Atlanta school board races could bring sweeping change to APS

7:29 p.m Friday, Aug. 25, 2017 Education

Voters will pick from a crowded field of 30 candidates to fill all nine spots on the Atlanta Board of Education.

The Nov. 7 election could usher in sweeping change for the roughly 52,000-student Atlanta Public Schools. Or, voters could retain six incumbents who are among the candidates who qualified by Friday’s deadline.

Four years ago, 27 candidates qualified to run.

The current board pushed for a bold new direction, starting with hiring Superintendent Meria Carstarphen in 2014 in the aftermath of a massive cheating scandal. The board also embraced a charter-system model as a way to turn around struggling schools.

“I think having a new superintendent… has been just an incredible transformation for the district,” said board vice chair Nancy Meister, who is running unopposed in the north Atlanta District 4 for her third term. “I want to see that work through. I think it’s just being implemented, and I think we are going to need a few more years.”

The board’s work will be up for review when voters head to the polls this fall to decide contested races for all but her seat and that of Jason Esteves, an attorney who wants to retain his at-large seat 9 and is also unopposed.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution tried to contact as many candidates as possible by press time, but could not find occupation information for some.

The school board contest features a trio of open races because three current members are running for other elected offices.

Current board chairman Courtney English hopes to trade his at-large seat 7 for a city council spot.

Five contestants will vie for his school board seat: attorney Kandis Wood Jackson, John Wright, Patricia Crayton, Micah A. Rowland, and Nathaniel Borrell Dyer, who is self-employed as a creative director and art and writing instructor.

District 3 representative, Matt Westmoreland, is also running for the city council.

Candidates hoping to represent his east Atlanta district are: Adzua Agyapon, a grade-level chair at the public charter school KIPP STRIVE Primary; Lewis Cartee, a territory sales manager for Mohawk Industries; Michelle Olympiadis-Constantinides, a real-estate manager and afternoon Greek school coordinator, Antoine Raynard Trammell, and Rashida Winfrey.

The school board’s District 5 representative, Steven Lee, is running for the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.

His west Atlanta school board seat is sought by human resources manager and former APS teacher Jatisha Marsh; retired educator and real estate agent Jackye Rhodes; Bobby Montgomery, senior director of marketing with PALM Agency; D’Jaris James, Raynard Johnson, and Erika Yvette Mitchell.

Conflicting documents provided by the city Friday had Mitchell running in the District 5 race and another race, but on Saturday a city spokesman said she is a District 5 candidate.

In southeast Atlanta District 1, incumbent Leslie Grant faces Ade Oguntoye, a social worker and executive director of the nonprofit organization One World Link.

In central Atlanta District 2, incumbent Byron Amos competes against former Douglass High School principal and LEADright chief learning officer Tony Burks, and Keisha Carey, who works in a corporate position for Sprint.

In south Atlanta District 6, incumbent Eshé Collins is challenged by Patreece Hutcherson, a Douglas County Schools counselor; Valrie Walker Sanders, a part-time field representative with the U.S. Census Bureau; and Donta McMichael, a mental health assistant.

In the at-large District 8, incumbent Cynthia Briscoe Brown will battle with Ben Stone, an environmental insurance underwriter, and Charlie Stadtlander, chief executive officer of consulting firm Stadtlander and Co.

Atlanta school board members make $15,170 a year. The board chair receives $16,588, and the vice chair $15,879.

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