At Large 7 Board of Education candidate closing statements

Nisha Simama

Dear Voters

Squabbling on the Board, accreditation risked, a nationally embarrassing cheating scandal, a graduation rate stuck at around 50%, good hires we can’t retain, lack of focus, a Board member using an APS credit card as his own personal piggybank: it all tells us our children and their opportunities to succeed and our community’s long-term prosperity are not the number one priority.

Our children deserve better.

The current Board’s priorities are so clearly misplaced, it’s time for change.

The change we need demands Renewal, Reform, and Responsibility. That means developing collaborative relationships with civic, business and university partners that enhance the educational experiences of our children. It means fostering health and safety in the broader community. It means best practices and innovation judged strictly by impact on student outcomes. It means that every active stakeholder be responsible to the community we serve.

An effective school board must demonstrate accountability to the families of our students, ensuring that our students meet high academic standards; that our faculty and staff are highly trained and have opportunities for professional development; that we are good stewards of tax dollars; and that we are open and transparent to the community at large.

We must listen.

That’s why I am running. I can get the job done. I am a lifelong educator with over 30 years of hands-on experience that includes a 2011 interim appointment to the Board, bringing my collaborative approach and helping the Board meet SACS’ requirements for lifting probation. I have taught at East Lake Elementary and at Paideia. I ran the largest Head Start program in the state and now serve on the Fulton County Board of Health and on the board of Morehouse School of Medicine’s Prevention Research Center. I wake up every morning asking, “What can I do today to make things better?” I haven’t sought the spotlight, only solutions.

It’s time to get our priorities right. It’s time for Renewal, Reform, and Responsibility in our school system.

Finally, I will answer only to you. No political or single-issue special interest group has secured commitments from me upfront. I’m ready to get to work. Please support change; please support me. Thank you.

Courtney English (I)

Atlanta is my home. I was born and raised in this city and I am a proud graduate of Atlanta Public Schools. Unfortunately,  I was never able to attend the school in my neighborhood as it was one of the lowest performing schools in the school district. As such, my mom fought the school district to send me to better schools across town. Because of her fight, I graduated from Morehouse College and Columbia University.  Because of her fight I became a founding teacher of the first single gender school for boys in the city of Atlanta. Because of her fight I was the first full-time teacher ever elected to a seat on the Atlanta Board of Education.

When I joined the board, I immediately went to work to clean up the damage done by years of administrative mismanagement and what we now know to be the largest cheating scandal in America. I stood up to powerful interest and demanded a full and transparent investigation. I voted against the Blue Ribbon Commission report which attempted to cover up what happened in our schools and I  am the only elected official to have called for our former superintendent to return almost 600,000  dollars in tax-payer money that she received based off of fraudulent test scores.

We have expanded rigorous course offerings throughout the district, added innovative options like career academies and the districts first K-8 school. We’ve overhauled both the teacher and principal evaluation systems, transformed our HR processes to ensure we recruit and retain the best and brightest educators to serve our kids and I’ve worked to raise over 2.5 million dollars to help keep our kids in school.

Those are the facts about my record, and they are uncontested. While I am proud of that record, I know that a 51% graduation rate is unacceptable for our schools and unsustainable for our city. I will work to break apart the large bureaucracy plaguing our schools, increase school autonomy, ensure universal access to early childhood education and expand drop-out prevention and recovery programs.

I wake up each day remembering how hard my mom had to work to make sure I got a good education and can’t help to think that I succeeded in spite of the school system, not because of it.

On November 5th, we can change this. No parent should have to fight like my mom did to give their child a good education. Together, we will give our kids the education they deserve.

Courtney English

Atlanta Board of Education, Seat 7; City-wide

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