Dear Neighbors, Parents, Teachers, and Students,
The quality of the schools determines much for a community. High quality, safe schools that meet the needs of all students are a source of pride for those who attend the schools, those who reside in the city, and those who do business with the city. High quality schools are also attractive to prospective residents of our region. We have a responsibility to make the Atlanta Public Schools a first class school system. We can accomplish this if we focus on the most important resource we have: Our Children.
We must face our challenges, and the first step to finding solutions is understanding and acknowledging our problems.
Frankly, there have been times when the Atlanta School System has been an embarrassment to our community. Because of the negative image and the poor performance of the school system as a whole, economic and workforce development needs of our city go unmet. Many teachers and staff have worked hard to address the pressing needs of students, yet the School Board members were unable to communicate, collaborate, and compromise to successfully resolve critical issues that resulted in the school system being placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
This has had negative consequences for our students. Too many students are lagging in academic achievement and do not perform on grade level. The dropout rate is about 40%, higher than the rate of the state of Georgia. The median income of those without a high school diploma is about $24,000 per year which is just $450 more than the federal poverty level. Some parents do not participate in their children's education, and many schools do not provide an open environment for such participation.
What can we do about it?
We need school board members who are experienced public policy makers with the skills to govern a complex educational organization. We need school board members who will provide adequate budget oversight but not meddle in the day-to-day operations of the school system. We need school board members who care about student learning and outcomes. Moreover, we need school board members who care about a school system that will produce a highly qualified and competent workforce to meet the demands of the global economy and the 21st century.
That is why I am a candidate for the School Board.
I am a lifelong educator with over 30 years of educational experience. I am the daughter of a father who worked in a factory and had a 3rd grade education and a mother who worked most of her life as a domestic and had an 8th grade education. Although they were not highly educated, themselves, they instilled in me the virtue of hard work and the value of a good education for all students.
In 2011, I was appointed to serve as an interim member of the Atlanta Board of Education, where I helped the Board successfully meet the SACS requirements that led to its removal from probation. I made a positive contribution for harmony and professionalism while on the Board and served on the Board Development and Communications committees. Further, I was appointed by the School System to the Fulton County Board of Health and to the Morehouse School of Medicine Prevention Research Center, positions I still hold today. I have worked in education at the preschool, K-12, and higher education levels.
I have worked for 20 years as a middle and high school counselor at The Paideia School, where I also teach social studies. Prior to that I served as the Executive Director of the largest Head Start program in the state of Georgia. I was also the project administrator for a Head Start program for migrant farm workers in Georgia and worked as an Assistant Professor at Clark Atlanta University. I hold a Master's Degree in Educational Foundations and Urban Education from Atlanta University (presently Clark Atlanta University) and a B.A. from Northern Illinois University. I am married to Dr. Jabari Simama, President of Georgia Piedmont Technical College in metropolitan Atlanta, and I am the mother of 2 grown daughters.
Here is my agenda, a focus on the Three ‘Rs’ for Our Times:
Renewal Reform Responsibility
RENEW the stature and status of the Atlanta Public Schools. We have the capacity to be a first class Board with high quality schools. Developing a first class school system requires that we develop collaborative relationships with groups, organizations, businesses, and higher education institutions that support and enhance the educational experiences of our children. In addition, it is essential that we have communities that foster healthy living. I will support programs that provide healthy meals, exercise, and respect for the environment and the safety and sanctity of fellow human beings.
REFORM OUR SCHOOLS. We must develop innovative policies that provide the necessary reforms that focus first and foremost on student outcomes. To do this, it is important that we support programs such as joint enrollment with colleges and strategic partnerships with business and industry. Every REFORM must focus on developing and implementing the best programs available to meet the needs of each and every student.
RESPONSIBILITY is key. We must be responsible to the community we serve. To be effective as a school board, it is imperative that we are responsible and accountable first and foremost to the families of the children who attend the Atlanta Public Schools. We have a responsibility to ensure that our students meet high academic standards and rigor; that our faculty and staff are highly trained and afforded every opportunity for professional development; and that we are open and transparent in our communication to the community at large. It means that we must listen. Moreover, we must be good stewards of the budget for which we are entrusted.
I will work hard to ensure the success of each and every student. I will support teachers and staff in their efforts to graduate more students and will focus on students being competitive and ready for college or to enter the workforce. I will seek common ground with all stakeholders for the betterment of our schools.
The education students receive today will affect the future quality of life in our city, economic prosperity in our region, and workforce demands in our global economy. Our children deserve a great School Board.
I will work hard to make sure they have one.
Yours, for renewal, reform, and responsibility,
P.S. I need your help. You can share your thoughts on how we transform our public schools by phoning me at home, at 404-394-6909, or by messaging me through the Contact page of this website. I need you to join our team for renewal, reform, and responsibility: please visit the Volunteer and Contribute pages here. Thank you.
Paid for by Supporters of Nisha Simama. No government funds were used.