On Nov. 5, Atlanta voters will select school board members to oversee the local schools and education of the city’s children. Atlanta is unique because all nine of its seats are up for election at the same time, and this year several incumbents have chosen not to run for reelection, which creates the possibility of a completely new board.
Georgia School Boards Association Executive Director Jeannie M. “Sis” Henry penned an editorial for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Oct. 19 that explains why school board elections are so important.
She wrote, “School board races often tend to generate little attention or momentum. However, the decisions made by school boards often affect virtually every important aspect of local schools from school boundaries to bus schedules, curriculum to clubs and even funding field trips… Many of the day-to-day responsibilities for which school boards are responsible generally are delegated to the superintendent. However, in Georgia, responsibilities of a public school board also include but are not limited to some duties that cannot be delegated, such as:
- The hiring and firing of the local school system superintendent,
- Buying and selling school property (including the power of condemnation),
- Calling elections to authorize a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and bond elections to authorize the issuance of bonded debt,
- Making the policies and rules necessary to govern the school system,
- Reorganization and consolidation of schools within their control and
- Authority to hire employees on the recommendation of the superintendent.
Henry also posed a series of questions for voters to consider a school board candidates’ qualities, skills and experience. Those include:
- What is the candidate’s vision and goals for high academic achievement for all students?
- Does the candidate inspire parents and other stakeholders to have confidence in the local public schools?
- Does the candidate understand that the school board’s role is about the big picture, setting the direction for the district and providing oversight and accountability rather than the day-to-day management (micro-management)?
- Does the candidate focus on a single issue or is he or she concerned about all the issues that come before the board?
- Does the candidate’s approach make it likely that he or she will be able to work effectively with the rest of the board to get things done?
Henry also urges Atlanta voters to weigh their votes carefully and scrutinize the backgrounds of candidates. Voters should “thoroughly understand what each individual brings to the board in terms of expertise and their willingness to collaborate and work as a team.”
The original editorial is available only through subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.