Q. What is District 4 of DeKalb Board of Education ?
Answer: See the maps below to check the address on your voter registration. Or you can download a detailed map (in PDF format)
Q. What’s your position on DCSD’s metal detector pilot?
Answer: When I attended the Board of Education work session where the pilot was presented, Superintendent Green described it as “an outgrowth of some research we’ve been doing. . . long before Parkland, as a tool of may tools.” DCSD Police Chief Gober also called it “a tool in the toolbox,” explaining that SROs will continue to form relationships with students, which is the best deterrent to school violence. Chief Technology Officer Gary Brantley explained that the focus isn’t only on metal detectors, but high definition cameras, social media monitoring, and better recognition of kids who are in crisis. Superintendent Green said that implementation of the pilot would take place after the District takes time to figure out the “bugs” and “kinks,” most likely not before the fall.
Board of Education members and community stakeholders have asked excellent questions about the utility and logistics of metal detectors in DeKalb. I’m hopeful that DCSD administrators are taking those questions to heart as they process through the “bugs” and “kinks.” Research is mixed on the efficacy of metal detectors, but they are more likely to function as a deterrent when they are thoughtfully implemented and effectively staffed. Because it is a pilot program, it gives the District the chance to figure out what type of school can benefit from metal detectors. It’s possible that the District will find that at large sprawling schools with multiple buildings/entrances/trailers, metal detectors are not an effective “tool in the toolbox,” but at schools contained in one building with fewer entrances, metal detectors improve school safety.
Part of the DCSD Strategic Plan is “student success with equity and access.” School staff talk about the fact that equity doesn’t mean equality. What works for one school or student, may not work for another. Superintendent Green has spoken of giving local schools increased autonomy to figure out what works best for the students in the building. My hope is that the use of school safety “tools in the toolbox” will follow that reasoning. If any pilot, including the metal detector pilot, works for one school and not another, then DCSD should take that data and adjust the plan accordingly. Stakeholders know that one-size-fits-all doesn’t work in DeKalb. I’m in support of a thoughtful, data-driven pilot program: sometimes learning what doesn’t work is just as helpful as discovering what does.
Q. What is your stance on redistricting?
Answer: I hesitate to give a response to a specific redistricting issue without knowing details about the community, the school building capacity, the feeder pattern, etc.. However, in general, I am in favor of redistricting frequently and thoughtfully. Many districts redraw school attendance lines every few years, so parents anticipate potential shifts in school attendance and plan accordingly.
Q. What is your position on the Lakeside addition?
Answer: I believe the Lakeside community is unified in opposition to the project as presented. I support collaboration between Lakeside High School leaders, DeKalb Schools Operations staff, community stakeholders, and DeKalb County government to create feasible alternatives. DeKalb Schools did due diligence in creating the SPLOST V project list. Operations staff and their consultants listened to stakeholder feedback and took seriously the concerns regarding other solutions for addressing overcrowding: split feeders, redistricting, housing specialized programs in alternative locations, etc.. In November, 2016, the Lakeside Cluster Summit submitted a position paper, offering ten elements for a more realistic addition plan. Acquiring additional parcels of land surrounding Lakeside; partnering with DeKalb County to improve roads, intersections, and drainage around Lakeside; and creating shuttle sites to transport students to Lakeside were all suggested, along with the concept of a stand-alone 9th grade academy. These types of creative solutions, along with revisiting the original options to address overcrowding (redistricting, split feeders, etc.), should be considered as the community grapples with this difficult issue. All parties involved want a safe, appropriate learning environment for our students. By working together and thinking creatively, I believe this can be accomplished.
Q. Have your children always attended DeKalb Schools?
Answer: Yes. My daughter started in DeKalb Schools in Kindergarten, and my son was fortunate enough to begin his DCSD education in Pre-K. They are now both in high school in DCSD.
Q. Did you attend public schools?
Answer: Yes. I attended Enid Public Schools in Enid, Oklahoma from Kindergarten through 12th grade. The amazing teachers in my hometown district successfully prepared me to attend Emory University. My mother, an advocate for high quality public education, served on the Enid Public Schools Board of Education.
Q. What is your position on school violence?
Answer: A school building should offer a safe, secure space for teaching and learning to occur. Every time teachers and students take positions for a lockdown, the focus is no longer on math or reading or writing. As a parent, I expect that when I tell my children goodbye and send them to school, they will be engaged in academic pursuits. I do the best I can to absolve them of basic worries by making sure they arrive at school fed, well-rested, and ready to learn. It’s sad to know that their mental energy is being spent on fear: assessing “What would happen if. . .” throughout the day, looking around their classrooms for barriers and hiding places, and trying to read adults’ faces when they hear fire alarms or loud noises. I hope this topic stays in the public eye long enough to make true progress on protecting our kids and teachers, and giving them the safe space they deserve.
Q. What led you to seek a seat on the BOE?
Answer: Many years ago, I attended an Emory LaVista Parent Council (ELPC) meeting featuring the new DeKalb Superintendent Crawford Lewis. Looking around the room, I saw few parents of young children—certainly not any familiar faces. In retrospect, it may have been unusual for me to be interested in county-level issues at the same time I was being indoctrinated into the inner-workings of my kindergartner’s school. My interest in DeKalb Schools, as a whole, may have stemmed from my work in Gwinnett County Public Schools. As a School Psychologist, I was a county-level employee, not a local school employee, though I spent my days in local schools. Witnessing the impact of district policies as an employee piqued my interest in DeKalb Schools’ policies and how they might affect me as a parent.
I continued to attend ELPC meetings, learning about local, regional, county, and state-level education issues. Eventually, I became Co-President of ELPC, and helped educate other parents on policies, legislation, and guidelines warranting attention. The biggest issue of my ELPC tenure was the DeKalb Schools crisis of leadership: one superintendent investigated for corruption, subsequent turnover in superintendents, loss of accreditation, and the governor replacing school board members. During the tumultuous months of instability with Board of Education members testifying at the Capitol and no permanent superintendent in place, I began noticing parent leaders from other parts of DeKalb County at the hearings and meetings I attended. A timely conversation with the Co-President of the South DeKalb Parent Council led to the planning of what we thought would be a one-time DeKalb County parent council summit. Instead, Parent Councils United (PCU) was born. The the executive officers of DeKalb’s regional parent councils discovered that the north/south divide was a myth; all parent leaders had concerns about deteriorating school buildings, lack of teacher training, weak leadership, and low morale. This grassroots advocacy group, focusing on all DeKalb students, started that evening in 2013 and continues today.
As PCU evolved, the group focused on bridge-building, student success, and effective leadership at the highest level of DeKalb Schools. PCU hosts a State of the District address each year, as well as public town hall meetings and off-the-grid county leader meetings. Working with such passionate, insightful education advocates taught me some important lessons that I hope to bring to my role on the Board of Education: 1) Value relationships. If I want to make a difference, I know I can’t do it alone. Fellow Board members and the Superintendent will be my team, and together we will improve education outcomes for students. 2) Build bridges across DeKalb. If I want to address the needs of all DeKalb students, I need to spend time outside my local school attendance zone. I will continue to listen to the of parents, teachers, and students from all parts of DeKalb, knowing that we all want what is best for our kids. 3) Don’t stay in a silo. If I want the biggest positive impact for DeKalb, I must help create partnerships. The School District cannot do it alone. DeKalb County government, the business community, and our state legislators must play a role. I will continue collaborative conversations with individuals from all sectors of our wider community.
From my employment in a school district, to my information-seeking as a new parent, to my leadership in parent councils, I have been a public education advocate my entire adult life. The important lessons learned through my work with PCU have prepared me for the logical next step: a seat on the DeKalb Board of Education. Despite all the years spent preparing for this role, there is a lot I don’t know about the way our school district works. However, I am open-minded and ready to learn. I hope voters will give me the chance!