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Decatur School Board candidates talk literacy, communications during Decaturish forum

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Decatur School Board candidates talk literacy, communications during Decaturish forum

Elizabeth Wilson School Support Center, City Schools of Decatur. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — Decaturish held a forum on Oct. 9 with the candidates running for the Decatur School Board, District 2, Post B seat. The candidates discussed literacy and communications, among other topics.

Each candidate was given a chance to make an opening statement, asked several questions about their strengths and priorities if elected, and then was given the opportunity to make a closing statement.

Early voting begins on Oct. 16 and Election Day is Nov. 7.

The forums are available on the Decaturish Media YouTube channel. To see all our forums in the Nov. 7 election, click here.

The candidates for District 2 are India Phipps Epps and Tracey Anderson. Incumbent School Board Chair James Herndon is also running unopposed for District 1, Post B.

Special education services and literacy have been a topic of conversation for some time. Over the last couple of years, parents have been advocating for better reading instruction in City Schools of Decatur.

Epps said that literacy is the key to academic success. CSD has a demographic of students who are reading below grade level.

“There’s an urgent need to rectify that issue,” Epps said. “I think we need to have a consistent and timely process in place in terms of identifying kids that have a need and supporting them in terms of intervention. We have an opportunity to do that here, especially in the areas of literacy and math,” Epps said.

She added that evidence-based approaches should be in place to make sure teachers are being trained in a timely manner.

School board members should be asking what instruction looks like in the classroom, looking at how students are identified, and looking at how quickly and effectively the district moves to help students, Anderson said.

“If we are squandering days or weeks to figure out one, how to identify a problem or a need, and then two, how to help support that, that’s a problem for me, and it should be a problem for any school board member,” Anderson said.

She added that the district also needs to look at the resources it does have.

The school board has also charged the new administration with improving communications from the school district. During the forum, candidates discussed how they would improve communications. Epps said she thinks the school board is doing a good job with communicating and has regular email updates.

“I think we can continue to do that and to make sure we are reaching the community in various ways,” Epps said. “I will do that by collaborating with the board and communicating effectively with the community.”

Anderson added that the school board has embraced prioritizing communication, but the district needs to pay attention to what the communication looks like.

“Email has made it easy for us to present people with a lot of information, or the appearance of a lot of information, when maybe it’s more words and at times those words can create more questions or confusion,” Anderson said.

If people don’t understand what they are reading, the information may not be beneficial, she added. She would also like to see continued communication from the school board.

“I think we need to fill things in a little bit more,” Anderson said. “Maybe the model is what does this mean for your student next month, what does this mean for your student by the end of the year. Something that I think would be more approachable for all parents and students would be great.”

DeKalb County recently installed an Evolv weapons detection system, which raised some questions about where the candidates stand on the issue of weapons detection systems in Decatur schools.

Anderson said that if the weapons detection system was installed at Decatur schools and only at one or two doors, it would feel like going through TSA at the airport.

She added that the start of the school day may have to change and CSD would have to make sure it has enough time to try to implement the system. The school district would also have to make sure the system is designed in a way to catch the things that they want it to catch.

“I don’t know that I feel comfortable saying we need a weapons detection system because I haven’t heard enough of weapons on Decatur schools’ campus, but I do believe there are other ways we can look at safety,” Anderson said.

Epps agreed that she hasn’t heard much about weapons being an issue in CSD.

“As far as my stance on it, I would really need to look at some data to see if it is an issue that warrants that being implemented. We have to definitely ensure the safety of our kids and our staff, and I think that’s very important. I’m not sure in City Schools of Decatur if that is a way to do it, if it is a true need,” Epps said.

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