Critically important Atlanta school board run-off races to be held Dec. 3

By Saba Long

Elections have consequences, and the City of Atlanta elections on Dec. 3 will be among the most important run-off contests we have seen in quite some time.

Just three weeks ago, a mere 20 percent of registered Atlanta voters cast ballots in the general city and school board elections. Four of the Atlanta school board races ended up in run-offs. And those will be decided next Tuesday.

While media coverage has been sparse at best – headlines these days are focused on stadia — taxpayers and the general public ought to focus just as fervently on the future of a school district yearning for a new day.

How strong of a hold will the Teach for America (TFA) special interest group have in shaping the future of the district? Will the new board, the majority of which will be made up of freshman elected officials, have the capacity to work in concert to strengthen the credibility of Atlanta’s public schools?

Atlanta Board of Education District 8 (At-Large)

Incumbent and current board chairman Reuben McDaniel garnered just under 37 percent of the vote. Of the three at-large positions, more voters turned out for the District 8 seat than seats seven and nine. Cynthia Briscoe Brown beefed up her presence in the final weeks of the general election and surprised many politicos by securing a second-place finish to make it into the run-off, beating former board member Mark Riley, newcomer Tom Tidwell and perennial candidate Dave Walker.

In the days leading up to the run-off election, Brown has scored the endorsements of her former opponents and the Buckhead Coalition. Atlanta Board of Education District 9 (At-Large)

In the race for Seat 9, voters will choose between a “career bureaucrat” or someone who “brings a fresh set of experiences and perspectives to APS,” says Howard Franklin, campaign manager for Jason Esteves.

Esteves narrowly beat Dr. Lori James for the open seat going into the run-off.

Like Brown, two former opponents Sean Norman and Eddie Lee Brewster, who combined garnered 7,500 votes, have also endorsed him. James performed strongly on the south side, however Esteves may benefit more from the Seat 8 at-large turnout than James from the two district run-offs.

Franklin says, ultimately the Esteves camp is counting on “civically-minded parents, citizens and taxpayers” to come back and vote on Dec. 3rd.

Atlanta Board of Education District 5

City Council Districts 9 and 10 make up District 5 of the Atlanta Board of Education. That race is between Steven Lee and Mary Palmer.

Lee, supported by Mayor Kasim Reed, was the top vote getter by half a percent. Third place candidate Raynard Johnson has endorsed Palmer.

While Council District 9 experienced turnout that matched the city’s overall average, turnout in Council District 10 was just over 30 percent. It is not yet clear how Council District 9 and at-large votes broke for either Board of Education candidate.

Atlanta Board of Education District 6

Board of Education District 6 covers Council Districts 11 and 12; the former of which experienced higher turnout than the citywide average and latter of which experienced lower turnout than the citywide average.

Dell Byrd, supported by the American Federation of Teachers and many southside community leaders including Rosel Fann and Aaron Turpeau, narrowly secured a second place spot against Teach For America alum Eshe Collins.

Remember to go vote Dec. 3. The newly-elected Atlanta Board of Education will be picking the next Atlanta Public Schools superintendent in 2014 — perhaps as early as February.

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

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