Michelle Olympiadis has been an Atlanta Public Schools parent for more than 10 years and has held governance roles throughout the Grady cluster and the system, including as Morningside Elementary PTA president. She spoke to SaportaReport via email.
Q: What’s your No. 1 concern for the students in District 3?
District 3’s needs are quite varied, but it shares a core goal: a quality seat for every child.
North Atlanta Cluster – Our English Language Learner population must have a strong K-12 language support pipeline to help our students become their most successful selves.
Jackson Cluster – King Middle School remains the last and most important piece of this cluster’s framework. Once King stabilizes and thrives, this cluster will become even more successful.
Grady Cluster – While we have a cluster facilities plan to address capacity, Morningside will need immediate relief.
Q: What could you as a Board of Education member do about that?
I can facilitate community support for the North Atlanta, Jackson, and Grady clusters and the district, recognizing similarities, differences, and the importance of supporting very different voices who are already passionate about their own communities’ challenges.
Q: What’s an uncomfortable truth the Board of Education needs to face?
With the Fulton County tax issues impacting both the City and APS simultaneously, our budget has become an uphill battle. Our Board of Education will need to partner now more than ever with the city of Atlanta on funding and facilities to best serve our children together. I hope the upcoming election presents a better opportunity to do so.
Q: What’s something the Board has gotten right in the last four to eight years?
The recently adopted APS Go Team structure is the most progressive move I have seen in distributed governance in any U.S. school district. Parental involvement and community engagement are crucial to making public schools successful and diverse. Key to that is a sense of belonging, ownership, and agency. It starts at the neighborhood level, expands to the school level, then the cluster, and the district in concentric circles. It means actively owning all of the children in the circles and doing what it takes to support them. I have had the opportunity to move from Local School Council to the Go Team, and from Grady Cluster Planning Committee to the Grady Advisory Team, and participate in the evolution of their function.
Q: What’s something the Board has gotten wrong or failed to do in the last four to eight years?
Communication. Since becoming a parent I have worked to improve communication and collaboration between our communities and the district at all levels. While the Board of Education has improved in this area, there is still much to do.
Q: Overall, bottom line, what’s your pitch to voters?
With ten years of direct Atlanta Public Schools partnership experience, I understand APS, its successes and challenges, and our diverse array of communities’ wants and needs. With my three children in elementary, middle, and high school, I understand how structure and flexibility come together to strengthen the unique work of each school both vertically and horizontally. I am well positioned to see the needs of communities across the K-12 spectrum, and communicate those needs through our clusters in an open and honest way.