Erika Y. Mitchell (incumbent) is running for Atlanta Board of Education District 5.

Candidate website: www.erikaymitchell.com/

What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations? 

Managing Partner at Sports Unlimited Enterprise , LLC / Marketing Consultant

Membership in other Organizations: School Board Partners

Caribbean American Advancement Foundation

Alabama State Alumni Metro Atlanta Chapter

ATL Alumni

Mary Parker Foundation

What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it? 

The biggest issues that are facing District 5 constituents (students, families and community) are the following:

Student support services that are catered to each individual student learning need

Equity

More educational and enrichment opportunities

Leadership accountability

Lack of standard for under-performing schools

Teacher retention

Parent engagement

Cultural and climate

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? 

The lesson that I learned from this pandemic is that the majority of students that I spoke with want to be in school. There were so many barriers that some of the students in my district were faced with. The pandemic exposed these barriers with an act of emergency. There was not a district-wide school closure emergency policy nor plan in place, especially when we’re told in November 2019, there may be a possible shut down. This shutdown made it clear that many children rely on school for healthy meals and other resources aside from education. This pandemic made it clear, that some students/ staff, not having access to the internet and devices, would become a bigger issue. Proper planning in advance would have ensured, that we had our staff trained for virtual learning, all students had internet access, digital devices, implementation of telehealth, food distribution, virtual learning support services.

What is the future of virtual learning in APS? 

Rethinking the future of K–12 education will include virtual learning as an option for all schools across the nation. Atlanta Public Schools Virtual Academy (AVA) is the virtual learning option for our students and families. AVA will leverage connections to provide everyone, regardless of geographic location, access to experts and high-quality learning experiences. As technology improves, virtual education will evolve to become a tool that helps close gaps in our schools.

Atlanta Public Schools is operating under a recently adopted “equity and social justice” policy. What is your definition of those terms in public education? 

Social justice in education demands equity for all students, that arise from race, ethnicity, gender/gender identity, religious and spiritual beliefs, class, age, color, sexual orientation, disability, immigrant status, and national origin enhance creativity and learning potential. Social justice in education demands a commitment to challenging social, cultural, and economic inequalities imposed on individuals arising from any differential distribution of power, resources, and privilege.

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? 

It’s been incredibly difficult for superintendents across the nation. Superintendents are in communities where half the parents want the schools open, half the parents want the schools shut, some want students and staff to wear masks, some don’t want students and staff to wear masks, or the other issue vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Either way, it’s a no-win situation, because people are going to be mad at you. Through it all these Dr. Herring working with the school board in collaboration, her top priority is the safety of our students and employees. She is trying to navigate through the unknown but is trying to ensure safety measures are being implemented. Are things perfect NO, but there are a lot of issues that Dr. Herring inherited upon accepting this position, such as the quality of leadership and teachers in all our schools, restructuring our organizational model, rebuilding the public trust, culture and climate. Is there room for opportunities and improvements, YES.

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? 

Yes, I believe we should maintain this position because there needs to be representation on behalf of our district and to be a part of the decision-making process.

What are some areas of opportunity for the Atlanta City Council to work in partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent and board? 

While the school board and the city council will remain separate entities, there’s no reason members of both can’t work together on ad hoc committees or occasional projects. Here are my recommendations:

• Continue meet as a joint city council/school board committee to explore policy matters that concern them both.

• The school board sends its board minutes, highlights of meetings, and all of the district’s publications to local officials so they are up-to-date.

• Whenever forums, discussions or presentations in town cover issues that affect children, the school board and the city council are both visibly represented at the event.

What are some areas of opportunity for the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent and board to work with the mayor and City Council?

Our school and Mayor can lead by bringing our community together to enable teachers, parents, and schools to focus on their highest goal: helping our children learn.

1. Become a Teacher-Friendly City. To attract and retain quality teachers we started the Teacher Homebuyer Program that provides teachers with up to $40,000 in no-interest loans to help them purchase their first home.

2. Invest in preschool programs, quality childcare, and early literacy. One of the most effective ways we can improve academic success is by preparing children to learn before they enter school. To support early education centers that are operated by school districts, community organizations, Head Start, and private preschools. Atlanta Public Library also trains child-care providers about reading development and the importance of early literacy, and it has become an invaluable partner with our schools. 

3. Keep schools safe. Our goal is to ensure that our schools and surrounding area are safe.

Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?

I am running for re-election for District 5, to continue to develop policies that serve the students of APS, Provide educational opportunities, more student support services, wraparound services, quality and stable leadership for schools and to ensure every student receives a quality education. 

I have led the school board with my work in policy development. I wrote the first school district’s Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking policy, Trauma Informed Practices policy, Restorative Justice policy, co-wrote Atlanta Public School Equity policy and wrote the Equity and Anti-Racism Resolution for Atlanta Public Schools. 

I am currently serving on the Atlanta Board of Education’s Policy Review Committee, Equity Taskforce, Audit Committee and the Boards of Director for the Atlanta BeltLine. 

In addition, I am on the Georgia Statewide Human Trafficking Taskforce Workgroup, Fulton County Citizen Court Watch for Zone 4 and was appointed by the City of Atlanta’s Mayor Bottoms to serve on the Atlanta 2020 Census Committee.

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