Don’t let the blazing hot temperatures fool you. Atlanta Public Schools election season is here.
Last week, 10 candidates qualified to vie for five spots on the Atlanta Board of Education in the Nov. 7 election. Thanks to a 2020 law, Atlanta school board elections are now staggered, so that city residents elect board members every two years, instead of every four.
This fall, school board seats in odd-numbered districts are up for grabs, while seats in even-numbered districts will be up for re-election in 2025. School board members serve four-year terms.
Here’s an overview of what you need to know about the Atlanta school board and the 10 candidates on the ballot for November.
What is the school board, and what does it do?
Broadly speaking, it’s a governing body made up of nine community members who oversee and manage the operations of Atlanta Public Schools, which educates nearly 50,000 K-12 students. Currently, all nine board members are women.
The Atlanta school board’s responsibilities include:
Personnel Decisions: The board hires, evaluates, and sometimes dismisses the school superintendent. In June, the board decided to oust APS Superintendent Lisa Herring, whose contract ends June 30, 2024, and it hired Danielle Battle as interim superintendent, beginning Sept. 1. The board is conducting a search for Herring’s permanent replacement, with a 2024 start date.
Overseeing the Budget: In May, the school board passed a $1.66 billion budget for the current fiscal year, which began July 1.
Planning: APS is in the third year of a five-year strategic plan called “We Are APS.” School board members have a say in the plan’s directives for curriculum development, teaching methods, and improving student performance at the 87 schools in the district, which includes 19 charter schools. The board also sets staff compensation, recruitment, and professional development policies.
Community Engagement: School board members serve as a bridge between APS school administrators, teachers and parents – along with the greater Atlanta community. Ideally, they gather input from the public to make informed decisions about how APS can best serve Atlanta’s 50,000 public school students.
Public Meetings: The school board holds a monthly public meeting at APS’s office at 130 Trinity Avenue, SW. in the Center for Learning and Leadership auditorium.
Who’s on the board?
District 1—Katie Howard
District 2—Aretta Baldon (vice chair)
District 3—Michelle Olympiadis
District 4—Jennifer McDonald
District 5—Erika Mitchell
District 6—Eshé Collins (chair)
Seat 7—Tamara Jones
Seat 8—Cynthia Briscoe Brown
Seat 9—Jessica Johnson
The 2023 candidates
District 1: Maynard Jackson Cluster
Incumbent: Katie Howard, who is running unopposed, was first elected in 2021. Howard serves as senior policy advisor for Atlanta City Councilmember Jason Dozier.
District 3: Midtown Cluster
Incumbent: Michelle Olympiadis has served on the school board since 2017. She is also a board member for the Georgia School Boards Association.
Her challenger, Ken Zeff, is the executive director of local education nonprofit Learn4Life. He served as Fulton County’s interim school superintendent for the 2015-16 school year.
District 5: Mays Cluster
Incumbent: Erika Mitchell was first elected in 2017. She’s the vice president of business development for ChanceLight Education, which contracts with public school districts and other educational institutions to provide special education programs.
Mitchell’s opponent, Raynard Johnson, is a digital media and IT consultant. He lost bids for an APS board seat in 2017 and 2021.
District 7: At Large
Incumbent: Tamara Jones has worked in architecture and urban planning for over 25 years, according to her campaign bio. She was elected to the board in 2021.
Her challenger, Alfred “Shivy” Brooks, teaches economics, personal finance and government at Charles Drew High School for Clayton County Public Schools. “I’m determined to make history by becoming the first active teacher to serve on the APS board,” he says on his campaign website. Brooks unsuccessfully ran for Post 1 at Large on the Atlanta City Council in 2021.
William “Will” Sardin is also challenging Jones.
District 9: At Large
The school board appointed Jessica Johnson in January 2023 to fill former board member Jason Esteves’ seat. Esteves resigned because he was elected to the Georgia Senate. Johnson is the founder and executive director of The Scholarship Academy, a nonprofit that helps low-income students find ways to pay for college.
Early voting is scheduled from Oct. 16 through Nov. 3. Election day is Nov. 7. Runoff elections for any seats, if necessary, will happen in December.