Michelle Olympiadis, a first-generation American, has served on the APS board since 2017. She is also on the board of directors of the Georgia School Boards Association. She advocates for special needs education, drawing from personal experience with her son. Olympiadis has been vocal about budget concerns and was the only board member to vote against opening a new K-5 Midtown elementary school in 2022.
Background & Experience
- Georgia School Boards Association, District 5
- Executive Director, Investor Protection Trust
- Business Development Consultant, Inman Solar
- Greek School Coordinator: Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation
- Director of Special Events, Boys & Girls Club of America
- Total cash on hand: $0
- Largest contributors:
- The last known donation is from AFSCME in Dec. 2021
- Calls for a forensic audit of the APS budget
- Advocates for quality preschool experiences for all children
- Stresses the need for strong leadership in schools and clusters
Where did you grow up and how has your personal background influenced your perspective on public education?
I grew up in Fulton County. My eldest son has special needs and I began advocating and volunteering on the PTA, Local School Council, Midtown Cluster Advisory.
We want to know about your involvement in the community. Please list any volunteer or mentorship activities, professional boards you sit on, and community organizations that you’re affiliated with.
- Foundations for Morningside, Inman, Midtown,
- Former Invest Atlanta Board Member
- Former Georgia School Board Member
- Former Member of the Atlanta PTA Council
Why should voters support your candidacy for the APS School Board?
I have served in District 3 for 5 years and would like to serve one last term.
The Atlanta School Board did not renew the contract for former school superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring and hired Dr. Danielle Battle as the interim superintendent on Aug. 7, 2023, while they conduct a national search.
Why do you think there’s so much superintendent turnover at APS — and what do you think can be done to address it?
APS is a very large and complex organization with over 5,000 employees providing a diverse portfolio of schools serving roughly 50,000 students. The superintendent works with the board to get annual goals and develop a five-year strategic plan. The superintendent must work well with the board to ensure that the administration is productive. When there becomes a disconnect or you no longer have the synergy to work productively, then the board may decide to not renew the contract.
What qualifications and qualities do you believe are essential for the next superintendent?
Ideally someone with a strong educational background who has served in urban settings and is familiar with Atlanta.
APS is in the third year of a five-year strategic plan that ends in 2025. What are your thoughts on how that plan is going, and what would you do differently? What should the next five-year plan address?
This year the administration is taking very targeted measures on literacy and focusing on certain grades like 3rd, 5th and 8th grades. The last two years it seems as though we had too many initiatives and not enough focus. Moving forward, we need to continue to use our goals and guardrails to improve our students’ outcomes.
How should the District best address the understaffing and retention of teachers and staff?
We need to raise salaries and attract more staff.
More than 5,000 APS students have a disability or special needs. What can the school district do to better serve those students, especially when it comes to allocating resources to schools?
Students with disabilities receive federal and state funds depending on their needs. Those funds are there for the students and should follow then into the school house. There is also a great need for special education teachers and paraprofessionals which would support and serve the students.
Only about one-third of APS students are at or above the proficient level for reading and math with reports saying that COVID learning loss is still a factor. How can the District ensure children meet or exceed the reading and writing standards?
This year, there is a focus on reading. In grades K-2, we use Foundations which is Orton Gillingham based and as I mentioned earlier we focusing on 3rd, 5th and 8th grades.
Identify three ways the Atlanta School Board can better involve youth, parents and caretakers in the Board’s decision-making process?
Most board members have monthly meetings in person or via Zoom. The board meetings are streamed on You Tube and Facebook. We have a Student Advisory Committee and Equity Taskforce.
Is the APS property tax burden too high for most Atlanta residents? Do you think commercial property owners are paying their fair share of APS property taxes?
The Board of Assessors should conduct an audit to see how the taxes are allocated. There is also a need to focus on more affordable housing. The board approved eight surplus properties that can be used for that purpose. Yes, I do believe that taxpayers are burdened by the property tax.
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