Candidate Q&A – Jana Johnson-Davis, Decatur School Board At-large
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About this series:
Decaturish sent questions to candidates running for elected office in Decatur and Avondale Estates. For more information about voting in the upcoming election, please see the note at the end of this post. Here is the response from Jana Johnson-Davis, a candidate for the Decatur School Board’s At-large seat. She is unopposed.
1) Why are you running for this position?
There is a quote by Marian Wright Edelman, the civil rights activist and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund that says, “The future which we hold in trust for our own children will be shaped by our fairness to other people’s children”.
This quote reflects my values and why I am running for a seat on CSD’s School Board.
I am running because I know that my experiences as a veteran teacher in CSD, as a 6-year member of Renfroe Middle School’s Equity Team, and as a co- founder of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights will allow me to bring a diﬀerent, but necessary perspective to the School Board. As a third generation teacher and the beneficiary of a wonderful K-12 public school education, I understand the value that a public school education can bring to the life of a child.
I am running for a seat on CSD’s School Board, because I want to ensure that the lives of all children in our beloved city have been enriched by their educational experience here.
2) When you assume your role as a School Board member, what are the top two or three things you intend to focus on?
As a new School Board member, I intend to:
– Advocate for the use of evidence-based practices to increase the successful outcomes for all students in CSD
– Encourage strategic planning that will close the achievement gap and ensure that we remain a top-tier school in the state and nationally
– Look for practical solutions to some of our critical challenges, including student enrollment growth, equitable education, and the recruitment and retention of diverse school personnel who share the values of this community
3) What do you think is City Schools of Decatur’s greatest strength?
CSD’s community is our greatest strength. CSD is fortunate to have stakeholders who are invested and committed to seeing all students achieve. However, not all stakeholders are confident in their ability to give voice to their child’s needs, not all stakeholders have had access to decision making platforms in the district, and not all stakeholders have felt welcome. It is my intention, as a new School Board member to guarantee that all CSD stakeholders feel empowered to share their concerns, ideas, and talents in order to capitalize on our greatest strength, the community.
4) What is City Schools of Decatur’s biggest challenge?
I believe that CSD has the opportunity for growth in eliminating discipline disproportionality and closing the achievement gap for African American students.
5) None of the school board races were contested this year. Why do you think the school board races do not attract as much interest as other races on the ballot?
I disagree with the idea that the School Board races don’t attract as much interest as the other races. I believe that our community is equally interested in who is elected to the School Board, as they are in who is elected to the City Commission. I think the School Board races were uncontested because the community believes that the three unopposed candidates are the best to fill those seats.
6) The School Board recently voted to increase its monthly stipend. Do you agree with that decision?
I do agree with the School Board’s decision to increase its monthly stipend. School Board members devote a tremendous amount of time and energy to that position. Often, the responsibilities of a School Board member will take them away from their families, and that’s after working at their places of employment. We are lucky to have talented School Board members who have worked or are working at top levels in a variety of industries. Board members bring those skills to the School Board, which adds value to our Board. Our School Board members’ time and talents are worth far more than the modest stipend they receive.
7) What is your opinion about the performance of Superintendent David Dude and would you vote to renew his contract?
Overall, I believe that Dr. Dude’s performance has been moving the district in the right direction, and I would vote to renew his contract.
8) Equity has been a big topic in City Schools of Decatur. What is your opinion of the steps the school system has taken to make the system more equitable and reduce achievement gaps between students of diﬀerent races?
I have been an advocate for the implementation of restorative practices and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in the district. I am excited about CSD’s rollout of these evidence-based alternatives to exclusionary discipline practices. Both of these initiatives will take time, and in no way should they be considered a magic pill for correcting complex issues that have plagued our district for many years. Restorative practices and PBIS are also just two approaches to addressing discipline disproportionality and the achievement gap, but they are not the only things that can be done.
I am excited about Dr. Mari Ann Banks joining CSD as the Equity Coordinator. I know that Dr. Banks is working with the district’s Equity Teams to help support courageous conversations in our schools around race, bias, and privilege.
Attacking these issues requires a multifaceted approach, and I believe CSD is beginning to take the necessary steps towards ensuring educational equity for all of its students.
9) City Schools of Decatur is the subject of a Title IX complaint regarding its transgender students policy. Do you support CSD’s policy on transgender students? Why or why not?
Yes, I support CSD’s policy on transgender students. As a classroom teacher, it has been inspiring to see how welcoming and supportive CSD’s students are of their peers who are members of the LBGTQIA+ community. I believe the district’s policy on transgender students is fair and appropriate.
10) Georgia State University recently completed its study of the eﬀect a tax break for seniors had on school system finances and enrollments. Have you read this study and what did you think about its conclusions?
I have read Georgia State’s study on the eﬀects that the Senior Homestead Exemption has had on the school system. I believe the study was well researched and executed. I look forward to discussing the recommended changes with CSD School Board members, once I am sworn in. I have developed close relationships with many seniors in our community and allowing them to age in place is of great importance to me.
11) Parents of special education students, particularly students of dyslexia, have been critical of how the school system has addressed the needs of their children. As a school board member, what would you do to address these concerns?
I am a special education teacher, who has also taught reading support classes at Renfroe. I understand the challenges that students with disabilities often face in reading. As a School Board member, I will continue to advocate for those students to ensure that they are receiving the support and resources they need to reach their highest potential.
12) When you are elected (or re-elected in Tasha White’s case) do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?
Learn more about voting in the Nov. 5 election:
Early voting in the Nov. 5 municipal elections in DeKalb County began on Monday, Oct. 14.
Numerous DeKalb County cities are holding elections, including Decatur, Avondale Estates and Tucker.
The closest early voting site for these residents will be at the Voter Registration & Elections Office on 4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 300 Decatur, GA 30032.
Early voting times are Monday through Friday, Oct. 14 through Nov. 1, from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. There will be no Saturday and Sunday voting in the municipal elections.
If you need to see a sample ballot, visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s My Voter page by clicking here. You can also find your polling place if you choose to vote on Nov. 5 instead of voting early.
You have to be 18 to vote. You will also need to bring one of the following forms of ID, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office:
– Any valid state or federal government issued photo ID, including a free ID Card issued by your county registrar’s office or the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS)
– A Georgia Driver’s License, even if expired
– Valid employee photo ID from any branch, department, agency, or entity of the U.S. Government, Georgia, or any county, municipality, board, authority or other entity of this state
– Valid U.S. passport ID
– Valid U.S. military photo ID
– Valid tribal photo ID