Adzua Agyapon is currently the kindergarten grade level chair at KIPP STRIVE Primary, where she coaches and leads a team of eight teachers. She spoke to SaportaReport via phone.
Q: What’s your No. 1 concern for the students in District 3 specifically?
A: The No. 1 concern that I have for the students in District 3 is to ensure that we have consistent, high-quality instruction. The work of the board is to ensure that teaching and learning is happening, and within our district, there are inconsistencies from school to school, classroom to classroom. I think our priority has to be ensuring that all of our students have access to an excellent education.
Q: What could you as a Board of Education member do about those concerns, what are some of your policy ideas?
A: One of the No. 1 things that data shows that we can do to help drive student achievement and ensure that instructional quality is high is to ensure that we have an excellent teacher in every classroom. School leaders can help that culture that’s going to make sure that our teachers stay and are well-supported.
I think that APS has sort of started down the path of having a really strong plan for school leader and teacher recruitment, training and retention. But one of our priorities has to be really shoring that up, ensuring that we have the very best people in our classes, in front of our students, that they’re staying and they’re being well-developed in the long term.
In addition to that, I think we have to do the work of expanding early learning opportunities and early learning programs for our students. Again, going back to data, the No. 1 school-based input for student achievement is teacher quality; one of the other things that’s proven to have an excellent return on investment is ensuring that our students have a strong foundation to build upon before they even come into school.
Q: What is an uncomfortable truth that the Board of Education needs to face?
A: I think one uncomfortable truth that the Board needs to face is that although Atlanta Public Schools has made great strides and is now a more stable district, there’s still an incredible amount of really hard work to be done to ensure that across the district, all of our students are getting everything that they need to achieve.
We know that in Atlanta Public Schools, 77 percent of the student population qualifies for free and reduced-price lunch, which is a key indicator of poverty, [so] ensuring that we are thinking about the obstacles that students who come from high-poverty backgrounds face that get in the way of student achievement. And making sure that we are really rolling up our sleeves and doing the work: you clear the way, so that when students make it to school, they are safe, they are fed, they are supported so they’re able to get to the task of learning.
Q: Looking at the last four to eight years, what’s something the school board has really gotten right?
A: Kind of thinking about what I said in my previous response, making sure that we’re addressing some of the external needs, the holistic needs of a child. I think the school board has done a good job …
I think one thing that the board has gotten right in the last four to eight years is the implementation of the local governance teams. I think allowing our neighborhoods and our community members who are there working with our students each day, our teachers and our parents, you have an intimate understanding of what the challenges are and the opportunities are at school: in terms of bringing them together and empowering them, to make recommendations, to make the most of their context, is really excellent. We really should continue moving forward.
Q: What’s something the Board has either gotten wrong or failed to do in the last four to eight years?
A: I think one of the big missed opportunities is ensuring that we’re doing more to make pre-k access universal. So that our parents and our families who have trouble navigating the process or are not able to get into the lottery, still have access to high-quality programs so that students are prepared when they get into school.
Q: Overall, bottom line, what is your pitch to voters, why should people vote for you?
A: As the only candidate in my race who has first-hand experience in our schools and with our students, I want to carry that experience with me to help continue to advocate and be a voice for our students and what the reality is inside our classrooms.
In addition to having that experience and that understanding of what goes into teaching and learning and what our students and families need, I also have experience in elected government [on the New Haven, Connecticut Ward 1 Democratic Town Committee]. I’m the only candidate who has both of those qualities. I’m ready to get to work, I’ll build on that to advocate for students and help drive student achievement.