Royce Carter Mann is running for Atlanta Board of Education Seat 7 At Large.

Candidate website: www.royceforatlanta.com

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

A: I am currently a student at Emory University where I am a recipient of the Woodruff – MLK Jr. Scholarship. As a recent graduate of APS (Midtown High School class of 2020), I have held a number of relevant positions in the community including: Legislative Director for March for Our Lives Georgia Student Activist Coordinator for Amnesty International Co-Founder of Students for Ossoff and Warnock Legislative Aide for State Rep. David Dreyer Member, Midtown High School (formerly Grady) Student Government Association Student Member, Midtown High School Governance Team Member, Atlanta Public Schools LGBTQIA+ Taskforce Policy intern, Atlanta Board of Education Junior Branch President for the Atlanta Chapter of CISV (Children’s International Summer Villages)

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

A: The greatest issue facing APS is the vast racial inequity that exists in our city and schools. Currently, Black students in APS are overrepresented in suspensions and expulsions while underrepresented in advanced classes. To address these inequities, we must take a multi-faceted approach that includes implementing a culturally responsive curriculum that with black history and ethnic studies courses, hiring more black teachers, especially black male teachers, and prioritizing the use of materials written and created by people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, and individuals from other historically underrepresented groups, especially in English & Language Arts and Social Studies. We must also address the literacy gap that exists by partnering with the city to ensure all families have access to high quality childcare and Pre-K and by funding individualized literacy support at all grade levels. Lastly, we need to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline by doing away with exclusionary discipline practices and instead using a restorative justice approach.

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: These challenges have reminded us that teachers are the foundation of our public schools, and it’s important that we follow their lead in times of crisis and uncertainty. Teachers best understand the realities of a classroom. They know the obstacles that make it difficult to enforce mask mandates and social distancing and are best equipped to develop strategies to overcome these obstacles, and educators are better prepared than anyone to develop and implement hybrid learning methods. As your next board member, I will always follow the lead of teachers and students!

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

A: Virtual learning is an important tool that we should utilize as we work to achieve equity in APS. While virtual learning created hardships for many families, for some, it allowed to students to flourish in ways they previously hadn’t. For example, students who may have to take care of a family member during the day or who live with certain health conditions are able to continue coursework through virtual learning. For these students and others, we must support the Atlanta Virtual Academy and expand hybrid learning opportunities to ensure all students have access to everything APS has to offer.

With nearly every seat either contested or open, the 2021 Atlanta municipal election will certainly shape the future of our city. Our election guide is a fact-based, nonpartisan primer on who’s running, how to vote, and other information you need to be an informed voter. Click to return to the main voter guide.

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 means that we allocate resources in a way that assesses and addresses the needs of each individual student and takes into account the disparities that currently exist in the system. Equity is not an initiative or policy, but rather a framework through which we must approach all issues and decisions. Similarly, social justice is our commitment to uplifting those who have historically been marginalized and working to dismantle the systemic inequities that have resulted in this marginalization. Specifically, this means working to empower students of color, low income students, LGBTQIA+ students, and students living and learning with disabilities.

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: I believe Dr. Herring brings strong experience to the job, however I feel she has not yet gained the full trust of the community and has at times jeopardized her effort to do so by making decisions without receiving enough community input. One example was the district’s short-lived decision to move the start time for high schools to before 8am. I look forward to working with Dr. Herring to ensure decisions are made in a transparent and inclusive manner in order to increase trust amongst the community so that we can focus on addressing the systemic inequities that plague APS.

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 believe the board should maintain this position. Tax abatements in the City of Atlanta should be at the discretion of Invest Atlanta to prevent unnecessary abatements from being awarded to large developers and to ensure APS continues to receive adequate funding. Further, we need to expand the role that communities have in these decisions by ensuring NPUs and neighborhood associations are at the table when discussing the potential developments that would affect them.

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 and APS must work together to expand access to quality early education including childcare and PreK. Also, we must collaborate to expand career training opportunities and to build a strong pipeline between APS and the wonderful and diverse post-secondary opportunities that are available in our city.

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 should work with the mayor and City Council to expand early education and career training opportunities, to build stronger partnerships with the business and philanthropic communities in Atlanta, and to increase transit options, including securing free MARTA access for APS middle and high school students.

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

A: Currently, the nine-member Atlanta Board of Education has zero APS graduates. I’m running to change that and to give power to Atlanta’s students!

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