Nov. 7 marks Election Day for city of Atlanta voters for the Atlanta School Board election.

Ten candidates are vying for five open seats on the governing body for Atlanta Public Schools (APS). The nine Atlanta School Board members manage APS’s $1.66 billion annual budget and oversee 84 learning sites across the district, which serve more than 50,000 students. Today, Atlanta voters have the opportunity to vote for candidates for Districts 1, 3, 5 and for at-large citywide seats 7 and 9.

For the last 12 weeks, Atlanta Civic Circle has partnered with Capital B Atlanta on our #APSVotes project to deliver original reporting that unpacks the significance of these elections. With polls opening for the final time today, we headed out to talk to voters about who and what motivated them at the ballot box.

Hannah Risman, 23, Midtown, nonprofit worker

“I always make sure to vote in every election – local elections matter the most to me. I think change starts at the local level.

I’m advocating for increased pay for teachers, increased support, and I know that there’s a big gap for students with literacy and math scores. It’s all over my TikTok – teachers talking about their experiences and how post-COVID, it’s changed teaching. Anything that provides more support to the teachers and makes sure that the students have more support so that they can reach their goals.

I supported Alfred “Shivy” Brooks, because we’ve never had a teacher on the board. I’m hopeful for his first candidacy. I think it could be really impactful and really good to have someone that can speak from firsthand experience – not just someone who’s been a teacher, but also someone who is a teacher post-COVID.”

Payal Shah, Midtown, parenting and childbirth worker

“I cast my vote for the school board because it’s impactful to our children, which then trickles out   to the rest of us. I know a lot of people don’t show up for these smaller elections, so I wanted to make sure that I came out to support the candidates that I liked today. I used to be an educator, so I’m more on the student side versus the administrative side of things.

I like that Nkoyo Effiong Lewis and Shivy Brooks both were educators. I think it’s really important for people who have been on the inside to run things above people that think they know how.”

Laura Beth, Tommy, and Naomi Andres, Midtown

“We’re just learning to engage with more local elections. … And a big reason for that is because of our six-year-old, who goes to Virginia-Highland Elementary, and we have a two-year-old as well. [Naomi] is in first grade and the other one’s going to be in kindergarten in two years. 

We are thrilled with the schools in this area, which is a big reason why we moved here – and we want to keep making sure that the schools continue to be great. We love how diverse the staff and the student body is.

Cindy Hashett, Inman Park, retired healthcare administrator

“I always vote. My daughter has a master’s degree from an Ivy League education and teaches 11th grade history here in Atlanta Public Schools, and I try to support everything that she thinks is right around education, because we share similar beliefs.

My biggest issue is that all kids receive a well-rounded education and they are taught facts, not fiction—influenced by religion or ideology. It’s important that people understand the realities around slavery in the South. For my daughter, as a history teacher that’s really important to her as well. [Shivy] Brooks really stood out to me as a candidate because he’s a teacher. A lot of folks really opine on things that they know nothing about, but he knows what the schools are about.”

Dawn Arthan, 69, Sweet Auburn, retired

I really like Shivy. Experience teaching is important to me – and having a broad view of what’s needed for our children. The whole big picture, not just the real estate values – somebody that cares about the kids and really has good ideas about what needs to be done making our schools equitable.He’s a teacher and he’s already shown that he cares about what’s going on in the community, about the different issues that we face here in Atlanta.

Barbara Burton, 56, Old Fourth Ward, small business owner

“My concern is that kids get a full education. We don’t have to make them feel bad, and we don’t have to make them feel good. We just need to tell them the truth about what happened in history. There seems to be a concerted effort by a loud minority who really want to control what kids think and what they feel – and I don’t think that we need to do that. We just need to give them the true information. 

Our history in this country isn’t super pretty, but that’s okay. Ignoring it isn’t good. I think there’s been a concerted effort for school boards to try to control kids expressing themselves … and it’s upsetting to me.

Midtown parent requesting anonymity

“There’s something to be said for supporting people who are brave enough to put themselves forward and also to support people that care about my kid. I’m a fan of the incumbent, Tamara [Jones, at-large Seat 7]. A lot of people come off as know-it-alls who just talk as opposed to those who get in there and do it all. And I feel like Tamara gives a ‘I’ll do it’ attitude. That spoke to me, as opposed to like, ‘I want my photo everywhere for attention.’”

Senior at Midtown High School

“To me, it’s important we get good teachers and make sure that the ones we do have are doing the proper work and evaluating them thoroughly because some of the teachers may or may not have been slacking a little bit this year. So I think for next year, having people on the school board who really care about what the teachers are doing is important.”

Ayana Cummings, 27, educator, Campbellton Road

“The biggest thing with the [school] board is funding … money for different programs, salaries. They even control smaller stuff like setting the school calendar. I feel like these type of elections don’t get a lot of notice, but they are so important to the day-to-day operations.” 

Sherry Bennett, 67, retired, Ben Hill

“I have grandchildren in APS so that matters. When I think about how our neighborhood becomes what it is, the school is really at the center of that. So I wanted to make sure I came out to vote and elect officials who are showing up for our children.” 

Paul, 60, retired, Ben Hill

“It’s important to vote because our voices need to be heard … especially with these schools. As residents of this area, we need to keep an eye on it, because issues are always local.” 

Monie, 32, server, Adamsville

“When I think about the school board, I think about how much money they are in charge of. All of that money decided on by nine people means as a city, we have to take this election seriously. I hope we get members who care about our schools and want to make sure all of our kids have equal opportunities.”

Lisa, 40, homemaker, Adamsville 

“I came out to support my candidate, but I also came out because school boards matter. We need representation that makes sure our kids are able to leave APS and become anything they want to be.”

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