Keedar Whittle is running for Atlanta Board of Education Seat 8 At Large.
Candidate website: www.KeedarWhittleforAPS.com
Q: What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations?
A: Business owner, Educators Now and Tutors On Demand. Board Member of BCDI Atlanta.
Q: What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it?
A: Atlanta has one of the biggest financial and education gaps in the country! With so many companies moving to Atlanta as well as other industries being at the forefront in Atlanta, we need to leverage our community relationships to help with increasing student outcomes. Leaders in the school system are not experts in every field, nor should we try to be. However, we can encourage positive partnerships that drive student outcome and success. I am the best candidate to address this because as a business owner and entrepreneur, I know how to look at the disparate factors and make the decisions about what stays, what goes, what’s cut, and what’s altered.
Q: The pandemic has brought unique challenges to public schools, including mask mandates and hybrid learning. What is a lesson you have learned from these challenges?
A: The challenge of remote learning has revealed the socio-economic disparities between groups in the city, with many having no access to the devices needed, the connection needed, or both needs to even engage in remote or hybrid learning. We also learned that we are grossly lacking when it comes to the availability of technology at a system-level, creating inequalities between schools. All of this reveals that we must tackle past inequities before we can capitalize on the present value of technology and maximize student outcomes without technology barriers.
Q: What is the future of virtual learning in APS?
A: The future of virtual learning should be bright, but in order to muster the resources that we need, we will have to take advantage of the tremendous resources this city has to offer.
Q: Atlanta Public Schools is operating under a recently adopted “equity and social justice” policy. What is your definition of those terms in public education?
A: Equity is providing what is needed for ALL students to have the same access to success. As part of making the education experience equitable for all scholars, we have to approach the pursuit of equity from a social justice perspective. Social justice is the historic perspective of righting past inequities that contribute to underperforming groups, which is needed to truly offer measurable equity for scholars across the city.
Q: APS Superintendent Lisa Herring is over a year into a three-year contract that the next Board of Education will have to consider extending or replacing. What is your opinion of Herring’s job performance?
A: Dr. Lisa Herring started an undertaking during a time that NOBODY could have predicted or planned for. Part of her job is learning, meeting, sharing, implementing, etc. but with COVID restrictions, uncertainties, multiple strong opinions…I would like to extend her grace and mercy for the time she has been there. I believe under a uniform, cohesive board, she will thrive in leading our district in the right direction toward EXCELLENCE. Our job as board will be to monitor her measurable progress and redirect if she is not meeting our agreed upon duties.
Q: The Board of Education last year demanded that the Development Authority of Fulton County cease granting tax abatements to developments within the City of Atlanta. Should the board maintain that position and why or why not?
A: I fully agree with that position. Atlanta has experienced significant development in a very short amount of time, but now that development is threatening to displace historic communities by providing jobs that are inaccessible to the local workforce and housing far too expensive for the neighborhoods they are built within. Our development needs to be well-planned and centralizing the granting of tax abatements through Invest Atlanta is the way that we can ensure some degree of control over development that could quickly go out of control.
Q: What are some areas of opportunity for the Atlanta City Council to work in partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent and board?
A: One quality that makes Atlanta unique is that every neighborhood has a unique concern and need. Working with the local City Council will give us an advantage to leverage partnerships to satisfy those school/community needs. We should work with NPU and HOA groups as well. There is value of having the entire community buy into our schools, and community buy-in comes from working with the leaders who are the closest to the people.
Q: What are some areas of opportunity for the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent and board to work with the mayor and City Council?
A: Atlanta is a major city. The mayor has a pulse on the entire city. We can partner with the city to train and recruit Atlanta Public School talent. Some of our students are going into the workforce immediately after high school, we can have a dedicated pipeline of talent to fill city positions and private positions. We can easily allocate a percentage of jobs for APS students through strategic partnerships or community benefits agreements that the Mayor and/or the City may have.
Q: Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?
A: I am born and raised in Atlanta. My goal is to structure our school system to be so strong that no matter if a scholar is applying to a job or college, our proven tract record warrants an immediate positive response. We can have our school system so strong that we are an example of how to turn a school system around. At the end of the day…I care about the kids. As long as we are moving the needle forward in a measurable, equitable way, addressing the whole family needs while preparing our scholars to be contributing members to our city and beyond is my only concern at the end of the day!
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