Bethsheba “Queen Sheba” Rem is running for Atlanta Board of Education District 2.
Candidate website: www.queenshebaforatlanta.com/
What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations.
Currently: Professor at Clark Atlanta
Poet and Activist
Organizations: The Black Slate, Clark Atlanta University, Lululemon, Athletica Legacy Ambassador, Movers + Pacers run club, Bonafide Cycle Club, Apache Cafe 14 year host, Gay Pride Weekend event host and speaker, Alternate Roots, Shades Retreat for LGBT.
What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it?
The biggest issue facing APS, especially in District 2, is the lack of resources. The South Side has been the most consistently underfunded area of our school system. By leveraging the APS Center for Equity and Social Justice and its expertise we can properly fund the classrooms that have been neglected for too long. Fixing this requires an entirely new approach to how resources are distributed equitably to our students and staff. I understand this new approach because I grew up in an under-resourced school district fighting for everything I have. As an activist, as a professor, and as a leader I will bring that fresh perspective.
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?
I think first we need to give credit to those that steered us through the beginning of an ever changing crisis. No one quite knew what we were facing in the beginning, and not only did we adjust, the children have done an excellent job of navigating uncertainty. That being said, as a board member it would be my job to ensure that there would be as little uncertainty as possible. This means looking hard at hybrid learning being a key part of education, but not the answer to all our problems. This means balancing the interests of students and families with the resources available. Most importantly, this means increasing the support we give students who may be lacking it at home or outside of the classroom. We need every student to feel safe and valued.
What is the future of virtual learning in APS?
As I pointed out above, Virtual and Hybrid learning are an important component of being able to reach students where they are, but we cannot rely on it as a one size fits all solution. We need to make sure support is equitable by design, to do that we have to look at how students have different levels of access, safety, and support outside the classroom. As a professor I have experience working with students in a variety of situations, and helping build learning modules for that specific student greatly increases success.
Atlanta Public Schools is operating under a recently adopted “equity and social justice” policy. What is your definition of those terms in public education?
This new policy, spearheaded by the mission to ensure students thrive by design, is a great guide to ensuring all students are educated on the same playing field. I grew up in underserved schools so I take the ideas of equity and social justice very seriously. These things are as personal to me as they are to the APS student who didn’t have lunch or internet access last year. I look forward to using these guiding missions to make sure every student feels full, safe, and educated.
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?
Like I said before, I think Superintendent Herring deserves credit for taking on a challenge no one knew how to navigate. I believe that she did her best to make sure student safety came first as well as the safety of the faculty and staff. 1 year is a bit too early into a 3 year contract for me to make a commitment one way or another, but I can promise you that I will be watching Dr. Herring’s actions, and listening to what the students and families of our district are saying. Leaders don’t operate in a vacuum and I know the students and families of my District can be the experts of their own experience, and I look forward to hearing from them.
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?
The BOE should absolutely maintain this position as I do. Every single dollar kept from students defunds and strains out resources, especially during a pandemic. Many of these developments have been given ample tax breaks from the City of Atlanta in hopes it would bring new business or jobs, but our elementary, middle and high schools are who lose. As a hardworking Atlantan who pays their taxes I know we need everyone to pay their fare share and pitch in if we are going to build a school system where students succeed by design.
What are some areas of opportunity for the Atlanta City Council to work in partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent and board?
Atlanta City Council should really work to get on the same page with APS without stepping on toes. I think that increased communication can come from Board members bringing concerns to a more receptive City Council. This might be a way to better balance properties city wide. Take for example the tax abatement issue from above. The Fulton County Development Authority is not the only body in the city that considers tax abatements. As an activist leader I know how to speak and be heard, and I know bringing APS and City Council closer together would result in better, more equitable resources for our students.
What are some areas of opportunity for the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent and board to work with the mayor and City Council?
The answer to this question is almost the same as to the one above. One big difference is the Mayor has an opportunity to be more involved with our students on a personal level. I know if she were invited to visit with more students and families by APS the board would see more responsiveness from City Hall.
Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?
As a hard working, innovative, activist leader my goal is to bring a unique creative approach to bringing a quality education for ALL children in Atlanta Public Schools. This means making sure resources are equitably distributed and students have their needs met before, during, and after school. Our students will always come first for me because I know what it’s like to learn in an underserved school system.
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