DeKalb District 6 School Board: DaCosta faces two challengers


To exploreThree DeKalb School Board races take shape for May 24 ballot

AJC: Do you agree or disagree with the school board’s decision to fire Cheryl Watson-Harris as superintendent?

Hughes: The latest dismissal of a superintendent is symptomatic of a deeper problem, likely within the bureaucracy or the board itself. I understand that the DeKalb School Board has terminated four superintendents and three interims (since 2010). The last, Cheryl Watson-Harris, had held her position for less than two years. We have to ask ourselves the question: did they examine it wisely? Obviously, the way they chose to fire her was unprofessional. They blame rather than take responsibility for what they did or didn’t do, and their decision to hire her in the first place. … What have they been up to for the past four years? Why speak now?

To exploreDeKalb school board members who fired superintendent hint at reasons

Mason: It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing with the decision — it’s about the transparency behind the process. From the community’s perspective, the decision seemed very abrupt and unexplained. I hope that in the future, the board will be more transparent about these major decisions and engage parents and the community before making such a decision that has a lasting impact on all of us operationally and financially.

AJC: The council recently elected not to upgrade Druid Hills High in accordance with the overall master plan. Instead, he voted to add the most critical projects to each school. If you were a board member, how would you vote?

Hughes: How does the board define modernization and what is essential? They listed mold remediation, sewage overflow prevention, electrical outlet protection as Druid Hills High upgrade? They don’t prioritize appropriately. For example, they offered E-SPLOST funds for non-essential items such as $782,000 for sports field fencing installation, $301,000 for track and turf installation, and mass removal. of rocks. DeKalb County has plenty of taxpayer dollars to provide a safe environment for its students. Critical improvements must ensure that all schools, including Druid Hill High, provide a safe environment for all of its students and teachers. Schools must meet DeKalb (county) Board of Health standards before they can be approved for use by its students and teachers.

Mason: As a community, it is our responsibility to ensure equity by providing all of our students with a safe learning environment. Based on the unsafe conditions reported about Druid Hills High School, no student should have to learn in this environment. Many stakeholders participated in the development of the overall master plan. The decision not to upgrade Druid Hills High did not take into account stakeholder recommendations, contradicts the overall master plan and therefore I would not have voted against these upgrades. As a board member, I would have raised any concerns about the recommendations much earlier in the process. I would also have sought input from additional stakeholders to ensure that the board’s decision was student-centred. It is our duty to operate with excellence and to continually nurture our schools so that they are spaces of which our community can be proud.

To exploreDeKalb School Board favors district-wide fixes over Druid Hills repairs

AJC: In your opinion, what is the most important experience or characteristics that the next superintendent must have?

Hughes: Have a record of reducing waste, reducing administrative costs, providing an optimal environment for student learning, keeping administrative costs to no more than 15% of budget, eliminating waste, creating a climate of transparency, maintaining an open dialogue between members of the community and school employees, ensuring parental accessibility and, above all, having the will and the courage to do so. They must also be creative and have a record of innovation and adaptability. Each school system is unique. Thus, they must be able to individualize their management approach or style to adequately meet the needs of the DeKalb County school system. They must have a record of doing so in several school systems with similar demographics.

Mason: There has been a revolving door of superintendents in DeKalb County for the past 12 years. What we need is a stable leader who is forward-looking and has a proven track record. As a board member, we need someone who is dedicated to collaboration and focused on improving student achievement across the district. We need an experienced administrator who can restore morale and be a champion to inspire our community of learners towards academic excellence. Ultimately, we are in service to our students and we need a leader who understands that the success of our district lies in the success of our students.

To exploreIn the DeKalb School District, the revolving door of superintendents is a constant

AJC: Republican lawmakers have worked this year to limit discussions of race in schools and ban “divisive concepts.” What do you think of these efforts and the role of public schools in educating students on potentially controversial topics?

Hughes: A teacher must avoid imposing his personal opinions and his system of values ​​on controversial subjects which contradict the system of family values, the religion, the culture of the child. The role of the educator is to provide students with the tools (reading, writing, mathematics, etc.) to think critically. Without academic competence, students are likely to adopt the opinions of others without accurate analysis and understanding.

Mason: From my experience visiting districts across the country, I see a disconnect between the political agenda around “divisive concepts” and what is actually happening in schools. Teachers should be empowered to teach state standards, use resources that reflect the diversity of the student body, and teach using different perspectives. Politics should be excluded from education, allowing educators to focus on ensuring that every child has an equitable experience. We also need to create opportunities for dialogue with parents so that they are informed and can share their feedback on what is being taught.

AJC: What is the most critical issue currently facing the DeKalb County School District? How do you want the district to approach it?

Hughes: The major problem is the mismanagement and embezzlement of taxpayers’ money. DeKalb must have an agency not affiliated with the school system or its associates to thoroughly audit the school system to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse. Reducing bureaucracy is paramount to allow teachers to spend more time teaching and less time filling out paperwork. Cutting unnecessary jobs and posts in the administration is the first step. The board must be accountable, transparent and accessible to its constituents. Council members should remember that they serve at the request of DeKalb County voters.

Mason: A critical issue plaguing the DeKalb County School District is stable and consistent leadership. As stated earlier, we have experienced a revolving door of superintendents over the past 12 years. The superintendent implements the school board’s vision and manages the day-to-day operations of the school district. When there is significant turnover at this level of leadership, it becomes difficult to operate with excellence and see progress as expectations and plans are constantly changing. As a member of the Board of Trustees, I will carefully check and work collaboratively with our new superintendent to ensure he has full support to fulfill his role and have longevity in our school district.

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