Nkoyo-Ene Effiong Lewis is challenging incumbent Jessica Johnson for the APS Board District 9 At-Large seat. Lewis is the founder and chief impact strategist for Iban Ison Solutions, LLC, and the director of law practice management for the State Bar of Georgia. Lewis is a first-generation African American, with parents who immigrated from Nigeria. She is married and has a school-aged child that she plans to enroll in APS next fall.
Background & Experience
- BA in American Civilization, Brown University
- JD, NYU School of Law
Lewis owns two businesses, The Effiong Law Firm and Iban Ison Solutions LLC.
- Total cash on hand: $6,608
- Largest contributors:
- A few $1,000 donors, including a consultant to Chick-fil-A and the chief administrative officer for the Sierra Club
- Notes: N/A
- Aims to design cluster-specific solutions to increase student success
- Focuses on providing a safe learning environment and investing in resources for student and educator wellness
- Plans to address educational equity gaps in reading and math competency
Where did you grow up and how has your personal background influenced your perspective on public education?
I was born and raised in Ogden, UT and the daughter of Nigerian immigrants who came to the U.S. in pursuit of higher education. As a child, I loved learning and I loved school. It was a place where I felt successful. When I came to Atlanta to teach, I was confronted with the reality that not every child had the same sense of boundless possibility that I grew up with and have spent the better part of my adult life working to change that.
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.
I have sat on the City of Atlanta Civil Service Board and was former IEP Facilitator for the Georgia Department of Education. I am a member of Elizabeth Baptist Church.
Why should voters support your candidacy for the APS School Board?
With less than 35% of students proficient in reading and math, APS needs proven leadership to address this urgent crisis. As a teacher, attorney and parent, I understand the complexity of the challenges we face. For nearly 20 years, I have fought for equity and excellence in our schools. As the candidate for Seat 9, I have the experience, vision and stake in outcomes to lead APS forward.
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?
While the national average term for superintendents of large school districts is five years, the turnover rate we experience in APS is self-induced. The next board must select an innovative leader who is willing to solve complex problems. Furthermore, the board must be prepared to support the superintendent with clear goals and accountability. Consistent leadership is key for a district in transition like APS. As a board member, I will focus on selecting and retaining a superintendent who can collaboratively pursue bold goals to improve our schools.
What qualifications and qualities do you believe are essential for the next superintendent?
APS needs a superintendent that understands the Atlanta context and is ready to lead us into the next version of ourselves. The rate of change is accelerating and our students will confront a future that many of us cannot even imagine. Thus, the next superintendent needs to be prospective, focusing on improving timeless skills like literacy, math, and critical/creative thinking. They will need to be innovative, strategic, and committed to working with the community in our shared governance model. Most importantly, they will need to believe and embody the very things our strategic plan expects of its graduates to be: self-reflective, & globally connected, self-directed & goal oriented, resourceful & driven, and a critical thinker & a problem solver.
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?
Our strategic plan lacks ambitious goals and metrics – anything less will not move the needle enough for children. With reading proficiency averaging 35%, APS must set bold, measurable targets for literacy, math and graduation rates. As a board member, I will work with my colleagues and the superintendent to focus the next 5-year plan on raising proficiency, starting with targeted milestones for early literacy and numeracy. We cannot lead from behind. It is time to confront our shortcomings and make the necessary changes to achieve excellence.
How should the District best address the understaffing and retention of teachers and staff?
As a former teacher, I understand the skill and dedication of our educators. I also know that our educators face a different classroom reality than I did while I was teaching. To retain more teachers, we need to allow those closest to the problem to guide the solutions. The District can better address this challenge by bringing teachers from high and low turnover schools into the conversation and adopt proven strategies to slow the trend of teachers leaving the classroom.
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?
Budgets are moral documents that reflect our priorities. APS must strengthen its commitment to students with disabilities. We need to hire, retain and equip qualified special education teachers to meet student needs. The district should partner with professionals who can provide the related services, therapies and training our educators and students need. As an attorney and mother of a child with a disability, I am committed to ensuring our students with disabilities are treated with dignity and receive quality instruction.
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?
The pandemic has caused major learning disruptions that we have to acknowledge. And, if we are honest, we know literacy has been a challenge within APS well before the pandemic. Now more than ever we need to adopt creative new approaches to address this issue. We need a literacy policy that requires the district to closely monitor literacy outcomes and intervene with research-based tiered interventions as needed. Lastly, we must trust that teachers and principals understand their students and schools best, and include their voices in developing solutions for critical problems like this.
Identify three ways the Atlanta School Board can better involve youth, parents and caretakers in the Board’s decision-making process?
This is a priority for me; driven from my experiences fighting to be involved in my son’s education and the decisions made about him.
- We must make information more easily accessible. The community should be able to locate key information quickly and simply.
- We should show up in the community and in our schools regularly. Parents and caregivers should not only be asked to come to us. Engagement works both ways.
- If we are truly committed to community engagement, we should allow for sufficient time to engage in a conversation, reflect on the feedback we receive and pivot when we do not have community support for an action.
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?
There is no arguing that Atlanta’s residents are paying for the majority of the APS budget through their property taxes. Furthermore, the rise in property taxes is felt differently across the city. While we want to attract businesses to Atlanta to spur economic growth, it should not be to the detriment of Atlanta’s residents. Whether the burden is too high or too low aside, the real issue is that the community is not getting a return on their investment. That is the urgent issue we need to address.
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