Organized by the student group Midtown Votes, students from Midtown High School club last week to hear from candidates running for school board offices about significant issues affecting the Atlanta Public School (APS) system.
Alfred “Shivy” Brooks and Tamara Jones, running for District 7 At-Large; Jessica Johnson and Nkoyo Effiong Lewis, running for District 9 At-Large; and Ken Zeff, running for District 3, accepted the club’s invitation to speak directly to student voters and district residents on what their priorities would be if elected.
The Midtown Votes club helps Midtown High School become a voter registration and engagement hub by helping students get out the vote by assisting them in securing photo IDs, advocating for local issues, and registering people to vote.
Last year, the club registered over 400 new voters in time for them to cast a ballot in the midterm elections.
“The mission of our club is to register students to vote and encourage them to get active in the government to encourage civic engagement,” said Jason Slaven, Social Studies teacher at Midtown High and co-sponsor of Midtown Votes.
Students and members of the community filled the patio of the MetroFresh restaurant located across the street from the high school to hear from the candidates.
In addition to increasing teachers’ salaries and improving the literacy rate for students, choosing the next superintendent is a priority for the candidates when they take office. As the school system has had four superintendents in the past five years, most recently Dr. Lisa Herring, who was removed a few months ago, finding a permanent replacement is a hot-button issue for not only parents but for students as well.
During the Q&A portion of the forum, students asked questions about overcrowded schools throughout the system and the qualities they are looking for when selecting the next superintendent.
Sierra Pape is an 11th grader at Midtown High and co-president of Midtown Votes. She hoped the forum educated young voters on the importance of voting in school board elections despite not having other state and local officials on the ballot.
“The other purpose we had coming into this was to talk through a lot of current issues right now in the school board,” Pape said. “We will address and bring the importance of voting in off-season elections like this to young voters.”
Slaven added that having an open dialogue between students and school board members was another purpose for hosting the forum, which he hoped was accomplished during the event.
Pape and other members of Midtown Votes want to start a culture of making voting a popular activity for teens and Gen Zers to participate in future elections.
“We’re trying to create and encourage a supportive environment around voting, which contributes to a social and collaborative aspect to remind people that we’re all in this together,” Pape said.
Early voting for the APS school board election ended last week, and general voting will resume on Election Day, Nov. 7.