Mikayla Arciaga is running for Atlanta Board of Education District 4.
Candidate website: www.arciaga4aps.com
Q: What is your current job (include the name of your employer) and list any significant memberships in public service organizations?
A: Policy & Research Analyst, The Urban League of Greater Atlanta
Q: What is the biggest issue facing your constituents and why are you the best candidate to address it?
A: The greatest challenge faced by Atlanta Public Schools going into the future is engaging our students in their own learning. With the job market changing more rapidly than ever before, schools are challenged to stay current. This generation has access to more information and technology than ever before, and we are competing with entertainment options that are frequently more engaging than school. We must utilize that access to encourage students’ ownership of their educational experience and equip them with the skills to think critically and continue their learning journey beyond our schools. I will use my experience as an educator who has worked in Atlanta Public Schools both before and during the pandemic to champion the efforts of our world-class teachers and support innovation at every level of the district.
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: During the past two years, parents, teachers and students faced unparalleled challenges. Despite this, we saw incredible innovation and coordination throughout the district to ensure students remained connected to education. We’ve learned that we need to continue that momentum by meeting our families and students where they are, using innovative approaches to ensure that no children are falling through the cracks, and providing comprehensive virtual and in person options to keep our children in our schools.
Q: What is the future of virtual learning in APS?
A: Virtual learning is not just the future for Atlanta Public Schools, but it’s the future of education. There will always be a need for brick and mortar schools for learners, but the pandemic highlighted the need for comprehensive virtual options for our students and families. If we as a district plan to stay at the forefront of learning and development, we need to provide virtual opportunities for both remediation and enrichment, and make it an option for every single student who wants it.
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: Teachers are constantly thinking about equity, oftentimes implicitly. For every lesson we ask questions such as “Who will this approach work for? Who will need something different? Who will need extra support? Who can work independently? How can we get each learner to the same desired outcome?” Equity for public education is asking these same questions at the systemic level: “Who is participating? Who is excluded? How can we bring more stakeholders to the table? How can we give students, parents, and schools more agency?” This is the way I think about governance, and how I want to use my responsibility as a locally elected official to ensure that all voices are heard and the needs of our students are met.
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. Herring came to the district in the most challenging educational environment in our known history and with very little transitional support. This is the year that we are starting to see her operate beyond a crisis management role, and she has worked to provide transparency and community engagement. I look forward to seeing her work towards her original commitment to literacy, and continue to increase transparency and access for all parents and community stakeholders.
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: Development of the city promotes growth and new opportunities for the community. Such development must run in tandem with the growth and development of our community infrastructure. Our schools are the foundation of community infrastructure so it is important that we ensure they are properly funded and resourced. We should continue to support community development while balancing the commensurate needs of our schools and community infrastructure.
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: The City of Atlanta and Atlanta Public Schools are also economic partners who should work together to ensure that the city continues to have a population of young people that are well-prepared to pursue the jobs of the future as they evolve. Additionally the City and APS can provide additional opportunities for young people to engage in the civic process. Both the city council and the mayor can provide mentorship to young scholars from within the district who wish to see changes in their community, and guide those students through the policy process at the local level.
Q: What are some areas of opportunity for the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent and board to work with the mayor and City Council?
A: The Atlanta City Council & Mayor should look to Atlanta Public Schools for partnership in any initiatives that will affect young people in the community. APS can be a valuable partner in the Mayor’s homelessness initiative as a conduit to provide assistance to some of our most vulnerable students and families and reduce student transience across the district. As Atlanta prioritizes crime prevention activities, APS can simultaneously work to reduce the school to prison pipeline and ensure that the learning environment is safe, welcoming, and engaging, thus providing a powerful protective factor against youth engaging in crime.
Q: Anything else that you want to share for voters who may be undecided?
A: I am the only candidate that has been an Atlanta Public School teacher both before and during the Pandemic, meaning I have direct insight into the needs of today’s learners and how policies are implemented at the classroom level. I have also worked with school board members in metro Atlanta and across the country to develop policy solutions that respond to the needs of our students and empower the community. I have worked at the ground level to build partnerships with students, parents, and teachers to ensure that we are putting our children first in every decision and will bring that same commitment to partnership to the district level.
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