Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education incumbent and candidate Nancy Meister (D-4) responded to comments made by challenger Taryn Bowman at a recent candidate forum. Bowman’s original comments and subsequent follow-on comments can be seen here & here.
Meister’s response, as posted at her campaign website blog, is below.
I am grateful for the opportunity to address and respond to the comments made recently at the candidate forum at Sarah Smith Elementary.
I believe it’s important for all candidates to demonstrate integrity and explain the principles which will guide our campaigns and our decisions as your elected representatives. This campaign is about electing the right person to represent the interests of our children within the greater APS community.
I am proud of my record and accomplishments while serving as the District 4 Board representative over these past four years. I’ve been privileged and honored to do so.
As so many of you know, my service began during a period of transition and elevated tension related primarily to the CRCT cheating scandal. This resulted in 185 individuals being removed from the system for a spectrum of reasons.
At the same time, I recognized the vast amount of advocacy required by my role. This is demonstrated by my work to support lowering class sizes, reducing spending at the central office, and balancing the budget while eliminating furlough days for teachers. I will continue to support these efforts and look forward to leading a majority on the Board to enact these reforms.
It has been suggested that some of my positions as a Board member were misplaced. Terms like ‘backroom politics’ and ‘conflicts of interest’ have been used with reference to my work. I believe these comments are unfounded and are a distraction from the real issues at hand in this important election.
For example, my decisions regarding the Pine Hills redistricting issue were based on one simple principle – to the extent possible, communities should stay together at schools. Rather than splitting neighborhoods, I chose to keep them together. No backroom deals, no conflicts of interest – this is simply a reflection of what I believe is best for all the neighborhoods in our district.
In addition, it has been suggested that as Board members, we allowed “guns in schools” and “sexual assaults”. This is truly disheartening to anyone serving in the public interest, especially those of us working so hard to create a culture of trust and accountability.
When the terrible tragedy last year in Sandy Hook, Connecticut took place, the Board took action and approved the expansion of security in our schools. I stand on the principle that providing safe schools for our children is paramount. I spearheaded a cluster meeting that was specific to Safety and Security with our internal security department, administrator and parents. Important dialog and ideas came from this discussion and were implemented with the Principals this year. With the assistance of the City of Atlanta Police Department, we established a much stronger security presence and increased the level of safety for our students.
The APS Board continues to evolve and we are making significant strides emerging from the cheating scandal that plagued our reputation as a great school system for our children. During this time, I believe my tenure and experience is an asset as your representative. Experience matters.
It matters in regards to reforming the budget and the budget process. This is an effort I am leading on the Board.
- It matters in regards to selecting a new superintendent who will guide APS forward as a premiere school district. I voted against extending the current superintendent’s contract and I am deeply involved in the process of choosing our next leader that will adopt the policies that matter to our district.
- It matters in understanding the need for reallocating resources out of the administration and into the classroom.
- It matters in terms of time commitment and contact with the local community. It is my privilege to be your representative and as such, I am diligent in making myself available to hear your questions and concerns. It’s through this dialogue that we achieve the goals to which we aspire.
This election is extremely important. As candidates, we debate the issues that affect our constituency. As illustrated by the International Baccalaureate attributes across our cluster of schools, we are built on a foundation of characteristics such as respect, compassion, caring and reflection. This campaign is no different. I look forward to an educated debate on the issues we face and can truly address rather than wild and sensational political ploys. The future of our children deserve much better.