Buckhead native and parent Cynthia Briscoe Brown, who is running for the District 8 at-large seat against incumbent Reuben McDaniel, called for a change in leadership on the board.
“We need it because the last four years have been four of the most dysfunctional, negative and divisive years in the history of the Atlanta school board and that’s saying a lot,” she said.
Brown said there needs to be a change in the relationship between the central office and the schools and that the central office should operate more like a consultative body.
She said the school board needs to unite around the common goal of ensuring each child has everything he or she needs to succeed.
McDaniel, the current board chairman, spoke to community leaders about the positive achievements he has seen within the district throughout the past four years. Particular to Buckhead-area students, he highlighted the decision to split the overcrowded Sutton Middle campus into two, taking over the old North Atlanta High campus.
“We’ve been working very hard at making sure all of our facilities are up to speed as far as capacity,” he said.
McDaniel also said there has been a significant increase in the number of students from the North Atlanta cluster enrolled in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses.
“We’re really encouraging our students to take the more rigorous courses,” he said. “We’re very pleased with what’s going on there.”
McDaniel said there is still work to be done to improve the district. He said the board is hoping to recruit the best and brightest for the open superintendent position, which should be decided by February. Among his goals for the next four years is looking at what kind of a school system Atlanta will have going forward — whether it is a traditional system, a charter system or a hybrid of the two.
Running for the District 9 at-large board seat, Jason Esteves also spoke to Buckhead neighborhood representatives. Esteves, an attorney and former middle school teacher, is running for the seat being vacated by Emmett Johnson.
He said new faces on the school board, along with a new superintendent, will give the school system a chance for a better start.
“Over the past several years, our school board has not been the most functional school board and our school system has been letting down our students,” Esteves said. “We don’t have a world-class school system. We can’t claim to be a world-class city if we don’t have a public school system to match that.”
Changes he would like to see are for school board members to be more engaged in the community, to tackle budget issues and to empower leaders at individual schools to make the important decisions necessary for the betterment of students.
Esteves’ opponent, Lori James, was not present at Thursday’s meeting.