Candidates spearhead campaigns for at-large seat 7 Atlanta school board election

Candidates spearhead campaigns for at-large seat 7 Atlanta school board election
Election Details

Three candidates are running for the at-large seat 7 position on the Atlanta Board of Education, including two Midtown parents –Tamara Jones and William Sardin – alongside Charles Drew Charter High School teacher, Alfred “Shivy” Brooks.

The board election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 7, with a run-off election to be held on Dec. 5, 2023, if either race has no candidate receive more than 50% of the vote.

“There is a special place in heaven for people who care about school board races a month prior,” Ken Zeff, a candidate for board seat 3 board, said. “But these races really are important to what is happening with a child’s education.”

At-large seats are elected by all voters citywide, but candidates have to reside in a group of two specified districts: Seat 7 candidates must live in districts 1 and 2, and Seat 9 candidates must live in districts 5 and 6.

“The at-large positions really are unique because you pledge to represent the entire district and connect with students at all the schools,” Tamara Jones, incumbent candidate for seat 7, said.

Tamara Jones has returned another season to run for school board after serving in this role since 2021. (Sierra Pape)
Tamara Jones

Incumbent school board member Tamara Jones has returned another season to run for school board after serving in this role since 2021. She accredits her mother’s involvement in schools for her interest in education.

“Education is very much a focus in my family,” Jones said. “My mother was the first person to graduate from high school [in my family]. She worked in the school cafeteria when we lived in Connecticut, and she would come home and tell us all about the frustrations and joys of serving in that position. Growing up with that just made me have a love for the forward-facing people in schools.”

Jones believes that the most valuable part of her job is uniquely connecting with citizens across the district. She said her largest goal in this position is to foster unity in the district.

“One of the things that I want to encourage is the notion that the purpose of education is the cultivation of human flourishing,” Jones said. “If you buy that, then it requires each and every one of us to care very, very deeply about the opportunities and the resources [that] are provided to everyone and every child in this district. Working together is how we’re going to get there.”

Jones has been an APS parent for 17 years, with one child currently enrolled at Midtown High School. Additionally, she has volunteered and served on school governance teams at the elementary, middle and high school levels, and has been appointed to serve on multiple district-wide committees including the SPLOST [Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax] Oversight Committee, District Executive Committee and the Excellent Schools Committee.

Jones feels that her time in these parent groups allows her to understand the best modes of conversation and transparency with community members.

“When I was [just] a parent before I got on the school board, I served for over a decade in a variety of appointed and elected positions in our organization,” Jones said. “One of the greatest benefits that I saw when I worked on these district-wide committees was the way that people from all over the city were doing business together on a regular basis and getting to know each other’s perspectives. That collaboration is a strong piece of the process that I want to continue to put in place because there needs to be more scheduled opportunities for people to interact with the board members and parents.”



Jones believes that her mother’s role in the school inspired her to advocate for all types of people in school systems.

“It is the bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other people – not just administrators and teachers – that make the district run,” Jones said. “One of the constants in my kids’ lives here are the bus drivers and cafeteria workers. I just wanted to emphasize in my work that all the teachers and staff are equally important.”

According to her campaign website, her priorities are college and career opportunities, funding allocations and student outcomes. Regarding literacy, she believes that the data on literacy readiness needs to be assessed and addressed.

“Every child can learn to read,” Jones writes on her website. “If we fail to teach reading, we fail to provide adequate education. Every student needs to be met where they are given access to literacy instruction based on the science of reading.”

She hopes to collaborate with the community to improve the state of education for the district.

“Most importantly, I want to lead through creative ways, so that all of us can have conversations and organizations because we’re all in it together, and we need to be doing business together,” Jones said.

Alfred “Shivy” Brooks, Drew Charter High School teacher, announced his campaign to run on August 25. (Sierra Pape)
Alfred “Shivy” Brooks

Alfred “Shivy” Brooks, Drew Charter High School teacher, announced his campaign to run on August 25. New laws pertaining to qualification for school board candidacy have changed to now allow active teachers to serve.

“In 150 years of Atlanta’s educating students in our city, we have yet to have someone who actually is serving in a classroom also be serving on the school board at the same time,” Brooks said. “As a board, we can talk about all these policies and all these good ideas, but there are realities [teachers] have to face on the ground in the classroom that only we know about.”

Brooks currently teaches economics, government and personal finance for students who have different learning challenges. He believes his 13 years of experience in the classroom has uniquely prepared him to serve on the board.

“I firmly believe that educators should have a prominent role in shaping educational policies that directly impact our students’ lives,” Brooks said. “Having that deep, intimate understanding of what goes on in our schools, what our needs are and what is practical will be proved to be very valuable so that we come up with really good policies.”

Fabiola Guadalupe Romero-Cid is a sophomore at Drew Charter and is in one of Brooks’ economics classes this year. She believes that he is a great representative for students.

“Social studies used to be my worst subject in school, but Mr. Brooks engages with us in a way where we can understand because he tries to put himself in our shoes,” Romero-Cid said. “He is a great father in the way he treats his kids, and I feel like he carries that into the classroom too.”

Brooks has advocated for educational advocacy by serving as the education chair for the Georgia NAACP, one of the oldest civil rights organizations in Georgia, and having involvement with the Fulton County Democratic Party. In 2020, he started the organization Teachers for Good Trouble with an aim to connect teachers across the country on collective struggles.

“Education advocacy is everything for me,” Brooks said. “I’ve been probably one of the most vocal voices for getting things right for teachers and students in the country. But I think there is only so much talking about state policies you can do before actually getting involved and becoming a part of the decision-making process.”

Drew Charter Senior Jason Johnson, believes Brooks has shown that he cares for the quality of education of his students.



“I think he is going to be a great representative because he shows up every day with that energy,” Johnson said. “He is extremely inspirational and I feel like he actually connects with us.”

Brooks has been an Atlanta Public Schools parent for the past 15 years, which he believes allows him to further understand the state of the district.

“I can understand from many angles what we need to work on as a board,” Brooks said. “Regarding bus driver shortage, for example, I know what it feels like to have your kid waiting out on the corner or coming home 15, even 20 minutes, after they are supposed to. As a father of a black teenage boy, I know the types of thoughts and fears that can start to race through your head.”

Brooks’ has said some of his main priorities are educational equity and access, community engagement and partnerships, safe and inclusive schools, teacher support and development and collaboration with district and state officials.

“We have to advance new ways to be able to bridge the communication gap,” Brooks said. “Not every parent has the privilege to show up at a coffee house when they’re probably at work trying to make ends meet for their babies. One of the things that I would be able to offer is having a network of over 150,000 people online who stay connected with me, and who are all hyper-focused on getting the best outcomes for education.”

Additionally, he has pledged to focus energy on the search for the next superintendent and ensure that the right decision is made.

“The number one, biggest priority by far is getting the pick for the next superintendent correct,” Brooks said. “We need to slow down the turnover rate in these leadership positions, and I think having an engaged teacher’s opinion integral into this decision-making process is extremely important.”

William Sardin, Midtown parent of three and long-time nurse in Atlanta, qualified to run for the school board on Aug. 25, 2023. (Sierra Pape)
William Sardin

William Sardin, Midtown parent of three and long-time nurse in Atlanta, qualified to run for the school board on Aug. 25, 2023. He felt motivated to run for this position because of his connection to the school system.

“I think this would just be a great opportunity to give back to the community,” Sardin said. “I’ve always volunteered in the community, and it is just an amazing way to always give back.”

According to Sardin’s website, his biggest goals for the district are academic performance, school safety, teacher conditions and capacity issues in schools. Sardin believes that his previous engagement with the administration as a parent has prepared him to create transparency and accomplish these goals from the school board seat.

“My goal is to be a conduit between the parents and the school system,” Sardin writes on his website. “There is a real need for parents to feel that their voices and concerns are heard and addressed.”

Sardin has family members who work in education that have motivated him to engage in and respect educational processes.

“I have a couple of family members in education,” Sardin said. “My mom was a teacher, along with two of my sisters and my brother, so I have a deep understanding of that. While I didn’t go in that direction, I have a profound respect and understanding for what the sacrifices and dedications are of teachers.”

Sardin also feels his experience as a registered nurse for 30 years has prepared him, in many ways, to understand how to unify large communities.



“One thing I’ve learned as far as working in that field is collaboration and working with people,” Sardin said. “In the hospital system I work for, we’ve had a very strong labor-management partnership, so I know what it’s like to work with that.”

In regard to school disciplinary methods, Sardin said he believes more attention and energy needs to be put toward student health instead of their actions.

“We have to look at every child holistically,” Sardin said. “Each child could be fighting for a myriad of reasons, so we need to treat each as an individual case. We cannot just move forward looking at their actions, but rather the deep causes of such.”

Sardin said he believes that a deeper sense of accountability needs to be felt in the district by looking at quantitative metrics of performance.

“If students are not reading and performing at grade level, then we are failing on our mission,” Sardin said. “If [a superintendent] cannot meet their goal metrics, then it’s our responsibility [as a board] to make sure that they are getting evaluated and contracts are constantly being analyzed. Our students deserve better than failing school, especially when we have intentionally given money to try to alleviate the situation.”

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Sierra Pape
Sierra Pape, News Managing Editor
Sierra Pape is a junior and this is her third year on the Southerner staff. When she is not writing, you will find her running for the Midtown cross country team, working for Midtown Votes and political organizations outside of school, and singing and playing the guitar. She is excited to contribute to the paper for years to come.
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Lily Rachwalski, Website Managing Editor
Lily is a junior and is excited to start her third year with the Southerner. Apart from her writing with the Southerner, Lily is a Georgia Scholastic Press Association (GSPA) student ambassador, representing both the Southerner and Georgia journalism as a whole. She is an active member of Latin club and plays ultimate frisbee for both Midtown and cATLanta, Georgia's under-20 club team. In her free time, you can find her hanging out with friends and family.

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