Dr. Carmen Sulton announces run for Decatur School BoardCarmen Sulton is a candidate for the City Schools of Decatur School Board district two seat. Photo submitted by Carmen Sulton.
This story has been updated.
Decatur, GA — Decatur resident Dr. Carmen Sulton has announced her run for the City Schools of Decatur School Board. She is running for the district two seat and the election will be held on Nov. 2.
The seat is currently held by School Board member Heather Tell, Tell confirmed on June 24 that she will not be seeking another term.
“I am running for School Board because I am a concerned parent and civic leader,” Sulton said in a press release. “As a long-term resident of the city of Decatur, I stand for equitable and innovative approaches to learning that are student-centered. As your new board member, I will listen to community concerns and provide the accountability and transparency that we deserve.”
Sulton is a resident of Winnona Park and has three daughters in the school district. As a parent, Sulton has served on the Decatur PTA and organized its diversity, equity and inclusion committee. She also has served as a parent volunteer at Winnona Park Elementary School and as a spirit wear volunteer for the Decatur Bulldog Boosters.
Sulton is a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta where she serves as the medical director for procedural sedation on the Egleston campus.
Sulton is also an active member of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights and is the chair of the CSD Black Parents Alliance, which she helped create in 2020.
The BPA is a nonprofit organization that provides a safe space for parents of Black or African American children to share issues, concerns, highlight ideas and formulate action plans regarding holding the district leadership accountable for the health, safety and success of their students.
For the past several years, CSD has grappled with serious issues, including racism in schools, lack of transparency, creativity in learning, teacher resources and budget concerns, Sulton said in a press release.
“I also realize that you don’t get anything done kind of sitting on the sidelines. If you want to [see] change you have to create it,” Sulton told Decaturish.
Her top priority is diversity, equity and inclusion. She would like to see ongoing bias training for staff and teachers, a curriculum review to identify and eliminate cultural knowledge gaps, and the recruitment and retention of teachers of color, according to Sulton’s campaign website.
“I think watching over the past year some of the critical work that needs to be done in the district, the leading [thing] is diversity and equity,” Sulton said. “I think if we don’t lead with that issue this district is going to stay stagnant. There’s been a critical issue with how children of color are educated in this district and how white children are educated in this district and how they ultimately come out of this district.”
Another area of focus for Sulton is creativity in learning and providing teachers and staff with the needed tools to be successful in their classrooms.
The School Board also needs a balance of talent, she added. The school board currently does not have a member who has a medical background and she said that came through with how the district handled some of its COVID readiness and response.
Sulton also brings a balance of leadership skills that is needed on a school board, she said.
“I also think that I have a critical balance of leadership skills. I think I know how to lead a team. I also know how to be a member of a team,” she said.
She is also focused on transparency in leadership and, if elected, plans to discuss the budget, curriculum and policy matters in a clear and concise manner.
“I think you can’t have people who are voting for their own personal interests or voting for what’s better for their family rather than voting [for] what’s better for the community,” Sulton said. “Some decisions that we make don’t benefit us. In fact, it might be counter to what we want for own kids and our own family but if it benefits the community then it’s the right thing to do and I personally am ok with that.”
Superintendent Maggie Fehrman was given a one year contract in May, putting the next school board in a position to choose the superintendent for the next school year. Sulton would like to see a fair, open and quality-driven search for a new superintendent.
“I think the parents, the taxpayers, the community leaders have been through enough with turnover in school leadership, so they deserve someone of educational quality at the helm next school year,” Sulton said.
She was open to considering Fehrman for the position again but would like to see a number of viable candidates, so the school board would have multiple people to choose from.
“I think that this is a process that is going to have to start early on in the school year so immediately after the election we have to be ready to get running, to interview those folks, to be looking around, to spend some really good time with somebody that, not just the parents, but that the taxpayers are happy with,” Sulton said.
She would also like to shift the culture of the school board so that people feel heard, especially students and would like to see the School Board collaborate more with the city of Decatur and the DeKalb County School District.
“I would like it to be where there is more collaboration with the school principals, the administrators, there is more collaboration with the Dekalb County School Board where there’s more of an air of collegiality that we can work together to solve problems ultimately for our students,” Sulton said.
City Schools of Decatur is facing four federal lawsuits and concluded the investigation of former Superintendent David Dude in May. The School Board said the investigator found no evidence of criminal conduct, but the board declined to ask the investigator to write a report about the findings.
The investigator’s findings were never released, leaving lingering questions about what happened during Dude’s tenure and why the board decided to part ways with him.
“I think that the taxpayers who were funding Dr. Dude’s salary deserved to know what ultimately happened here,” Sulton said.
She added that replacing Dude was the right thing to do and said the board is going to have to level with the public about what happened.
“There’s not a David Dude to protect anymore, so I think the public deserves that,” Sulton said.
If elected, the first thing Sulton would do regarding the Dude investigation is ask to see the facts. She said that everything that can be disclosed should be, but added that it depends on what can legally be shared.
“I think I would also be very transparent about what I can say and what I can’t,” Sulton said. “I think that’s where maybe the school board has been a little bit vague as to say ‘hey, we can say this, but this is what we cannot disclose.’ Maybe that always came across as a little bit vague and then was interpreted by the public as trying to protect him.”
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