We collected answers to three questions from the District 5 DeKalb school board candidates. (We also did other counties and will post those candidate responses over the next few days.) These will appear in the print edition in shorter form throughout the next week.
1. What qualities should the next superintendent of schools have?
2. How would you involve the communities in the school redistricting and closings process?
3. With the indictments of two top school officials and the current questions from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools about leadership of the district, what will you do to help restore credibility and confidence?
Here are the responses from the District 5 candidates:
Jesse Jay Cunningham is the District 5 incumbent and owns Zo’s Pizza in Lithonia.
1. A vision, confidence, experience and a successful record as school superintendent of a large diverse urban school system . A strong instructional leadership background to have the ability to “put together” a talented, cohesive staff that is accessible and supportive of the schools. Strong analytical and managerial skills to reorganize the system in an effective manner. Ability to work collaboratively with the board, administrators, faculties, staff, parents and the community-at-large. The ability to design and orchestrate an organization that is efficient, effective, transparent and functional. Great communication skills that can cross all socioeconomic, cultural and racial groups with the finesse to bring these groups together for the common purpose of making the greatest school system.
2. School consolidation and redistricting can be a very positive and successful solution to the quality of education and fiscal responsibility. However, it must be approached very cautiously and methodically. We must look beyond present enrollment and attempt to gather data that will have long-term effects. We must position the system to receive maximum state funding which is based on minimum enrollments. I prefer to look at school merging and involving the parents so they are active participants in the process and able to see the long-term positive effects and not just the negative redistricting and merging schools. This was done with great success with the merging of schools for theme community schools. Parental involvement and open communication is the key factor.
3. I am appreciative to have the assistance of SACS as we continue to seek solutions to our present, unprecedented and unpredicted situation. We have already begun to put policies in place for more checks and balances. We have employed a well qualified internal auditor which I requested three years ago. We are in the process of reviewing and revising all policies as needed. We must continue to make all necessary changes to restore credibility and confidence while communicating to all stakeholders with one hundred percent transparency.
Jacques Hall Jr. is a college student running for the District 5 post.
1. The qualities that the next superintendent of DeKalb schools should have may sound very ordinary. I believe “integrity in character” shall be the first quality our next superintendent must possess. Just as important, the new superintendent should have a passion for the needs of children in terms of education. This means listening to those closest to the children: the educators, the parents and the community. Another quality is leadership in business and in communication. The superintendent must be able to move the schools forward in terms of the state required academics. This also means bridging the gaps between the school system and those in the community through various means of communication
2. The DeKalb citizenry involvement in the school system is necessary on all levels for providing education to our children. Unfortunately, the economy has contributed much to the need for school redistricting and closings. Nonetheless, DeKalb Schools are faced with cutting the budget similarly to other school systems. Any discussion about closing schools is very difficult, but it is our reality. The best thing that I think can be done is to involve the community in the planning process through community meetings, parent and business surveys, and finally spreading the redistricting and school closings fairly and equitably across the county. All individual communities want its schools to remain open so their children can attend schools within their community. Therefore, allowing communities a voice in the school redistricting and closings process lessens the resistance. In turn, the school board should commit to ensuring that all the information is provided to the community in a timely manner and is forthright and open with details. A community thrives better when it is informed and educated.
3. It is simple. The board of education needs to be an open book. The board of education is designed to meet the needs of students, teachers and the citizens in the community. There should be protocols to ensure that there is open communication and decision making amongst the board which includes feedback and response of those in the community. Confidence can only be restored when honesty is forthright. The responses to SACS questions regarding leadership should be made available to every citizen in the community.
Dr. Kirk Nooks is a college administrator running for the District 5 post.
1. The next superintendent will need to have the “head” for business (e.g., data analyzer, strategic planner, and community partner), the “heart” for people (e.g., empathy and respect for all students, parents, teachers, school leaders, and concerned citizens) and the “passion” for ethical leadership and academic excellence. The next superintendent will understand what it will take to lead the nation’s 27th largest system back to the place where we are known for our academic excellence, fiscal acumen, development of human capital, and as a national example of parental and community involvement. The next superintendent for DeKalb schools will be a demonstrated leader and crusader for student success, and she/he will collaborate with the board to ensure the right policies are in place to support the right results.
2. Parent Teacher Associations, parent councils and school councils are just a few examples of groups that can facilitate and share feedback from the community. The board would also be able to partner with other concerned groups to solicit feedback and recommendations on how to resolve this difficult, yet needed, challenge.
3. I will continue to demonstrate the values and beliefs that represent the highest level of integrity. I will continue to be accessible to all constituents irrespective of personal perspective or affiliation. I will continue to provide the best I have to offer and make all decisions in the best interest of our students and their success. I will partner with all who are interested in seeing the best for our students. I will follow the platform of the 5 Rs (Resources, Retention, Readiness, Relevance, Reputation) found on my campaign sites at www.drkirknooks.com and www.facebook.com/itstime4kan.