Each week the Atlanta Voice highlights the Black men and women who are serving their communities on the board of education.
Jessie Goree represents district three on the Clayton County Board of Education. She is the chair of the board and is a retired middle school teacher with a resume extending from Clayton County and Atlanta Public Schools.
The Atlanta Voice: What school district(s) did you attend as a child? (private school?)
Jessie Goree: I attended and graduated from Louisville Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky. I attended and graduated from Phillis Wheatley Elementary School, Henry B. Manly Junior High School, and (Louisville) Central High School.
AV: What district do you represent on the Board of Education?
JG: I represent School Board District 3 and have done so for 13 years; this is my fourth term.
AV: How many years have you been on the board?
JG: I became a member of the Clayton County Board of Education after I retired in 2008.
AV: Where do you work/What is your professional background?
JG: I am a happily retired educator who worked in Atlanta Public Schools for 22 years and 9+ years in Clayton County Public Schools. As an educator I mainly taught middle school grades 6-8; for 13 years I taught all subjects but later taught math as the primary subject. I have served as an elementary school Instructional Specialist and retired as the Director of Even Start Family Literacy.
AV: When did you first decide to run for the BOE?
JG: I set a goal to possibly run for the school board or another public office in 2002.
AV: Why did you first decide to run for BOE?
JG: As I was near retirement but when SACS voted to revoke CCPS’s accreditation that cemented my decision to seek the District 3 office. My son was a senior at North Clayton High School and I had great confidence in my ability to help the district regain accreditation because I was not about to have my son punished with an unaccredited diploma. Please note that I feel that Clayton County Public Schools were unfairly stripped of their accreditation; this was clearly politically motivated and continues to be a negative stigma associated with the district that overshadows our high-performing school district.
AV: Why is it important for black people to be represented in their local school board?
JG: It is important for school boards to have a fair representation of the population of the community. School Boards and any other elected board should reflect diversity. The Clayton Board is predominately Black just as the County but we also have a large Asian and Hispanic population which I feel should be represented on our boards.
AV: How has your time on the board influenced your understanding of public schools?
JG: Since I had been an Educator, I had a great understanding of public schools however that isn’t the most important aspect of serving as a school board member.
AV: When will you know that it is time for you to retire from the board?
JG: I will make a decision about retiring from the Board when I feel that I have met the goals that I have set for myself in improving the school district and when my constituents feel that I need to leave. In the meantime I am actively seeking to groom a replacement because this is probably the most important elected position but not given the proper respect.
AV: What is your long-term vision for the students of Clayton County?
JG: My long term vision is to ensure that ALL students are provided a well-rounded education that will prepare them to be a productive individual that can attain a college education, serve in the military, join the workforce, become an entrepreneur, or have the tools to attain any goal desired.
Currently I reside in the Northern part of the county which socioeconomically is more challenged. It is important to raise our test scores, improve literacy, numeracy, provide equitable educational programs in my district and build a foundation to ensure that this happens which entails my specific goal of an Early Learning Center in Riverdale.
AV: What is your favorite part of being on the BOE?
JG: I love everything about serving as a board member but most importantly being around students who I always “put first”. I will admit the perk that I enjoy the most is having a Georgia High School Athletic Pass that I utilize to the fullest because I’m an avid football fan. You can find me every Friday night ringing my cowbell at a Clayton County Public School Board football game. My high schools are Charles R. Drew, North Clayton, and Riverdale High Schools: Go Titans, Go Eagles, Go Raiders! I support all of our high schools but whenever we play the other schools in the county everyone knows who I will be supporting.
AV: Which teacher or school admin had the biggest impact on you?
JG: All of my teachers had a tremendous impact on me as I can specifically remember each teacher’s perspective from first to twelfth grade (there was no kindergarten in Kentucky). My first-grade teacher was the meanest person ever; she’s the reason I became an Educator. My high school English teacher was probably the most prolific in that she taught us so much about Black History, enhanced our self-esteem, and set high standards that we had to achieve. As an Educator, I emulated my high school English teacher and oftentimes I think of her when I forget things she required of me such as knowing all the verses of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing and other required poetry by Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Dr. King, Shakespeare’s soliloquies – which I required my students to learn in middle school.