The responses to these questions were edited for length and clarity by the Georgia Decides team. Each candidate was allotted 150 words for each answer and some answers were trimmed in order to abide by that length requirement. Other edits were made to make sure readers can fully follow and understand the candidate responses.
Campaigning for: Cobb County Board of Education District 4
How does your background equip you for the job you are seeking?
I am a lifelong educator with two decades of experience. I started my education career as a classroom teacher, and I continue to be certified as a teacher and superintendent. I have a doctorate in education from Harvard. In my prior role, I served as assistant state superintendent of education, overseeing an annual education budget of $5.5 billion. In addition to advising states and school districts across the country on education finance and fiscal policy, I’m a captain and education officer in the U.S. Army Reserve.
I also have deep roots in Post 4, the district I am running to represent. I attended Post 4 schools — Kincaid Elementary, Daniell Middle, and Sprayberry High (Class of 1997) — and I live in the house where I grew up.
I am well-versed on education issues, have a track record of results, and I’m committed to serving the community that raised me.
What role should government have in the lives of Georgians? How would you apply that philosophy to the job you are seeking?
Our public education system is the single largest and most important investment our state and local communities make with tax dollars. The government plays a critical role to ensure that our schools serve all children equitably, providing them with a high-quality education in world-class facilities. Our governance model has a responsibility to hold the system and its leadership accountable for results.
Our local school board must also be responsive to its constituents. I believe two-way communication is obligatory for an elected official – even when there is disagreement on an issue – and I would build and maintain structures and processes that allow for stakeholder input and feedback. Government fails when it isolates itself from the public and ceases to listen to the people.
If you are elected (or re-elected), what problems will you spend the most time solving and why?
In Cobb County, we have a literacy crisis that was severely exacerbated by the pandemic. Only one out of two Cobb third graders are proficient readers, and the most recent Georgia Milestones results showed reading on grade level declined in every grade, third through eighth.
Unfortunately, reading is not the only cause for concern. Only 50.5% of Cobb students passed the Algebra end-of-course exam this year.
It is imperative that we move urgently so that Cobb County delivers a strong foundational education to all children.
As serious as this is, the good news is that we know what we need to do to fix it, and we have $250 million of federal relief money to pay for it. Now we need to stack our school board with leaders who have the expertise in education to make smart decisions and investments that will benefit children and our future as a community.
Georgia is a politically diverse state. How will you work to represent Georgians whose political views differ from your own?
Often, education is where people on opposite sides of the political spectrum can find common ground. Although that might not seem like the case in the media, I find that we can work productively through most issues if we can sit across from each other and listen to each others’ concerns. This is why I have prioritized making myself available to answer questions and listen to feedback.
It is also important that we have formal mechanisms in place so that stakeholders can provide input. For example, I would like to reinstate parent committees so that Cobb families have the opportunity to weigh in and influence district policy.
We might not always agree, but listening to each other can get us there most of the time.
Who has been the biggest influence on how you view government and politics? What have you learned from this person?
When I served as the executive director for a state board of education, I worked for a board chair who was a governor appointee and member of the majority party. Even though the board chair could have passed policy with only the majority members, she worked for bipartisanship and always asked members of the minority what it would take to get their support.
As a board appointee, I knew her expectation was that I and my staff serve all board members, regardless of party affiliation. The board chair modeled this expectation herself, personally reaching out, time and time again, even when rebuffed.
From her I learned how to be judicious with majority rule and how to avoid the tyranny of the majority. And – perhaps most importantly – that it’s worth the extra work to bring in another person, even when you have the votes without them.
Politics is often about compromise. How do you decide when to compromise and take small, incremental wins, and when to refuse compromise?
I find that there are usually opportunities for compromise when it comes to processes and how to get things done. I am usually willing to negotiate if that means that we can get more stakeholders onboard.
As a board member, I would not be willing to compromise on putting the interests of students first and making sure that we are operating a fair system. Nine times out of ten, that is what all parties want, so again, it just comes down to the details of how we get there. Sometimes, though, there are cases when we will not be able to find mutual agreement on values – that’s when it becomes really important to have in place two-way communication with constituents so that at least people know why compromise is not possible.
There were politicians who questioned the outcomes of Georgia elections in 2018 and 2020. Do you think Georgia’s elections are secure and will you stand by the results?
In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, state law and local enforcement authority will determine access to abortion. If elected, how will you use your authority to influence abortion access or enforcement of abortion restrictions?