Eshè Collins is running for Atlanta Board of Education District 6.

Candidate website: www.collinsforkids.com

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

A: Current job: Director of Programs, Jumpstart for Young Children, Inc. Membership in public service organizations: • Member, Leadership Atlanta, Class of 2016 • Board of Directors, Atlanta Partners for Education (APFE) • Board of Directors, Odyssey Atlanta • Board of Directors, Andrew and Walter Young YMCA • Board of Advisors, Atlanta Educational Telecommunications Collaborative, Inc. (AETC) • Member, Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys

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

A: Ensuring equity at all levels is the biggest issue facing our children and families. It is the driver of all other issues. From accessibility to high-quality schools to safe and healthy communities to life-changing opportunities for our children, equity is the common denominator. As your current school board member, I have advocated and worked tirelessly to improve education for all of Atlanta’s children. We have stabilized our schools and leadership, launched social-emotional and wraparound services and redesigned funding to support our most struggling students. Graduation rates increased from 53% to 82%, and we are closing the achievement gap. However, we have work to do still, and now, we face an even more critical time to ensure equitable opportunities for our children.

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 safety and well-being of our children and staff are paramount to ensure that learning continues while protecting the community-at-large. While there are differing views on mask mandates, hybrid learning and more, the pandemic confirmed and exacerbated the inequities that we knew existed all along. The digital divide, lack of internet connectivity, essential working families and the overall trauma of the pandemic are major challenges. The main lesson remains that all of our children need a safe, high-quality academic environment whether virtual or in the classroom. It is our responsibility to make that happen for all of Atlanta’s children and families.

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Q: What is the future of virtual learning in APS? 

A: Virtual learning will remain an educational platform for use in Atlanta Public Schools. As the need for virtual learning opportunities may grow, we must continue to address the digital divide that impact our children and their households, as well as strengthen our approaches in supporting families with virtual learning, holistically.

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 ensuring that every child has the resources, supports and opportunities to achieve his or highest potential. Equity is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but an approach that is diverse and culturally-relevant in addressing the needs of our children. Social justice demands that equal social, political and economic rights and opportunities are afforded to everyone. Additionally, social justice requires us to fight for a more equitable world by dismantling systems of oppression and racism.

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 joined APS during one of society’s most challenging times in history. She transitioned during the middle of pandemic, and immediately began to tackle the challenges facing Atlanta Public Schools. Dr. Herring has made tough decisions to support virtual learning and academic support, build robust engagement with APS staff and stakeholders and create solid safety and security measures to ensure a safe and healthy environment for the district. So far, Dr. Herring has done a great job under the circumstances, and we continue to explore areas of improvement and growth. She is a true champion for our children, families and staff, and I employ the community-at-large to meet and learn more about her and her vision for Atlanta Public Schools.

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: The Development Authority of Fulton County should cease granting tax abatements until there is a solid, comprehensive strategic plan in place to ensure equitable practices and decision-making for granting abatements and supporting development throughout the entire city. There are several examples of the inequitable use of tax abatements and divisive developments as a result. The Development Authority stated that it is moving towards the creation of a comprehensive plan, but no plan has been produced to date. At this time, it is important to maintain this position to hold the Authority accountable for its commitment in addressing this issue.

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: Many city council members are graduates of Atlanta Public Schools and being an overall champion of APS is a strong start to a solid partnership. I am looking forward to continuing our Atlanta Public Schools and Atlanta City Council joint meetings, where we meet to discuss what is happening on both sides and how we can support each other’s work. Areas of opportunity include collaboration in providing solid out-of-school programming and options, employment and career exposure for our students and young adults and collective engagement with families on housing affordability and city services.

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

A: We are at a critical time where the relationship between Atlanta Public Schools, City Council and the Mayor needs to be as strong as ever. Areas of opportunity include a strong communication structure, an impactful working relationship between the Superintendent and Mayor and a true collaboration in addressing the city’s most pressing issues. Issues, such as community safety, workforce opportunities and housing affordability, require everyone at the table to move the city forward. I am extremely hopeful on these possibilities which will benefit our city immensely.

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

A: As your school board member, I have advocated and worked tirelessly to improve education for all of Atlanta’s children. The conversations have been tough. The decisions have been even tougher. We have stabilized our schools and strengthened our services to provide whole-child development. Our schools are stronger, and the success of our children continues to rise. Now, more than ever, we must continue to create a strong culture in Atlanta Public Schools – a culture of high expectations for our students, talented teachers and leaders, challenging curricula and a system of supporters that makes all students succeed. It is my hope to continue this path of success on the Atlanta Board of Education.

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