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Jana Johnson-Davis running for Decatur School Board to ensure equity, transparency

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Jana Johnson-Davis running for Decatur School Board to ensure equity, transparency

Jana Johnson-Davis was elected to the at-large seat on the Decatur School Board in 2019 and is up for re-election this year. Photo submitted by Jana-Johnson Davis.

This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — Decatur School Board member Jana Johnson-Davis has qualified for the Nov. 2 election and is the sole candidate for the at-large seat. She was elected in 2019 when former board member Annie Caiola stepped down with two years remaining in her term. Johnson-Davis is running for her first four-year term.

Over the past year, Johnson-Davis has advocated for racial equity and accountability in the City Schools of Decatur, metrics to determine when it was safe to reopen schools, teachers to be included in the first round of vaccinations with other essential workers, and administrative leave and full transparency during the investigation of former superintendent David Dude, according to a press release.

Johnson-Davis said her work on the board is just getting started, and she wants to continue working on the things that initially brought her to her School Board seat.

“I want to continue to make sure [I work on] the things that brought me initially to my School Board seat in terms of equity in the schools, closing the achievement gap that has existed for years and eliminating discipline disproportinality, those are things that I was very passionate about when I was still in the classroom and working on the equity team at Renfroe. Those remain priorities of mine,” Johnson-Davis told Decaturish.

She also plans to work toward ensuring the recruitment and retention of diverse teachers, staff and administrators.

Johnson-Davis is currently in the second year of her Ph.D. program focusing on educational studies at Union Institute and University. She previously worked as the internship director at her husband, Mawuli Davis’ law firm, Davis Bozeman Law.

Prior to being elected to the School Board, Johnson-Davis was a teacher at Renfroe Middle School for eight years, where she was a member of the Building Leadership Team and the Equity Team. Johnson-Davis was the club sponsor of Renfroe’s Young Ladies of Excellence. In that role she mentored over 120 girls. Additionally, Jana co-wrote and produced Renfroe’s Black History Month plays from 2013 to 2019. Johnson-Davis also proposed, developed, and taught CSD’s first social justice themed design cycle class, the press release states.

Regarding equity and discipline disproportionality, Johnson-Davis said that culturally responsive teaching and pedagogy is important. These have been things she has focused on in her personal studies through her master’s degree, specialist degree and her Ph.D. program.

“When I was still in the schools, I know the difference that those types of approaches make to student success,” Johnson-Davis said. “The district has been doing a lot of work around equity and culturally responsive teaching. Restorative practices and positive behavior interventions and support are things the district has been providing training to teachers and staff in the buildings. But we have to make sure that we are continuing that process.”

The district has been working on addressing equity and implementing programs to improve equity and pay the debt back to Black students because for a while things have not been equitable for them, Johnson-Davis said.

She added that paying the debt can look like a variety of actions.

“There has been a conversation recently where we had students come to the [Aug. 10] School Board meeting to advocate for changing the name of the middle school,” Johnson-Davis said. “That could be one way, particularly if it was named after an African American person, a person from this community.”

It’s partially up to the community to push ideas and actions that would repay the debt and will require the district to collaborate with the community to address equity, she said.

“I want to continue to prioritize practical solutions to some of our challenges, including equitable education and…the recruitment and retention of a diverse teaching staff, personnel and administrators,” she said. “I think that everyone benefits from, not just our students of color, seeing someone that looks like them.”

She also hopes to continue collaborating with community partners and local elected officials to ensure the best outcomes for CSD students, and that responsible financial stewardship remains at the forefront of the School Board’s decisions.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the district’s primary focus has mostly been on health and safety, and making sure students had the resources they needed to be successful in a virtual environment, which included computers and hotspots. Johnson-Davis wants to make sure these approaches and practices remain at the forefront of the board’s decision-making.

Some members of the community have compared teachers to frontline workers, she added. Johnson-Davis said the health and safety of teachers has always been at the forefront of her mind.

“When I was a teacher in the classroom, you don’t imagine that you may encounter people in the building who could give a virus to you that could potentially kill you or cause lifelong complications,” Johnson-Davis said. “I just want to make sure that we continue to, in addition to prioritizing the students, think about our teachers because they are such a huge part of why City Schools of Decatur has the excellent reputation that it does.”

When it comes to the district’s mitigation strategies, Johnson-Davis plans to make sure CSD follows the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She would additionally like to see some metrics that would guide the board in terms of know when schools might need to be shut down.

City Schools of Decatur is facing three federal lawsuits — there were five filed since 2020, but two have since been resolved — 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 will say that my only disappointment about the investigation is that we are not able to share more with the community,” Johnson-Davis said. “I know that there are members of the community who would like more information, and I hate that we have disappointed some stakeholders with our inability to be able to do that because of legal reasons.”

The three candidates running for the other two School Board seats have said that the School Board should disclose everything they can and should be more clear about why information cannot be shared.

Johnson-Davis said she has been pushing for transparency surrounding the situation and added that “I just don’t know how it would be possible, legally,” to release more information.

Johnson-Davis has lived in Decatur with her husband for eight years. Their two sons are both graduates of Decatur High School. She said it’s been an honor to serve the City Schools of Decatur and is excited about the possibilities of the new board.

“This has been an intense two years, and I have been honored to serve the students, teachers, staff, and parents in the CSD community. I have done my best to maintain my commitment to ensuring equity and transparency,” Johnson-Davis said in a press release. “I will continue to stand for what is right for all stakeholders in CSD. This is a critical time not only for our district, but also for the field of education. My experience on the School Board during this unprecedented time is needed now, more than ever.”

More information about Johnson-Davis can be found on her campaign website.

More information about the Nov. 2 municipal elections

All Decaturish elections coverage can be found at Decaturishvotes.com 

The election will be Nov. 2. Early voting will begin on Oct. 12. The voter registration deadline for the upcoming city elections is Oct. 4. To register to vote, click here.

To see a list of important dates in the 2021 election year, click here.

Voters in DeKalb County are eligible to apply for an absentee ballot as of Aug. 16. The county will hold municipal elections on Nov. 2, as well as a county-wide E-SPLOST vote for DeKalb County schools.

To apply for an absentee ballot:

— Visit the Georgia Secretary of State website: www.sos.ga.gov.

—  Complete the absentee ballot application using the state’s official paper form or request an absentee ballot in writing. Use blue or black ink only.

Applications can be mailed to the county elections office and voter’s should use this address: DeKalb County Election office, 4380 Memorial Drive, Decatur, GA 30032-1239.

Applications can also be submitted through fax, 404-298-4038 or email, [email protected]

Voters may send an absentee ballot request for multiple people who live in the same household in the same envelope or email.

If an absentee ballot is not mailed to you, contact your county’s elections office. You may still vote in person, either early or on Election Day.

An absentee ballot application must be received 11 days prior to the election, which is Oct. 22.

In accordance with SB202, a new voting bill signed by Governor Brian Kemp in March, a voter ID is required to apply for an absentee ballot. A Georgia driver’s license, Georgia voter card, U.S. military ID, employee ID issued by any branch of the federal or state government, U.S. Passport, tribal ID, or a document verifying a voter’s name and address – including a paycheck, utility bill, or bank statement – are accepted forms of ID.

Voters can obtain a free ID at the DeKalb County Elections office at 4380 Memorial Drive in Decatur or at the following locations:

– On Aug. 25 from 3-6 p.m. at Doraville Marta Station, 6000 New Peachtree Road, Doraville 30340.

— On Aug. 30 from 3-6 p.m. at Indian Creek Marta Station, 3901 Durham Park Road, Stone Mountain 30083.

— On Sept. 15 from 3-6 p.m. at Chamblee Marta Station, 5200 New Peachtree Road, Chamblee 303041.

— On Sept. 14 from 3-6 p.m. at Kensington Marta Station, 3505 Kensington Road, Decatur 30032.

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