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Candidate Q&A – District 2 Decatur School Board candidate Dan Baskerville

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Candidate Q&A – District 2 Decatur School Board candidate Dan Baskerville

Dan Baskerville
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Editor’s note: Decaturish and the Tucker Observer have published an Elections Guide, a 76-page e-edition featuring Q&As with nearly every candidate running in our communities. To see it, click here. This special e-edition features candidates running for public office in Decatur, Avondale Estates, Atlanta City Council District 5, Clarkston Tucker and Stone Mountain.  There is a PDF version of this, which you can see by clicking here, but due to the format of this e-edition, we strongly encourage you to use the e-reader version.

Decaturish provided each candidate in our local races with a series of questions about local issues. Here are the answers of District 2 Decatur School Board candidate Dan Baskerville. The answers have not been edited. 

1) Why are you running for this office?

I want to work toward an inclusive school environment that provides dignity, respect, and an opportunity to succeed for ALL of our children. I know of many families whose children’s needs are not being met. While some are able to leave CSD for private school or pay out of pocket for services such as afterschool tutoring, that is simply not an option for many other families with fewer resources.  Neither making families feel like they need to leave the district nor leaving children behind is acceptable.

I want to foster a sense of respect and civility among our community in the conversations about our schools. The tone of the conversation has often been toxic and divisive, particularly on social media. As a member of the school board, I will view my role as a listening one, not a commanding one. I will do my best to take in all perspectives on the issues that divide us. I will seek to offer clear, timely communication to the community to curb speculation that can become divisive in absence of a clear message.

2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?

I don’t intend to say anything negative about my opponent. I am simply here to present myself as a candidate, and I hope people will decide that I will be the best for the job. I offer for the voters’ consideration my long-demonstrated history of volunteerism to help improve our school community and support the children of CSD.  I have also involved myself in the larger community, volunteering in my immediate neighborhood and utilized my professional skills to advocate for issues important to all of Decatur.

Specific examples include:

– Co-President of Oakhurst PTA and FAVE PTO – four straight years.

– As FAVE Co-President, I assisted community members lobbying the CSD administration for additional green space at Talley Street.

– My wife and I have been and continue to be strong supporters of DEF.

– Coached a little league team in the City of Decatur for several years.

– Negotiated a rezoning agreement on behalf of my neighbors on Mead Road.

– Assisted the City, CSD and Decatur state legislators pass the original senior homestead exemption, pro-bono.  I also assisted in getting this year’s senior homestead exemption bill passed on a pro-bono basis.

– I facilitated a meeting with a former City Commissioner and a board member of the Children’s Methodist Home, to advocate for the Home selling the property to the City, rather than a private developer.  That property is now Legacy Park

3) If elected, what are your top two or three priorities?

1. Restore the provision of appropriate curriculum for reading, writing and math to meet the academic needs of all learners.  By addressing the learning needs of all students, the goal is to provide equity in education that has been missing for many. I hope to help reverse the trend of families feeling the need to get their education elsewhere or seek expensive, outside academic support.

2. Foster a sense of civility among our community in the conversation about our schools, and if elected, leading by example to ensure that the Board functions in a transparent manner.

3. I also want to ensure that we are able to maintain safe in-person schooling. Many of our students have been devastated by the loss of in-person schooling, particularly those with special learning needs. Everything possible must be done to ensure that does not happen again. At the same time, we need to allow those concerned about sending their children in-person to have a viable virtual learning option.

4) In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing City Schools of Decatur?

The most emergent issue facing CSD is its failure to meet the academic needs of all the children. I believe this is a wake-up call to re-evaluate the type of learners we have overall in the District, and if the current instruction we are providing gives all of our students an equal chance at academic achievement.  This is more important than ever with the “lost year” many of our students are now dealing with due to the lack of in-person instruction during the 2020 – 2021 school year.

5) Do you think the millage rate is putting a burden on homeowners? Do you think it should be lowered, remain the same or should it be increased?

The millage rate is certainly putting a burden on many homeowners.   My goal would be to lower the millage rate in the future.  However, we cannot reduce our budget in a way that sacrifices services for students. I would push for a review of operational costs at the Central Office level for possible reallocation to programs and school-based positions that will help increase system wide student achievement.  Further, I would propose we develop a strategy to decrease lawsuits, which can be a totally unnecessary and significant cost to the system and taxpayers.  I would also ensure CSD is identifying and applying for all eligible state and federal funds, especially the significant funds available through the American Rescue Plan, to increase current revenues.

6) What will you do to advance equity and racial justice in City Schools of Decatur? 

Issues surrounding race, and equity have caused some deep divisions in our beloved school community. In my view, there has been no real resolution to these systemic issues, and it has remained divisive despite a great deal of discussion. If elected, I would work toward making sure it is common knowledge–and practice throughout the District that education must be equal, fair and appropriate for all—regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation/and or gender, disability, or learning difference. I would like to first build on the work of the Office of Equity and Student Services to provide resources to administrators and teachers to innovate and replicate practices that get results. The Board should reevaluate our curriculum and instructional methods, to ensure that our diverse population of students are equally receiving a free and appropriate public education. I also believe the Board must ensure the application of fair and appropriate processes and procedures when it comes to rendering any disciplinary actions on our students, regardless of their race, ethnicity or, sexual orientation/and gender. Overall, when crafting solutions, I will continue to listen to those who have historically suffered discrimination, to better understand their perspective, rather than to just impose my own opinion.

7) What is your opinion of the school district’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies? Do you think the district is doing enough to protect students and staff? What do you think of the school district’s decision to mandate vaccines for students and staff? (Editor’s note: After Decaturish received the candidates’ Q&As, the school district determined it can’t mandate vaccines for students.)

I support the school district’s current COVID-19 mitigation strategies.  Administrators have done a good job of communicating when cases arise. We have high vaccination rates here in Decatur, and a culture that is overwhelmingly accepting of mitigation measures including masking. As a result, CSD’s case numbers compare favorably to other districts in the state.

It is very important that we do everything possible to keep our kids in school in-person, and I support the administration’s decision to prioritize that.

I am also supportive of the school district’s decision to mandate vaccines for students and staff, as long as they can receive a vaccine that has been approved by the FDA for their age group.  If we want to keep our students in-person at school, as safely as possible, those who can be vaccinated should be required to. However, I do recognize that there are individuals with health issues or religious beliefs that prevent them from getting the vaccine. For such individuals, I support a policy to require regular testing to mitigate the risk of spread.

8) What is your opinion of how the School Board handled the investigation of the previous superintendent, David Dude? If elected, would you advocate for releasing a full report about the investigator’s findings?

I believe the investigation of the previous superintendent could have been handled better, especially from a public transparency perspective.  Since I am not privy to the details of what the investigation found or the discussion of the Board and their attorneys, it is hard for me to make a judgement on what can and cannot be shared with the public.  However, at the very least the Board could have done a better job of communicating to the public why they were not releasing a full report.

If elected, I would want to know more about the details before deciding how to proceed, and while I don’t want to just sweep this under the rug, I also do not want to get hung up on the past at the expense of what we need to do for the future.

9) What is your opinion of the district’s current superintendent, Maggie Fehrman?

To this point I have had limited personal interaction with Dr. Fehrman, although the interactions I have had have been positive.  I have also observed her during Board meetings and work sessions, but that has not provided me with enough information to form an opinion yet.  Thus, I think it would be premature to provide a definitive answer to this question.

10) The School Board next year will likely be searching for a permanent replacement for David Dude. What are the qualities you would like to see in CSD’s next superintendent?

First, I do agree that any decision on searching for a new Superintendent should wait until the new Board is in place.  Our next superintendent, whether it be the current superintendent or somebody new, should be fully invested in improving the infrastructure of our curriculum and instruction, and in the continuous teacher training to master proven strategies.  Second, a superintendent should be knowledgeable in fiscal management, especially as it relates to federal funds received by the district in accordance with policy and federal law.  Third, a superintendent should be well experienced in strategic organizational climate and culture innovation as it is the driving force behind employee behaviors and relations that deeply impact the retention of our faculty, staff and families in our school community.  Finally, they should have a demonstrated history of transparency and success.

11) What is CSD’s greatest strength?

I believe CSD’s greatest strength is its diverse and highly devoted community.  The Decatur community has so many smart, dedicated, and talented people with a diversity of experiences and cultural backgrounds.  With these resources, we have the opportunity to provide a best-in-class and equitable education experience to all of our students.

12) What is CSD’s biggest challenge?

I believe CSD’s biggest challenge is deciphering how it can and should appropriately and fairly educate our broad spectrum of learners equally.

13) How would you address what you believe to be CSD’s biggest challenge?

I believe the way that we address this challenge is by researching and selecting a curriculum and instructional implementation method deeply rooted in the proven science of reading, writing and math across grade levels and spectrums that best prepare our students for a post-secondary (after high school) education, and/or a vocational career.

As I stated in my campaign platform on my website, digging into this issue may require the creation of a special Board Advisory Committee.  This Advisory Committee could also investigate the reasons why many families are choosing to leave CSD for private school or accessing outside academic supports.

14) If you are elected, what will you do to help students and families who have special needs and individualized education plans?

One idea I would propose is to solicit the Board to partner with CSD’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction, CSD’s Director of Special Education, and CSD’s Director of Student Support to determine the best ways in which we can work together to re-engineer our curriculum and instruction, our programs and processes so that they are both appropriate and inclusive of all of our learners.

15) Do you support CSD’s current policy allowing transgender students to use facilities that correspond to their gender identities?

Yes.

16) If you are elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner? How would you work to promote ethics and transparency in government?

Yes, absolutely.

I think the best way to promote ethics is through transparency.  If individuals and organizations are operating in a transparent manner then citizens can accurately judge if they are conducting themselves and business ethically.  A couple of my thoughts on how CSD can increase transparency include:

– Responding to questions asked during public comment at the Board meeting, during the Board meeting

– More open discussion at Board meetings on policy issues and the status of implementing those policies which have already been adopted.

– Not hiding behind “on the advice of our attorneys” to not share information of significant interest to the public if information does not legally compromise confidentiality.

More information about voting in the Nov. 2 election: 

All elections coverage can be found at Decaturishvotes.com and Tuckerobservervotes.com.  

Election Day is Nov. 2. Early voting will begin on Oct. 12 and will end on Oct. 29. The voter registration deadline 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. 

To apply for an absentee ballot:

— Visit the Georgia Secretary of State website.

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

Applications can be mailed to the county elections office at this address: DeKalb County Election office, 4380 Memorial Drive, Decatur, GA 30032-1239.

Applications can also be submitted by 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, call DeKalb Elections office, 404-298-4020. You may still vote in person, either early or on Election Day.

An absentee ballot application must be received by Oct. 22.

In accordance with SB202, a new voting bill signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in March, a copy of a voter’s ID is required to apply for an absentee ballot. A Georgia driver’s license, Georgia state ID, Georgia voter card, U.S. Passport, U.S. military ID, employee ID issued by any branch of the federal or state government, 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.

Early voting begins Oct. 12 and ends Oct. 29. The hours for early voting are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will also be weekend early voting on Oct. 16, 17, 23 and 24. Call your elections office for hours.

Beginning Oct. 12, you can participate in early voting at the following locations: 

– Bessie Branham Recreation Center (2051 Delano Drive NE, Atlanta, GA 30317)

– Lynwood Recreation Center (3360 Osborne Road NE, Brookhaven, GA 30319)

– Berean Christian Church – Family Life Center (2197 Young Road, Stone Mountain, GA 30088)

– DeKalb Voter Registration & Elections Office (4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 300, Decatur, GA 30032)

– Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library (5234 LaVista Road, Tucker, GA 30084)

– Stonecrest Library (3123 Klondike Road, Stonecrest, GA 30038)

– County Line-Ellenwood Library (4331 River Road, Ellenwood, GA 30294)

– Dunwoody Library (5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road., Dunwoody, GA 30338)

For the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding early voting times and locations, visit Decaturishvotes.com and Tuckerobservervotes.com or call 404-298-4020.  

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