Kara Dyckman has a background in education, experience serving on the Chase Street Elementary local school government team, and she’s the mother of two Chase students. Imani Scott-Blackwell has a more unorthodox set of qualifications: Being just a few years removed from high school, she’s seen firsthand how the modern educational system treats minorities, and she is focused on improving the system for black, brown and low-income students. Both are critical of Superintendent Demond Means’ signature reform so far in his brief tenure—the AVID teaching method—but where Dyckman advocates for “thoughtful” changes, Scott-Blackwell favors more radical reform.
Occupation: UGA psychology instructor
Residence: Yonah Avenue
Top priorities: Dyckman did not complete Flagpole‘s candidate questionnaire
Residence: North Chase Street
Top priorities (from Scott-Blackwell’s candidate questionnaire):
Racial Inequalities in Education:
Unfortunately, our public education system is not free from responsibility for perpetuating race and class inequalities in our society. Where education is supposed to position all students for success as fullydeveloped, cooperative members of our global society, instead it has been allowed to underserve low-income, black & brown students. This is evident through de-facto segregation of black and brown students to schools typically deprioritized relative to predominantly white schools and schools with wealthier families. Another manifestation of segregation is readily apparent in classrooms where gifted programs often have a couple of students of color in comparison to at/or below grade-level courses and special education programs where black and brown students are disproportionately represented. Finally, racial inequalities in the school system are also reflected through black and brown students disproportionately receiving disciplinary action in comparison to their white peers. I will advocate for intentional integration of our schools through modifying school attendance zones to include students from families across all socioeconomic statuses. Also, I will urge the board to make minority teacher recruitment and retention a CCSD priority as 75% of our teachers are white in the district while white students only make up about 20% of the school district. We need staff who our students can identify with to help increase student achievement. Lastly, I will promote increased implementation of restorative justice over punitive discipline in addition to an emphasis on things like mindfulness, health eating, and developmentally appropriate functions to improve behavior in schools.
1 out of 5 individuals in Athens Clarke-County are food insecure, meaning their household economic situation limits their access to adequate food. This food insecurity negatively impacts student achievement and well-being, public health in Athens and the ability of people in poverty to improve their economic situation. I would like to the Board of Education to take a point role in improving the long-term health outcomes of all students, but particularly those experiencing undernutrition and/or food insecurity. I will advocate for raising the bar of what we allow our children to consume. Presently, CCSD policy states the goal of our School Nutrition Program as providing “appealing and nutritionally sound meals”, as well as “the child’s needs for basic nutrition.” Our students need satisfying and nutrient rich meals to feed their brains and their bodies and ensure they are equipped to tackle the school day with the focus and concentration they need to succeed. I will fight to raise the goal of our School Nutrition Program to meet students’ needs for optimum nutrition as an investment not only in the education of our students, and also in the overall health of our community.
Underserving Students with Disabilities:
Many folks in the ACC community have expressed concern about our schools undeserving students with disabilities. We need to ensure that students with disabilities are just as much of a priority as our students with the privilege of ability. I will recommend that we evaluate the efficacy of our assistive technology and whether or not it is being used optimally to supplement teacher labor.
Additionally, I will champion providing the support and resources necessary for students and their parents to advocate for themselves as needed and monitor their child’s IEP implementation. Finally, I will facilitate ongoing discourse among concerned parents, students, and community members, relevant advocacy groups, and the school board and superintendent to guarantee all community and school stakeholders are engaged in the problem-solving process to ensure equity in our school system.
Lacking Coordination amongst Organizations Serving the Community:
We have something around 400 non-profit organizations in Athens, coupled with local government, the Board of Education, and the University of Georgia, etc. all serving the community in a variety of ways. Despite that fact, whereas nation and state-wide poverty rates have gone down, ours has continued to increase in Athens-Clarke County. Poverty is only one of the social ills we need to address in Athens. I believe that what has been lacking up to this point is intentional, coordinated goals and solution strategies to systemic problems being implemented across public arenas, whether it be through the Mayor and Commission, 501c3 organizations, school district partnerships with the University, etc. This election provides a unique opportunity for District 5 to elect me, a community organizer and activist, to the Board of Education and to utilize my existing networks and relationships with fellow organizers to build a coalition of advocates in our community to address issues in education facing students in every district in Clarke County. Policy and public involvement are two sides of the change coin that are essential to revolutionizing the way schools serve students in Athens-Clarke County and priming us to be a model for education policy in the state and ultimately nationwide.
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