Candidate Q&A – Candice McKinley, DeKalb County School Board, District 2
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In advance of the May 22 primary election, Decaturish is publishing Q&As with the candidates. To see your sample ballot, click here.
Candice McKinley, DeKalb County School Board, District 2
Why are you running for this position?
As a mother, educator/advocate, and civil rights lawyer, I believe education is the greatest equalizer. We are all responsible for our most precious commodity–our children. When we show our children that we care about them they will succeed. I am running because it is imperative that all students are given every opportunity to have access to an excellent education.With your help we can do much more for our children. I ask that you stand with me. Let’s put our children first in this District.
What are your qualifications for this office?
My highest priority is my children and I have two scholars matriculating in District #2. I earned my undergraduate degree in Psychology from Spelman College with honors and earned my teaching certification at Georgia State. From 2002-2004, I worked in Atlanta Public School System as a first grade EIP teacher in the Bowen Homes housing community. After leaving the classroom, I co-developed a community based after-school program. I graduated from law school in 2009 with the hopes and dreams of doing educational policy. In 2015-2016, I was selected as Fellow with the YWCA Georgia Women’s and Policy Institute (“GWPI”). My cohort and I passed HB 827 (Rape Kit) legislation during the 2016 Georgia General Assembly to end the backlog of untested rape kits. My passion coupled with my keen insight to both law and educational norms will ensure that race, socio-economic status, or zip code doesn’t determine the level of education a child is afforded in DeKalb.
What kind of work do you do?
I am civil litigator that handles complex civil rights cases involving excessive force as well as catastrophic personal injury claims. My prior experiences include practicing employment and education law in the Eleventh Circuit and working in Washington D.C. in the Office of Senator Michael F. Bennet on the No Child Left Behind (NCLB)/Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization efforts. These experiences continue to guide my practice and professional career.
What are two or three things you’d like to do if you’re elected?
1) Equality in Our Schools: In 2015, my son began sixth grade at a middle school on the East side of DeKalb with very low performance scores. In a matter of months, I had to make a change and moved to the north side of DeKalb. The change was like night and day. It took us moving to a more affluent zip code for my son to have access to a high-quality education. There is not a silver bullet to solve the stark inequalities we have within the District but the first step is to acknowledge the issue. Thereafter, complete an audit of the assets and needs of each school. Finally, utilize teachers, administrators, PTA members, and students to map out a realistic plan towards equity leading to higher academic gains.
2) Increase Access to School Choice:We are an extremely diverse community serving students from around the world. However, we need to be extremely intentionally in actually providing the awareness and language mechanisms so that our immigrant families have access to the school choice program.
3) School Discipline: Implement a moratorium of expelling students from school and establish a restorative justice model for discipline. In my practice as a civil rights litigator, I receive phone calls from frantic parents because the right(s) of their child(ren) to have an education is being infringed upon and they do not know what to do. The parents have a received a letter from the school district summoning them to a “tribunal hearing.” Under Georgia law, students do not have a right to an attorney at a tribunal hearing, but must show at the hearing where due process is simply not adhered too. I have worked to keep kids in school by taking pro-bono cases or on my own to make certain student’s due process rights are not violated. By keeping students in school and providing wrap around services for the student’s particular educational needs instead of explosion; we can begin to reverse the statistics that are characterizing our District as a contributor to the school-to-prison pipeline.
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Why should voters choose you over your opponent?
I never thought I would run for office but my experience in finding my children the right educational fit drove me to seek a seat at the table to have a voice for all. I am running in District 2 because I care for all our children. I have honed my legal skills as a practitioner in the areas of education and civil rights law. Now, it’s time for me to step up, express the bold ideas I have for change, and push the status quo. We must be proactive to find solutions for our transportation specialist in regards to adequate pay and safe work condition to to avoid another “sick-out.” No student should ever be left at bus stop for hours with no sign of of a safe way to school. We must include all parents, stakeholders, and students in the conversation before making another critical vote to change a school location. For example, the move of Cross Keys High School from its current location to Druid Hills that will undoubtedly have a severe impact to families on the Buford Hwy corridor and traffic congestion as a whole. Being thoughtful in the forefront and working collectively with all necessary parties is how I would like to represent District # so that we can make the best decisions for our student’s success.
If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?
As a practicing attorney, I took an oath to adhere to The Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct. I have not had a ethical/bar complaint lodged against me for any reason in my entire legal career. In my practice, I treat my clients like family, make sure I communicate throughout the litigation process, and we work as a team to resolve their case. I am adamant about being clear, honest, and candid in all my endeavors and I am committed to bringing this type of openness to the Board. One example, I believe that will assist our District in moving forward is by ensuring more parents can interact with the Board during the committee work sessions. I intend on implementing an interactive platform so that the Board, parents, and students can be in the same room together crafting solutions to issues without being physically present. Today, the use of technology is paramount that will help us avoid issues around transparency because we will have access. We cannot be plagued by DeKalb County’s checked history of corruption at all levels of government and continue to elect individuals like myself that are committed to the core beliefs of truth, justice, and equity.
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