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Atlanta School Board Gets New Faces

By Stan Washington | 12/6/2013, 10:02 a.m.
Eshé Collins, representing District 6, is an Atlanta native and former teacher in Atlanta Public Schools.

What do the Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Board of Education have in common?

It’s virtually a new team compared to the year before.

When the Atlanta school board convenes next year there will be six new faces on the nine member board and they will be ready to implement their campaign promises to re-establishing the school system as one of the premier systems in the state and the southeast.

Four of the six had to win their seats in Tuesday’s run-off election. The expected low turnout resulted in one major surprised in the defeat of board chairman Reuben McDaniel, by Cynthia Briscoe Brown for the At-Large seat 8.

During the general election, McDaniel was the top vote getter in a crowded field, but that lead disappeared in the run-off as Brown received 65 percent of the vote to McDaniel’s 34 percent. McDaniel had more endorsements and money than his charter school opponent who received most of her support from the northside of the city.

Also winning their run-off battles were Jason Esteves, Seat 9 At-large, Steven Lee, District 6; and Eshe Collins, District 6.

The new board will have to hit the ground running next month as they are faced with some major decisions. They will need to hire a new superintendent, address the 51 percent graduation rate and review the system’s school choice policy. Currently, 1 out of 12 students in the system attend a charter school.

The recent past squabbling between board members and a system-wide cheating scandal which resulted in the indictment of over 100 teachers, educators and the former superintendent Beverly Hall, drew a slew of first-time candidates to replace members on the board. Four of the incumbent board members decided not to run for re-election. Longtime board member Brenda Muhammad was defeated in the general election.

Like the new-look Atlanta Hawks, the new team members must first learn how to play with one another under a new system. This new board will have to learn how to work together first before they can expect to make any major improvements on how APS operates and educates.

Brown, an attorney who claims that all of her children have graduated from APS, is a strong charter school proponent. She wants to see the new board “develop a cohesive and coherent vision and mission for the school system.”

“This will require board members who can put aside personal agendas and political games to work together for the benefit of every child, as well as a commitment to genuinely involving all stakeholders,” she said in an interview on her website.

Atlanta native and former teacher Eshe Collins puts improving early education at the top of her priority list.

“It is much more effective to give a student a high-quality early education than it is to address low performance later through remediation,” Collins said during an online interview. “Early intervention is more cost-effective for the schools, and more important, better for the child. Early learning leads to later achievement, and it must be a central focus in our efforts to address struggling students and low-performing schools.”

The board holds community meetings the first Monday of each month at 6 p.m. The meetings are usually conducted at the Center for Learning and Leadership building at 130 Trinity Ave., downtown Atlanta.

Atlanta Public Schools: http://www.atlanta.k12.ga.us