Tamara Jones is in the runoff for Atlanta Board of Education District 7 at large.

Candidate website: www.TamaraForABOE7.com

How are you the better candidate for improving achievement gaps for students in the district?

We will not improve overall performance without improving literacy. A student’s performance in ALL subjects is compromised by reading struggles. The lack of meaningful progress in overall reading proficiency is a strong indicator that our approach to literacy over the past decade is not working. I will urge the board to immediately prioritize literacy, fund research proven methodologies, and ask for a holistic early learning through 12th grade intervention strategy.Also critical is forming a working relationship with City and County governments to streamline access to wraparound services and develop a joint approach for stabilizing and supporting high-mobility families and students. Our high student mobility rate is made worse by diminishing access to affordable housing. I will seek to form a joint task force or standing committee to focus on these issues.

Why are you the better choice to address the pandemic learning gap?

I’m a mom of three children who experienced the disruption of pandemic schooling. I saw the toll it took on students and teachers. One key to address any perceived gap is being mindful of how we frame the issue, because it is not productive to project a deficit mindset onto children and educators who have already endured so much. We cannot sacrifice nurturing the joy of learning and the love of teaching in our quest to “catch up”. The pandemic has affected all students, but not in the same ways, so the pressure of needing differentiated approaches is even greater now. This summer presents an opportunity to work with our philanthropic and city partners to offer varied, targeted summer enrichment opportunities, building off of last summer and adding to it. Planning for that should already be underway, and families must know soon what to expect.

How are you the better candidate for improving transparency in APS communications and policy-making with families?

Families, communities, educators, and students – all over the city – feel shut out. I know this personally as an APS parent for the past 15 years under 4 superintendents. One of the main pillars of my platform is the creation of a reliable, transparent, strategic stakeholder engagement framework. Currently the only formal engagement process is the 2 minute public comment at board meetings. I have served on Local School Councils, GO Teams, Cluster Advisory Team, and many district-wide committees over the years, and know the potential for these bodies to be more inclusive and to actually perform a policy advisory role. We can look to Atlanta’s NPU system for inspiration on how that might work. Regular, scheduled meetings open to the public and published agendas and minutes are key to transparency. The board should model the type of engagement and collaboration they want to see in the administration and the schools. 

Why are you the better candidate for this office, period?

My work in community master planning over the last 25 years has involved extensive public and stakeholder engagement for projects throughout the Atlanta metro area, from Campbellton Road to Crabapple. Comprehensive urban planning requires collaborating with multiple public and private entities to ensure that the critical dimensions of healthy communities are incorporated – including diverse life-cycle housing, equitable access to employment and services, transportation, recreation and wellness, and education. I bring an understanding of these interconnected elements and experience with engagement and collaboration to the school board. As an architect I know the importance of solid data, thorough analysis, and creative problem solving, and have an awareness of the interdependence of all elements of a system.

Read Tamara Jones’ Q&A from the general election.

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