Board of Education candidate Mary Palmer, who will face Steven Lee in a run-off for the District 5 seat, responded to a questionnaire issued by Atlanta Progressive News. It should also be noted, that her opponent has not responded to the APN questionnaire nor has he adequately responded to other questions posed regarding his “education credentials” (see here and here).
The questionnaire is the same one issued to candidates prior to the initial election in November and focuses on the Gang of Five issue and charter schools. As I noted in the headline, Palmer’s responses were candid, thoughtful, results oriented and showed a practical approach to governing if she is elected.
The following are a few excerpts:
On the Gang of Five governance changes, she responded,
Having served on executive boards, I understand many things go on in executive sessions that the public and general body is not privy to… Charters, policies, rules, and guidelines exist to help governing bodies make fair and impartial decisions. It is always best to go with what is “right” as outlined by these entities in making decisions… Therefore, I would not have supported the initial rule change, mostly because of the way it was done.
Her answer is pragmatic and indicates a preference to work within the rules as they existed at the time. But she also acknowledges that there may have been factors discussed in executive session that did not enter the public domain.
On her overall position on charter schools, she responded,
… In addressing the question of “for charter schools or against charter schools,” there can be only one answer. We all must be for great schools that produce great educational outcomes for all students of APS.
Hallelujah! The answer is student focused, results oriented and without a hint of national agenda ideology.
In response to a question regarding her concerns with charter schools, she stated,
… I am most concerned over the competitiveness that has arisen between Charter Public Schools and Traditional Public Schools much like the competitiveness of Public vs. Private Schools in the past. We must have a school system where our focus is on producing great educational outcomes for all students.
Whether you agree or not with Palmer’s assessment, her focus on educational outcomes seems to trump other considerations.
Palmer also addressed the Board’s oversight of the existing public charter schools in APS,
… I also believe that the APS Board has offered limited oversight to its existing charter schools, reviewing performance and metrics only when charters are up for renewal. …But for traditional public schools to learn from any innovation success stories, there must be more Board oversight.
The answer acknowledges that public charter schools have generated “success stories” in APS and, as Superintendent Davis acknowledged last year (see here), APS has not done a good job of learning from public charter schools and implementing successful strategies across the rest of the District. Palmer’s call for greater Board oversight to accomplish this speaks to her “educational outcomes” orientation.
And once again, Palmer’s view of the methodology used by APS to approve public charter schools is results oriented and focused on the community affected,
… I believe the existing APS requirements for charter start-ups are fairly sound. They have certain financial, geographic, leadership and curriculum metrics that must be met. So obviously I would vote against any charter that did not meet those basic metrics. But I would also vote against any charter school that I believe would undermine the success of neighboring traditional public schools.
Will pro or anti-public school charter schools proponents agree with all her positions? Absolutely not – as many of their positions are doctrinaire and ideological. However, Palmer is displaying a pragmatism that is based on her long career as a highly skilled technology professional, her more recent experience on the ground working with APS student athletes as an educational coach and her deep and extensive involvement with the community she would represent.
And her answers are focused on the one thing that matters – positive student educational outcomes.
Bravo! This is an individual that both sides of the public charter school debate will be able to work with.
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