qualified for the D-5 seat. Ms. Palmer has worked with large organizations (IBM, Coca Cola and Siemens) and has been very active in the community. Her presentation is clear and very professional.
  3. Steven Lee clearly has considered the issues the BOE will face in the future and presents his case well. Whether his problems with using a diploma mill credential in the past will hurt him is yet to be determined.
  4. Charles Lawrence is a very recent entrant into the race and made his first public appearance at the NAPPS candidate forum this past Wednesday. At this point, his campaign themes and position on issues are still in the works.
  5. Kathy Green filed and qualified to be a candidate yesterday. At this time she has not presented any background information or additional information on her candidacy.

My sense is that this race has a ways to go before we see a clear front runner emerging; however Ms. Palmer’s strong presence may be a deciding factor. Also, with both Johnson and Palmer having IT backgrounds, we will likely learn more about their views on how APS is using technology now and what should be in store for the future.

District 6 seat – Four candidates qualified for the seat.

  1. Eshe’ Collins, is a former attorney and teacher and now is project director at GA State for an early education non-profit organization. She is a strong candidate with inside knowledge of APS and early education issues.
  2. Dr. Dell Byrd is currently a property manager, but has long experience as an educator and taught business education for many years and is certified to teach gifted students and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). She is a very recent entrant into the race and has yet to make a formal announcement on her candidacy or establish a campaign website.
  3. Ms. McKenzie is a retired APS English teacher. At this stage she does not have a campaign website up and running and her platform at this time is not well defined.
  4. Shawnna Hayes-Tavares is a community activist and well known in her district and at the Board of Education meetings. She has strong supporters for her candidacy, however, recent disclosures may have a negative impact on her candidacy.

My sense is that if Tavares can overcome the issues from her past, she will be a formidable candidate because of her name recognition in her community. However, both Ms. Collins and Dr. Byrd present strong resumes and qualifications for the position and state their case for election well. And while Ms. McKenzie has been in the race for some time, she does not yet have a campaign website establishing her campaign theme and positions on issues. This will be an interesting race to watch – and there may be some fireworks as it develops.

At Large 7 – This will be a two way race between the incumbent and former teacher Courtney English and educator Nisha Simama.

  1. Courtney English is a former teacher and is now finishing up his first term on the BOE. While a times he pushes the envelope a bit on his claims on his accomplishments during his first term, he has strong convictions and presents them forcefully. It is likely that he will have to defend his record and then focus on how his agenda going forward will be an improvement for APS.
  2. Nisha Simama has a long career as an educator and currently serves as a counselor at the Paideia School in the Druid Hills area. Several years ago she was appointed to the BOE for a period of five months prior to the results of a special election (she did not run). Simama has strong backers and she presents her case thoughtfully and clearly.

My sense is that both candidates will run campaigns that are based on their experience as educators and their knowledge of how APS works.

At Large 8 – This is one of the more crowded races and is likely setting up as the most hotly contested with five candidates vying for the seat.

  1. Reuben McDaniel, III is an investment banker, the incumbent and current Chairman of the Board. As a result of his position, he along with Superintendent Davis, are the “face” of APS and the BOE. McDaniel knows the issues and presents them well in his campaign presentations. His task will be to defend his record on the Board and make the case that the future will be different than the past.
  2. Cynthia Briscoe Brown is an attorney and small business owner. She has had significant differences with McDaniel in the past and she has no fear about voicing those differences. Her passion is evident and it is likely that she will focus on establishing a stark difference between her vision of the future and the past record of APS.
  3. Tom Tidwell is an attorney and has been active and vocal at BOE meetings. He is also making the case that a change in leadership is needed if APS is to move forward. Tidwell is tenacious and forceful in his presentations and will not shy away from a strenuous debate.
  4. Mark Riley founded a real estate development company and served two previous terms, ending in 2009, on the BOE. He understands how APS works and is now very critical of the leadership at APS and believes a change is necessary if APS is to move forward.
  5. Dave Walker, who describes himself as a concerned citizen, is an activist in the community and has focused his attentions on the operation of the Atlanta City Council. He does not have a campaign website and it is not clear that he has made any public appearances to discuss his candidacy.

My sense is that this will be a key race to watch. There is no love lost between some of the candidates and they are not shy in presenting their strong positions and how they differ from one another. It is likely that future candidate forums for this group will be lively and with lots of fireworks. I look forward to them as this slate of candidates may begin establishing very clear and distinct definitions on the issues and alternatives facing APS.

At Large 9 – This is another crowded race with five candidates running for the seat. As the incumbent is not seeking reelection, this race will be focused on the future of APS as no one has to defend the past.

  1. Jason Esteves is a former teacher and now works as an attorney with McKenna Long. He is thoughtful in his answers to questions and often looks to his experiences as a teacher in formulating responses.
  2. Dr. Lori James is a special education consultant, former teacher and at one time was coordinator for special education at APS. She brings both inside knowledge and expertise in an area that has often been problematic at APS. Her insights and experience should result in a public discussion about the special need programs at APS and how to transform them.
  3. Ed Johnson is a business owner and quality consultant. He has unsuccessfully run for this seat twice before – in 2001 and 2005. Johnson just recently entered the race and does not yet have a current campaign website running that presents his views on the current issues facing APS.
  4. Eddie Lee Brewster is a community activist and former East Point City Council member. Since serving on the Council, Brewster has run a number of unsuccessful campaigns for various offices. However, his current positions on APS issues are relatively unknown and he has declined to participate in candidate forums.
  5. Sean Norman filed and qualified to be a candidate yesterday. At this time he has not presented any background information or additional information on his candidacy.

My sense is that Esteves and James are the leaders in this race as the other candidates have yet to present their case for election to the public. In addition, the race may establish a much needed discussion on special education in APS and proposals for reform.

In summary, two races are done given that Amos and Westmoreland are running unopposed. However, the wide range of experience and views expressed by the other 25 candidates should present a lively and vigorous debate for the other seven contested seats.

Stay tuned.

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27 candidates qualify for 9 board of education seats

August 30, 2013

AJC’s Mark Niesse reported that the 25 previously announced candidates, plus two new entrants, qualified to run for the nine Board of Education seats in the upcoming election on November 5.

The two new candidates are Sean Norman for the At Large 9 seat and Kathy Green for the  District 5 seat. Their backgrounds are not known at this time.

I will have a complete run down for each race posted tomorrow.


Fact checking the media – WSBTV – Really?

August 30, 2013

WSBTV ran a story about the upcoming furlough day for “teachers” on Labor Day. The entire story could have been the following one liner –

ALL APS employees are reminded AGAIN that Labor Day is an unpaid furlough day.

Instead, starting from the top, we get this,

Atlanta Public School teachers were notified this week they will be furloughed on Labor Day and not paid.

The notification that went out this week was simply a reminder. The facts are that the BOE passed the specific furlough days on July 11 (including Labor Day) and the furlough days affect all APS employees, not just teachers. In addition, APS published a staff calendar at that time with the furlough days clearly shown along with including (and highlighting) the information in the Employee Handbook.

In addition, per an APS official, Atlanta is the only school district in the state that pays employees for an additional 11-12 holidays.

There is nothing new here and I am NOT surprised that a teacher was not quoted in the interview – it would have destroyed the narrative.

The report then goes on to say,

Georgia lawmakers cut the education budget in recent years and many districts decided to make up for lost money by furloughing employees.

Interesting assessment, but the K-12 state budget increased from $7.3 billion in FY13 to $7.4 billion in FY14 (page 142 at the link). Whoops!

And then they include my favorite quote,

 The state has decided it really doesn’t believe in education because it keeps cutting and cutting from our children and teachers,” said Veradaillia Turner, president of the Atlanta Federation of Teachers.

On its face, this is simply absurd. While we each can have an opinion on the adequacy of state funding for K-12 education in Georgia, the facts do matter.

Let’s hope WSBTV does a better job next time.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]


A quick note on the NAPPS Board of Education candidate forum last night

August 29, 2013

NAPPS held their candidate forum yesterday evening and the turnout was fantastic. Of the 25 announced candidates, 21 attended and had an opportunity to introduce themselves to the audience. The forum lasted for nearly three hours and was composed of seven candidate panels – Districts 3, 4, 5, 6 and At Large 7, 8 and 9. Each candidate was afforded an opportunity to make an opening statement, answer four questions and then make a closing statement.

Candidates from District 1 and 2 – who do not represent the schools covered by NAPPS – were given an opportunity to introduce themselves and provide information on why they are running and what their priorities would be if elected.

The forum was videotaped by students from NAHS and, when the editing of the video is complete, it will be posted at the NAPPS site. The Reporter Newspapers’ Dan Whisenhunt did take a separate video of the District 4 session with Nancy Meister and Taryn Bowman and the video can be seen here.

I hope to get a video of the complete event in the near future and will then post a recap for each candidate panel when received.

The leaders of NAPPS – Kim Zemmalli, Reide Onley, Patricia Israel and Amy Shea – and the many other volunteers that contributed to making the event a great success deserve our thanks.

Great job and well done!

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]


Breaking News – Ed Johnson files for Atlanta Board of Education At-Large 9 seat [Updated]

August 28, 2013

[Update – based on emails from Mr. Johnson, he is known in the community as “Ed” and his work is more properly described as a “quality consultant”. The post has been modified to reflect these changes.]

Ed Johnson (aka Edward H. Johnson), a quality consultant, filed for the Board of Education At-Large 9 seat this past Monday.  However, at this time Johnson has not made a formal announcement of his candidacy.

His opponents are attorney Jason Esteves, education consultant Dr. Lori James, retired technology professional Mary Louise Palmer and former East Point City Councilmember Eddie Lee Brewster. The current incumbent Emmett Johnson is not seeking reelection.

Per Mr. Johnson’s Linked-In profile and company website (Quality Information Solutions, Inc.), he earned a BS in computer science from Clark College in Atlanta and served with the U.S. Army Security Agency (USASA).  In 1989 he formed his company and currently serves as the president and principal consultant for the organization. Johnson is also an advocate for K-12 education and has presented his views at a number of forums. In addition, he previously ran for the same BOE seat in 2001 and 2005 and has served in leadership positions in the Atlanta Area Deming Study Group, Inc. (AADSG). (See full resume here).

In a recent guest post at The Art of Teaching, Mr. Johnson wrote on his views regarding the selection of the next superintendent for APS,

… the next APS superintendent needs to be – no, must be – a Systems Thinker, perhaps in the style of teachings by the late Dr. W. Edwards Deming and similar others, or possibly in the style of the Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence. Implicit in both these styles is ethical and moral development born of cooperation and collaboration, something that cannot possibly happen with competition and adversarialism where it truly matters. And it truly matters for educating today’s children with the aim of sustaining democratic ideals in service to the public good.

As Mr. Johnson provides additional information on his positions on issues publicly over the next couple of months, I will continue to document them in the BOE Candidates Positions and Links (see here).

Mr. Johnson – welcome to the race and we look forward to hearing more about you and your views!

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]


Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education candidate news & updates

August 28, 2013

Edward “Ed” H. Johnson, a quality consultant, filed for the Board of Education At-Large 9 seat this past Monday. I will provide a report on Mr. Johnson’s candidacy later on today.

Also, Anne McKenzie, who had initially filed for the At-Large 9 seat, amended her filing and is now running for the District 6 seat.

As noted yesterday, NAPPS will be holding a candidate forum this evening at 7 p.m. at Bolton Academy. All the candidates are invited and a large turnout is expected. I will be moderating the forum and look forward to hearing what the candidates have to say.

Also, additional candidate forums are on the schedule – see John Schaffner’s report at the  Buckhead View for more information.

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Taryn Chilivis Bowman formally announces campaign for BOE district 4 seat

August 27, 2013

Bowman 082713 cwebsite Today, small business owner and film production accountant Taryn Bowman formally announced her candidacy for the District 4 Board of Education seat. She is running against realtor Nancy Meister who is the incumbent in the position. [First reported at the Reporter Newspapers here]

Her press release (see below in its entirety) states that she is seeking office to,

 … lower class sizes, a balanced budget, and giving each cluster control of its own budget to promote greater community involvement

Bowman wants to focus on the allocation of resources and said,

Instead of raising the budget, we need to effectively manage the budget. It’s not right to expect teachers to manage more and more students while allocating budget money to administrative costs. That money should go into hiring new teachers and fairly compensating the ones that we have.  Principals need to be empowered to hire the teachers that they deem qualified within their given budget. That is what is best for the students and what is best for the teachers.

In addition, Bowman wants to “to transform the budget and cut unnecessary spending rather than increasing property taxes to compensate for a mismanaged budget”.

Ms. Bowman also addressed the upcoming selection of a new superintendent and stated,

Hiring a new superintendent with experience, proven integrity and leadership skills will impact Atlanta for years to come.  What we need is an A team. Right now APS is not on that level. I can help accomplish this.

Ms. Bowman earned a BA from Southern Methodist University and first moved to  Atlanta in 1975. During her career, she has worked  as a real estate agent, as a teacher and as a youth director. In addition, she has worked for the Georgia Department of Labor in its Distance Learning Center, acted in films and as a budgeting executive in the film industry in Georgia and California.  She is an active member of the Church of the Apostles. (see more here).

As Ms. Bowman expands on her positions on issues publicly over the next couple of months, I will continue to document them in the BOE Candidates Positions and Links (see here).

[Full Press Release Follows]

Taryn Chilivis Bowman, small business owner and film production accountant, has announced that she will run for the District 4 Atlanta Board of Education seat.  Bowman views the desire for more APS achievements, lower class sizes, a balanced budget, and giving each cluster control of its own budget to promote greater community involvement as her primary reasons for seeking office.

“Instead of raising the budget, we need to effectively manage the budget. It’s not right to expect teachers to manage more and more students while allocating budget money to administrative costs. That money should go into hiring new teachers and fairly compensating the ones that we have.  Principals need to be empowered to hire the teachers that they deem qualified within their given budget. That is what is best for the students and what is best for the teachers.”  Bowman pointed out that we need to transform the budget and cut unnecessary spending rather than increasing property taxes to compensate for a mismanaged budget.

Bowman also noted the importance of hiring a new superintendent.  “Hiring a new superintendent with experience, proven integrity and leadership skills will impact Atlanta for years to come.  What we need is an A team. Right now APS is not on that level. I can help accomplish this.”

“I really believe that APS is at an impasse,” said Bowman. “When you look at my opponent’s record, I do not think you will find any evidence that she has been an integral part in moving APS in the direction of excellence.”  Bowman noted that the current interim superintendent has been in office for more than two years now without any prospects of a new superintendent on the table.

Bowman is a strong supporter of the Atlanta Public School system, with three daughters attending APS schools.  She has a passion for education and a heart for children.  Bowman said that she feels her vested interest in public schools will serve as a great motivator to spurn change within the school system.  “All children deserve the opportunity for an excellent education. The APS is poised to excel if we commit to raising the bar and not settling for apathy and politics impeding our progress!” says Bowman.

Taryn Chilivis Bowman is a former teacher and youth director, as well as a former employee of the Georgia Department of Labor’s Distance Learning Center. Taryn has also worked as a budgeting executive in the film industry in Georgia and California.  She is an active member of the Church of the Apostles.

Taryn can be reached at 404-848-9898 or by email at voteforbowman@gmail.com. Please visit her website at www.voteforbowman.com.

[End]

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