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Dear Decaturish – In support of India Epps for Decatur Board of Education District 2, Post B

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Dear Decaturish – In support of India Epps for Decatur Board of Education District 2, Post B

India Epps. Photo provided to Decaturish
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Decaturish invited all candidates running in the Nov. 7 municipal election to submit up to three letters on their behalf. One of the letters could be written by the candidate. Here are letters in support of India Epps for Decatur Board of Education District 2, Post B.

Dear Decaturish,

I write to endorse India Epps for City Schools of Decatur Board of Education, District 2, Post B.

I met India at Spelman College more than 25 years ago.  She hailed from Albany, Georgia.  Her smile, as it is now, came easy. She was a delight and a force.

We lived in the same dorm as freshwomen, a bond we still giggle about all these years later.  We had the same major and shared classes.  Our lives promised opportunity, and when we finished college, we each embarked on making our way in the world. 

Fast forward through graduate schools, launching busy careers, staying in touch through mutual friends, and creating families, to 2015. India, her husband Will, and their family moved.  Mine moved a year later.

She and I both chose to settle into the little community just off the southeastern corner of Atlanta. We moved into Decatur without knowing the other had done the same – India selecting Winnona Park, and me eventually choosing Oakhurst.

India jumped into serving in CSD. Room Parent Coordinator, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, PTA Vice President — she did it all for years between Winona and Talley. She even added leadership roles with the Decatur Parents Network and CSD Black Parents Alliance.

India has long been a tireless volunteer for Decatur’s children.  But she is much more.

She is chic and a sage. She’s humble and sophisticated. She is thoughtful and kind. She is not overbearing, and she is confident.  She immerses herself in your presence.  She invites you to bask in her full attention. Her ability to listen is my favorite quality, and she remembers your details. Her intuition is a gift. But best of all, people know she cares about them.

During those years with young kids in elementary, something significant came up for my family; something put us on a different path — both of my children struggled to learn to read.  CSD was failing my kids and despair filled my husband and me.  We knew freedom comes from learning to read and write, and learning math.  So we took drastic steps to find help elsewhere, using our own means. 

Our privilege enabled us to take those steps, and my kids were eventually taught to read. However, we knew not all children in Decatur can afford help outside of our public schools.

When I first told India our story, she did what she does best:  she listened; she asked questions. 

When she asked what she needed to learn about struggling readers, I shared statistics similar to these:

Georgia Department of Education Milestones data for end of grade in Spring 2023

Percentage Black Students – Reading Status “Below Grade Level”

Grade F.Ave. Talley BHMS
3rd 50% 51% ***
4th 46% 44% ***
5th 43% 47% ***
6th *** *** 46%
7th *** *** 40%
8th *** *** 30%

Percentage White, Non-Hispanic Students –  Reading Status “Below Grade Level”

Grade F.Ave Talley BHMS
3rd 6% 6% ***
4th 5% 12% ***
5th 6% 3% ***
6th *** *** 8%
7th *** *** 5%
8th *** *** 2%

Percentage Students With Disabilities – Reading Status “Below Grade Level”

Grade F.Ave Talley BHMS
3rd 48% 30% ***
4th 50% 59% ***
5th 43% 52% ***
6th *** *** 56%
7th *** *** 47%
8th *** *** 40%

I also recommended the Sold A Story podcast. I’ve often suggested it to parents whose kids did not have reading struggles, but many don’t have the time.  To my surprise, India listened to it.

India wanted to understand.  She shared our despair, and for several reasons.

India’s dad devoted his life to advocating for civil liberties, including school desegregation and student rights. Her mom’s life-work in education included teaching English to college students. 

India was taught to give of herself for the education of others. Making her voice louder for CSD’s unheard – it’s what she was raised to do. Her fresh and unusual perspective can support our Board.

She also happens to be an expert, with a background in psychology and human resources, in our most valuable asset – people.

She’s found talent, hired the best and engaged workforces.  She’s measured results, trained large teams, evaluated performances and created culture.  Her experiences position her to make an immediate impact on district policy and administration.  

For these reasons, I am confident India will work alongside CSD’s dedicated board members, brilliant new Superintendent, Dr. Gyimah Whitaker, hard working educators and staff, engaged parents, bright capable diverse children and community.  Just look at India’s ideas for yourself: here and here.

Today, India and I find ourselves with daughters together at Beacon Hill, and sons who will attend soon. I trust her with my children’s future.  You can too.

Join me this November to vote India Epps to the City Schools of Decatur Board of Education. 

— Lori L. Garrett, parent and resident of Oakhurst, City of Decatur

 

Dear Decaturish,

I am writing a letter of support for the candidacy of my friend, India Epps, for the City Schools of Decatur Board of Education.  I have had the pleasure of knowing India for several years and have worked alongside her in various volunteer endeavors to serve the students, families, teachers and staff in our local schools.  We have worked together on a range of initiatives including as room parent coordinators, nominating committee members who recruited volunteers for the PTA and PTO at Winnona Park and Talley Street schools, volunteers who supervised students during lunch and recess periods to extend planning or lunch time for teachers at Talley and various events including leading room parent orientations and chaperoning fifth grade students celebrating moving on to middle school.  

One of the things that impresses me the most about India is that she shows up ready to get the job done, no matter how big or small, with competence and grace.  She has balanced her career as a recruiter with a full schedule of supporting the schools in which her children are enrolled.  Whether it is a short volunteer spot or an ongoing, year-long commitment, India puts her entire focus on the matter at hand with kindness and humor. 

India is a thoughtful, considerate listener.  She has listened to many parents, myself included, share their range of experiences with the MTSS (multi-tiered system of supports) process. MTSS is the process all parents who are seeking additional academic, emotional, or behavioral support for their children whose needs go beyond what is available to them in the classroom.  MTSS involves parents, teachers, administrators, counselors and other stakeholders who have insight on why or how a student is struggling.  Oftentimes, parents feel like this process is adversarial rather than collaborative.  Parents have experienced a range of outcomes from bitter disappointment that accommodations or services are either not available or not implemented to others who have experienced the process as completely supportive of the accommodations or services parents or others have advocated for on behalf of the student. This disparity in outcomes and wide-ranging experiences have led many families to spend a lot of money and time on outside tutoring when additional support in school is not available or even withdraw their students from CSD altogether.  India is committed to working with the district administration to ensure that each student receives the Free and Appropriate Education to which they are legally entitled.

CSD is in the enviable position of having some of the most dedicated, qualified, and capable teachers in the state.  When India talks to constituents about supporting teachers, her words resonate because she has spent many years supporting them through her work in the PTA  and PTO.  She has a valuable perspective on how hard teachers work and she wants to equip and support them not only to help close the gap in the experiences of struggling and thriving students, but also so that teachers themselves can avoid low job satisfaction and burn out.

India and I have had many conversations over the years about how the district consistently fails to communicate important, actionable, and accessible information to families in a timely manner.  There seems to be a deluge of information and yet parents are left ill-infomed about critical issues such as grading and test re-take policies.  I believe India will help craft communication policies that better prioritize the information parents need to best support their students.

It has been a true privilege to get to know India as a friend and collaborator.  As the Decatur community gets to know her as I have and see her dedication and compassion for themselves, it will be a joy for us to cast a ballot for India Epps for the CSD Board of Education.

Thank you,

Sara Weathersby

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