Dear Decaturish – In support of District 2 Decatur School Board candidate Dan BaskervilleDan Baskerville
We accept letters to the editor. Letters to the editor are opinions of the authors of the letter, not Decaturish. Everyone has an equal opportunity to submit a letter to the editor. So if you read something here and don’t like it, don’t jump on our case. Write a letter of your own. All letters must be signed. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and content. To send your letter to the editor, email it to [email protected]
Decaturish invited all candidates running in the Nov. 2 municipal election to submit up to three letters on their behalf. One of the letters could be written by the candidate. Here are the letters in support of District 2 Decatur School Board candidate Dan Baskerville.
Dan Baskerville – the right candidate to tackle CSD’s 80 – 20 Problem.
What you may ask is CSD’s 80 – 20 problem? First, it’s important to understand this is a generalization – it is not based on official statistics. Many in the 80 percent group may not be aware, but there is a significant portion of learners in CSD who have learning differences and not all of those needs are adequately met. In the neighborhood of 80 percent of students in CSD fall in the middle of the spectrum of academic achievement (whether it be lower, middle or higher range of “middle.”), and for that 80 percent, in general, CSD does a good job of meeting their needs. The other 20 percent are students that we will classify as “exceptional learners,” those who are in the gifted programs and those with learning challenges.
Those with learning challenges include those who have been able to get services through the Individualized Education Program (IEP), or accommodations under a 504 plan, and the many students that are not deemed eligible for those programs, though they clearly need more support. Although, a number of students who are deemed not to qualify for IEP or 504, to get assistance through the Early Intervention Program (EIP), they end up bouncing in and out of the program as their grades and test scores improve with support, thus disqualifying them for assistance, but then students struggle without learning supports and are enrolled in EIP again.
I am a parent of a child with one of those learning challenges. My child has dyslexia. Dyslexia is very common. Depending on the research you read, it affects 15-20 percent of the population and is easy to overcome if found and managed early. This is the problem. In CSD, it is not addressed at all. After years of advocating for my child, through numerous meetings with a variety of CSD school learning specialists, and even hiring a private tutor (a huge expense), I reluctantly decided to move to a private school. This was really a decision of last resort, I support public education and private school comes with sacrifices, but my family had no choice after the public education system in Decatur failed us. Further, this decision is not just difficult from a financial standpoint, but uprooting your child from their friends is heartbreaking. Our story is not unique. I have met many CSD families with very similar stories. We moved to Decatur 15 years ago for the school system, but I fear we will also be leaving because of the school system. The excellent reputation of CSD is waning the longer it takes to adequately support the 20 percent.
One of the most disappointing aspects of this issue is that with the right amount of will, imagination and resources, CSD can address these issues. Dan Baskerville has pledged to do just that if elected to the School Board. He has listened to our experiences, and even though his child falls in the “80 percent,” he has been touched and frankly outraged at the stories we have told him. I have known Dan for 12 years, and I know he will fight for the 20 percent. This is the driving factor in Dan’s decision to run for the School Board, and he is determined to make CSD a great place for all learners.
Specifically, Dan has pledged to request that the Board establish a special Board Advisory Committee to investigate the reasons why many families are choosing to leave CSD for private school. This will allow us to develop strategies for addressing the issues and working to change the environment. Hopefully then, we can consider sending our children back to CSD. The strategies he discussed with us include, but were not limited to: deeply investing in an education that is inclusive of various types of learners and provides equity in learning to all our students; adhering to a curriculum of that supports reading at every level, writing and math to improve literacy via thorough and appropriate teacher training – such as the Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach. Other GA school systems have OG trained teachers, why not CSD?
Dan believes by addressing the challenges of our students with special learning needs during elementary school, we can reverse the trend of families feeling the need to get their education elsewhere or seek expensive, outside academic support. Equally as important it will also hopefully address the learning needs for many other families with fewer resources, where sending their children to private school or paying for outside academic support are simply not an option. He further believes that part and parcel with addressing these special learning needs, is to make sure equity in education is provided for CSD’s broad spectrum of learners.
– Christina Spych, Decatur resident since 2006
As a Decatur resident since 2005, I am writing to share my perspective on the current Board of Education races this November, in particular the contested District 2 race. Like our household, the City has seen much growth over the years. From the days when my mother first opened her restaurant Viet Chateau on W. Ponce de Leon and my father taught in DeVry’s classrooms in the now-VA satellite location on DeKalb Industrial, we have witnessed the city become a magnet for families, individuals and businesses seeking a higher quality of life and better services, whether it be good schools or great restaurants. And as is often the case in life, this means the good will always come with the bad. In our case as Decaturites, the manifestations have ranged from more traffic congestion to higher taxes to less trees. Upon reflection, these are first-world problems we face given our small area of land mass, urban density lifestyle and collective desire to have the best services.
Luckily, we have had no shortage of brainpower and citizens always willing to lend their expertise to tackle tomorrow’s challenges, as exemplified by the current District 2 race.
First, let me start by applauding both candidates, Dr. Carmen Sulton and Dan Baskerville, for throwing their hats in the ring. Their commitment to the community and our children should be appreciated and acknowledged. Inevitably, their well-intended sacrifice will also come with criticism and attacks from those who may disagree. Trust me, I know.
Second, I would like to acknowledge that I’ve not had the privilege of meeting Dr. Carmen Sulton. Based on her qualifications alone, she is the type of citizen we would all be proud to call our neighbor and friend.
However, I have known the Baskervilles for some time now, as our respective sons were once classmates at College Heights some 8 years ago. Dan’s passion for service in the public policy arena shows a deep commitment to the State, County and City we all call home. His ability to cultivate consensus among different stakeholder groups and effectively advocate for his clients should not be minimized. In addition, Dan’s relationships with various stakeholders, both within city limits and outside of our 6 square- mile city, cannot be taken lightly.
Simply put, Dan knows that we cannot afford to be an island onto ourselves.
I realize that Dan’s role in the past annexation fight between the DeKalb County School District and our school district may have left a sour taste amongst some of my neighbors. However, this should be considered a plus, not a minus against Dan, simply because he would be uniquely qualified to advocate for our district as a Board member if elected.
Furthermore, the ongoing effects of the pandemic have certainly brought to surface some new problems, as well as uncovering some systemic problems. The delivery of an equitable education to ALL of our children is certainly a priority. While we can’t ensure equal outcomes, we can certainly strive to ensure equal access.
Finally, Dan is someone who I consider to be a problem-solver. In this age of political demagoguery and demonization, I think it’s important that we support public servants who spend time listening and learning from all sides in trying to make a difference.
I realize that our citizens have always set a high standard in seeking candidates of diverse and professional backgrounds. I hope that my fellow citizens will give Dan careful consideration and entrust him with the awesome responsibility of creating a positive future for our children.
– Baoky Vu
Originally from Saigon, South Vietnam, Baoky has lived in Decatur for over 15 years. He is an investment professional by trade, having served as director of equity research for an Atlanta-based firm for over 15 years and currently is principal of Silverberry Capital. A former Presidential Appointee under George W. Bush, he
has served in various roles for DeKalb County, including as past Treasurer of Decide DeKalb, the county’s economic development authority, and past Vice-Chairman of the Board of Voter Registration and Elections. He currently is the 4th Congressional District member of the State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia.
I’m running for Decatur School Board District Two to help build an inclusive school environment that provides dignity, respect, and an opportunity to succeed for ALL of our children. As a candidate I offer experience, transparency, policymaking experience and common sense.
Experience: I have deep experience working with government agencies and representatives to bridge divides and get results for communities. I also have significant experience supporting CSD children as a longtime PTA and community volunteer.
Transparency: I promise to listen to parents, teachers and students. I will always be responsive to public concerns and feedback, and push the entire School Board to do the same.
Policy: I am a self-admitted policy geek. My Master’s degree is in Public Policy. In my day job I work on issues ranging from local government, education, health care, and transportation, just to name a few. The lobbying work I do focuses on using research and data to help argue for or against certain policies.
Common Sense: The tone of public conversation about education issues is often toxic and divisive, especially over this past year. I believe some creativity, and thinking outside of the box could have gone a long way toward some common sense solutions to these issues.
I have considered running for office for a number of years, because I enjoy the public policy and want to help improve the lives of others through the adoption of sound policy. In fact four years ago I strongly considered running for this very seat, because of my passion for helping children, but for a variety of reasons I decided it was not the right time for me or family.
Contested school board elections in Decatur have been rare, but offer voters a chance to have an active, good-faith debate about the direction of the school district. Decatur is better served when candidates engage with voters to earn their support.
My three priority issues are:
1. Ensure the provision of an appropriate curriculum for reading, writing and math to meet the academic needs of all learners. By addressing the learning needs of all students, our schools will promote equity in education that has been missing for many. I hope to help reverse the trend of families withdrawing their children from CSD or seeking 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. Ensure 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. This has also exacted a toll on many students’ mental health. 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.
There are numerous other important issues I aim to address including:
– Financial responsibility and accountability (operational costs at the Central Office level, a strategy to decrease lawsuits, maintaining a financially sound senior homestead exemption, and identifying and applying for all eligible state and federal funds);
– The future of CSD Administrative Leadership;
– Taking measures to retain and attract the best teachers and staff;
– Updating the system’s charter;
– Working with the city to provide the adequate infrastructure, such as sidewalks and parking in and around our schools and on environmental issues such as recycling;
– Adequately supporting our sports teams and other extracurricular activities;
Having clear policy priorities in a campaign is important. The ability to work within government to turn ideas into action is even more important. From my years working in government affairs, I know how complex governing and actually implementing new policies can be. I believe my experience and ability to maintain focus on policy outcomes make me the strongest candidate to serve on the Board of Education for District 2.
I pledge to be an independent voice who will make an effort to listen to every part of CSD’s diverse population of learners and families.
Finally, I will take very seriously my oversight role on the Board, as it so very important to keep in mind at all times, that my decisions will impact people’s children.
– Dan Baskerville
Dan Baskerville is an 11-year Decatur resident, father to an 8th grade CSD student, and former PTA and PTO Co-President at Oakhurst and FAVE.
More information about voting in the Nov. 2 election:
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.
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.
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)
Want Decaturish delivered to your inbox every day? Sign up for our free newsletter by clicking here.