Mayor Dickens and school district strive for partnership


Sierra Pape

APS Superintendent Lisa Herring and new Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens stand side-by-side at an Inauguration Service Day event dedicated to create relationships between schools across the district in APS.

Sierra Pape

The newly appointed Atlanta mayor, Andre Dickens, has consistently announced plans to foster a cohesive relationship between Atlanta Public Schools and city government. 

To propel his campaign, he intentionally stated numerous ways he would promote collaboration between the two rocky fronts. Some of these include the hire of a chief educational officer, an APS/Mayor’s Office Task Force, strengthening the Department of Transportation relationship to provide traffic safety improvements, and affordable MARTA programs for students. 

“Think of all the things we could do if we had proper discussion with the city. The right kind of synergy could help every single school within APS to bring about richer programming and opportunities students have at their disposal,” said Michelle Olympiadis, APS Board of Education District 3 member.

As a self-proclaimed “product of APS”, graduate of Benjamin Elijah Mays High School, and attendant at Georgia Tech and Georgia State downtown, Mayor Dickens’ roots run deep within Atlanta education.

“This relationship is who he is, authentic, in his DNA. He is a child of the city and sees a relationship of education to the making of who he is and what he can accomplish, ” said Ann Cramer, the co-head of the Andre Dickens Inaugural Service Day events.

At the inauguration of the APS Board of Education’s on Jan 10., Mayor Dickens stood in support, along with an unprecedented amount of council members, at Capitol Hill as they swore in for the next term.

“It’s quintessential for us to partner. We are colleagues, we are friends, we are allies in this fight to make sure that this city grows and that our kids are the paramount of our minds,” Mayor Dickens said. “We are all APS stakeholders and your success ensures the success of our superintendent, educators, and students. My administration looks forward to continuing our work with Dr. Lisa Herring.”

In years past, tensions have risen between government officials and educational efforts around the city. In 2016, Kasim Reed had feuds over property control concerning the deeds of school buildings and legal disputes over who had the right to sell property for real estate. This issue stems from complex systems that since 1973 have made APS an independent entity – governed by the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education instead of the City of Atlanta.

“To me it’s a relationship that should never be questioned. The role of the city is to create that culture and space for all people to be safe, educated, and healthy,” Cramer said, “APS’s role is to educate the youth of Atlanta. Both are critically important for success if they each care about delivering on their promise.”

The safety and productivity of over 52,000 APS students, especially regarding traffic and transportation systems, requires helping hands from the mayor’s office. When developing the new middle school Howard, that feeds into Midtown, they are making efforts to ensure safe walking and biking routes for teenagers around the premises and from the Beltline. 

“One of the things I did for Howard was work with City of Atlanta to add new stop signs, crosswalks, and the flashing beacon,” Howard Go-Team member Jenifer Keenan said, “All of the traffic improvements fall within the City so that’s one prime example of where collaboration is needed.”

Mayor Dickens has reinstated city council and APS board members quarterly meetings to start creating a path of ways to collaborate. Additionally, he appointed Dr. Herring, APS superintendent, as one of the five co-chairs for Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens’ transition team and Courtney English, a former APS Board of Education member, as his senior advisor. 

“I’m excited about the possibilities we have together and my administration looks forward to continuing our relationship with superintendent Dr. Herring,” said Dickens. 

During the next four years, the result and applicability of this synergy will be tested.

“At the end of the day, it’s not helping the school system, it’s helping the children of Atlanta,” Olympiadis said. “It’s all about providing access to experiences for a well-rounded, safe education.”