Candidate Q&A – Lewis Cartee, Atlanta School Board District 3
In an effort to help voters prepare for the Nov. 7 elections, Atlanta Loop and Decaturish sent questions to candidates running for Atlanta City Council, Atlanta Mayor and Atlanta School Board. Early voting begins Oct. 16. To see district maps, click here.
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1. Why are you running for Atlanta School Board?
While growing up we did not have all the finer things in life; however, my sisters and I were fortunate. Fortunate to have a mother that taught us through her actions about acceptance, tolerance and understanding. Fortunate because while we did not have a lot of money, we were rich in diversity in our school due to growing up in a military town about an hour and half southwest of Atlanta. After graduating from college and moving out into the real world, I became bothered, confused and upset after realizing that my childhood was not always reflected in this world. This realization created an internal theme of equality, acceptance and understanding, and I searched to find my way to promote what I wanted to see.
Moving to Atlanta I got involved in my community. What started small quickly grew larger, and I began to take on leadership roles in the neighborhood and the school. Wanting to work toward building a caring and thriving community for all, I realized that all roads lead back to education and our schools.
I believe in Educational Justice which is our obligation to produce an equitable environment that offers the same opportunities of success for all regardless of the color of one’s skin, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or economic status. Schools should be a tool that level disparities while promoting and honoring our differences in order to allow for the growth of a child through development of character.
2. What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
As the candidate that has governance experience at both the community level as well as the school level, I am most effectively positioned to take on this role. Moving into my fifth year of chairing the Local School Council that transitioned into a Governance Team for my local school, I have done the same work as the school board just on the local level. This experience has allowed me to work with our administration in the same manner a school board works with the superintendent. Over these years I have dealt with similar issues to include creating an academic strategic plan for our school as well as the associated budget. Additionally, I have taken on tasks that have allowed me to advocate for all students through my role in our local governance, not only at my own school, but at the larger Cluster level. While taking on these roles inside the school I have also been instrumental in our community association from a leadership perspective allowing for me to have the unique opportunity to really understand how items such as transportation, public safety, land use and zoning, etc. impact the school setting.
3. What do you think is Atlanta Schools’ greatest strength?
The greatest strength of our Atlanta schools is the people. Across this city we have passionate and caring parents and community members that when allowed to take ownership of their schools will deliver. Over the last five years the board has re-positioned the focus back on students and away from adult problems while creating greater engagement at the cluster level as well as pushing increased decision making and responsibility down to individual school leadership, both principals and GO Teams. However, we need to continue to build capacity in our GO Teams across the city through additional training and support in order to create a sincere, trusting and productive relationship.
4. What do you think is Atlanta Schools’ biggest challenge?
Equity: This is not only the single biggest issues facing public education, but the number one issue facing our city. By working to create equity in our schools, we will also, concurrently, do the same for our city.
5. How would you address what you feel is Atlanta Schools’ biggest challenge?
In order to address our equity issue across the district, we first have to adequately define what this means for our students and our communities. One this definition is agreed upon we can then focus on the following three areas:
A. Early Childhood Education – The current board has worked to create increased opportunities for early learning, and I believe that we should continue to look for how we as a system can reach more families and more children at an earlier age.
B. Local Governance – Through sincere training APS can work to build a stronger and more productive voice within each of our schools. There is no entity that knows how to produce greater results for our students than those closest to our children. Teachers, principals, parents and community members can quickly make specific changes to impact the educational equity of their individual students.
C. Partnerships – By electing public servants across the city, mayor, city council and board of education, that truly believe that in order to acquire the equity we all want, the diversity we all need and the city we all deserve we must focus at the root of our society… our schools. We can no longer go about our work with blinders on. We must form and build trusting relationships that put our schools at the center of our equity issue.
6. What are the top two or three things you plan to focus on during your term as an elected official?
A. Local Governance (Voice of School): Building capacity within our Governance Teams (GO Teams) through worthwhile training, relationship building in and outside of our clusters and peer to peer mentoring partnerships should be supported by APS. With intentional training from APS to sincerely produce strong, informed and involved teams, we can construct an environment where decisions related to student achievement and equity come from the bottom up while trustfully supported from the top down.
B. Accountability: As a board we are tasked with creating collaborative goals, goals that reflect the needs of our communities and our children. Establishing these shared goals and agreeing on what constitutes success combined with increased transparency through program audits allows for increasing trust and effective two-way communication that ultimately produces a school district that is approachable, accessible and equitable for all.
C. Partnerships: For the city of Atlanta to represent the best of us all, we must expect greater collaboration between our communities and our elected officials in order to create the city and the opportunities our children deserve.
7. What is your opinion of the current superintendent? Are you happy with her leadership or do you want the school system to go in a different direction?
The current superintendent was hired at a very tumultuous time for the Atlanta Public School system, and I believe that the Superintendent, along with the board, made some very tough, if not always liked, decisions. In general, I believe that APS is much better off now with the current board, to include the hiring of the Superintendent, than prior to the last school board election, and I believe we now must look for experienced board leadership to create the stability our students, families and communities need.
8. If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?
In one word, yes. As a testament to my honest work, I have continued to be trusted by my local school as well as the greater community to include my community association, NPU and cluster. During my time as President of the East Atlanta Community Association, Education Chair for both EACA and NPU-W as well as while chairing my Local School Council/GO Team and representing the Jackson Cluster during our planning process, I have always conducted myself ethically and with transparency.
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