|Board Member, Atlanta Public Schools District, At-large seat 7|
|Elections and appointments|
|Last election||November 5, 2013|
|Bachelor's||Northern Illinois University|
- 1 Biography
- 2 Elections
- 3 Campaign themes
- 4 What was at stake?
- 5 About the district
- 6 Recent news
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
- 9 References
Simama has over 30 years of educational experience. She has a B.A. from Northern Illinois University and a M.A. in Educational Foundations and Urban Education from Atlanta University (presently Clark Atlanta University). Simama has worked as a middle and high school counselor and social studies teacher at The Paideia School for over 20 years. Prior to that Simama served as the Executive Director of the largest Head Start program in the state of Georgia. She was also the project administrator for a Head Start program for migrant farm workers in Georgia and worked as an Assistant Professor at Clark Atlanta University. In 2011, she was appointed to serve as an interim member of the Atlanta Board of Education. Simama currently serves on the Fulton County Board of Health and the Morehouse School of Medicine Prevention Research Center. She is married to Dr. Jabari Simama and has two children.
- See also: Atlanta Public Schools elections (2013)
Simama ran for the at-large seat 7 against Courtney D. English on November 5, 2013.
|Atlanta Public Schools, At-large seat 7 General Election, 4-year term, 2013|
|Nonpartisan||Courtney English Incumbent||61.4%||22,926|
|Source: Fulton County Board of Election, "Election Results," accessed January 29, 2014|
Simama reported $60,428.00 in contributions and $45,637.46 in expenditures to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission , which left her campaign with $14,790.54 on hand.
Simama identified the following campaign themes for 2013:
Renew the statures and statues of Atlanta Public Schools
We have the capacity to be a first class Board with high quality schools. Developing a first class school system requires that we develop collaborative relationships with groups, organizations, businesses, and higher education institutions that support and enhance the educational experiences of our children. In addition, it is essential that we have communities that foster healthy living. I will support programs that provide healthy meals, exercise, and respect for the environment and the safety and sanctity of fellow human beings.
Reform our schools
We must develop innovative policies that provide the necessary reforms that focus first and foremost on student outcomes. To do this, it is important that we support programs such as joint enrollment with colleges and strategic partnerships with business and industry. Every REFORM must focus on developing and implementing the best programs available to meet the needs of each and every student.
Responsibility is key. We must be responsible to the community we serve
To be effective as a school board, it is imperative that we are responsible and accountable first and foremost to the families of the children who attend the Atlanta Public Schools. We have a responsibility to ensure that our students meet high academic standards and rigor; that our faculty and staff are highly trained and afforded every opportunity for professional development; and that we are open and transparent in our communication to the community at large. It means that we must listen. Moreover, we must be good stewards of the budget for which we are entrusted.
Note: The above quote is from the candidate's website, which may include some typographical or spelling errors.
What was at stake?
All nine seats on the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education were at stake in the 2013 election. Brenda J. Muhammad, Byron D. Amos, Nancy M. Meister, Courtney D. English and Reuben McDaniel were the only incumbents seeking re-election, meaning that the election resulted in significant turnover in board members. Some suspect the large turnover was a result of a number of district issues, but most predominantly the criminal indictment of 34 district teachers and former superintendent Beverly Hall. Board members LaChandra Butler Burks, Cecily Harsch-Kinnane, and Emmett Johnson were some of Hall's biggest supporters, which may have been a factor in their decision not to seek re-election.
CRCT testing scandal
In March 2013 a Fulton County grand jury indicted 35 Atlanta educators, including former superintendent Beverly Hall, in a cheating conspiracy the stretched across 58 schools. Each defendant was charged with Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) conspiracy. The 65-count indictment also included charges of False Statements and Writings, False Swearing, and Influencing Witnesses in connection with the alleged conspiracy to alter Criterion Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) scores. Former superintendent Hall also faced theft charges because her salary rose with rising student test scores on standardized tests. Hall retired in 2011, just days before the allegations surfaced. The indictments came after a two-year investigation that looked at test scores dating back to 2005. Cheating allegations first surfaced in 2008, when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported "statistically improbable increases" in scores on the state-mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) at one Atlanta school. In 2009, the newspaper found similar increases at a dozen schools. The stories eventually led then-governor Sonny Perdue to appoint two special investigators who found cheating in 44 in 2011. In all, they found that 178 educators had cheated on CRCT tests.No school board members faced implications due to these allegations. During their first few months in office, the new school board members will have to select a new superintendent.
Another challenge the new board will face is the development of next year's budget. The new board will likely want a significant reallocation of resources away from administration and into the classroom. There is also a strong call for reducing deficit spending, ending teacher furloughs and granting teachers a pay raise. These cost reductions and reallocations amount to $40-50 million out of an operating budget of approximately $590 million. It is likely that the cost reductions in the administrative and operating functions will be difficult to achieve without reducing the cost inefficiencies created by a number of small schools that were slated for closure, yet still remain open. The new board will also have to address how to pay off an old pension liability that costs about $550 million. Atlanta Public Schools initially intended to withhold start up funding from charter schools in order to repay the debt, but in September 2013 the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the city’s school system can’t make charters share in the burden of paying off the pension debt. The court decided that the amount of money charter schools receive is set by state law. The debt had been accumulating since the late 1970s, and charter schools don’t participate in Atlanta Public Schools’ pension system. The district released $415,000 to Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School after the money had been withheld last school year. The board is left to decide how to pay of the pension debt.
In August of 2013, Atlanta Progressive News reported that District 5 candidate Steven Lee had misleading educational credentials in documents prepared for the City of Atlanta. Three resolutions passed by the City Council of Atlanta, appointing him to three different boards in 2009, refer to him as Dr. Lee. Supporting documents, including Lee’s resume, also referred to him as Dr. Lee. Former Mayor Shirley Franklin, councilmembers Felicia Moore, CT Martin, Joyce Sheperd, and Lamar Willis and former councilman Jim Maddox each signed letters of recommendation referring to Lee as Dr. Lee. When first asked about the references to him as Dr. Lee in the City legislation, Lee told Atlanta Progressive News that his PhD was from Belford University. Belford University was a diploma mill that closed in 2012. It offered online, non-accredited college degrees to individuals for their previous life experiences for several hundred dollars. While it had a post office box in Humble, Texas, the degrees were mailed from the United Arab Emirates. Lee’s campaign materials did not mention that he previously referred to himself as Dr. Lee.
Ethical questions regarding Shawnna Hayes-Tavares
In the summer of 2013, Atlanta Progressive News reported that Shawnna Hayes-Tavares, a candidate for Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education District 6, had an arrest record and was the subject of several investigations and actions involving JC Young Middle School. Hayes-Tavares was arrested on August 08, 2011, by DeKalb County Police, on three charges, including giving a false name and false information to the police, driving while license suspended or revoked and maximum limits. Additionally, The Grady High School student newspaper and Atlanta Progressive News reported that the Young Middle School Local School Council claimed that Hayes-Tavares never reimbursed Young Middle School parents a total of $970 the parents had given her for uniforms during a summer camp. According to the March 18 Young Middle School LSC minutes, Hayes-Tavares collected $970 in full or partial uniform payments from the parents. Hayes-Tavares, however, claims that only four of the 15 girls at the camp paid for uniforms, which would equal $600 if those girls paid in full. After the majorette team was annexed by the After School All-Stars—a program with grant-provided funding for after-school activities—uniforms were no longer needed and Hayes-Tavares said she did not purchase them. Parents asked for a refund, according to the minutes from the meeting. Although Kelvin Griffin, the Young Middle School principal, asked Hayes-Tavares to return the $970, she had yet to refund the parents by the meeting on March 18, according to the LSC minutes. Griffin and Young Middle School decided to make the parents financially whole and reimbursed them. In an interview with The Southerner, Hayes-Tavares said she doesn’t know why Young Middle School is under the impression the parents were not refunded, but did not respond to an email asking her to clarify who refunded the parents.
This is not the first allegation of financial misconduct made against Hayes-Tavares. When she was president of the Young Middle School PTSA, the Georgia PTA began to investigate the association’s finances and it was requested by a Georgia PTA official that no previous or current member of the Young Middle School PTSA should hold a position in any PTA/PTSA until the matter has been completely resolved. At the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, Hayes-Tavares claimed there was a Georgia PTA letter which cleared her to serve again. Shortly after this claim was made, Hayes-Tavares collected gift certificates to be given to teachers for Christmas, but the gifts never made it to the teachers. Hayes-Tavares claimed the money was stolen from a school desk. After this incident, the LSC decided to look closer into Hayes-Tavares’ alleged PTA exoneration. In June of 2012, a Georgia PTA official claimed that the Georgia PTA was not aware of a letter exonerating Hayes-Tavares. On July 29, 2013, Hayes-Tavares also wrote an email to William Scott, director of the Office of Internal Compliance for APS, in which she claimed that since the audit was completed, the members of the 2006/2007 PTSA should be allowed to serve again.
After Atlanta Progressive News editor Matthew Cardinale posted a story about the accusations against Hayes-Tavares, three comments were posted to the online story within 50 minutes defending Hayes-Tavares. One of the comments was signed “YoungMS Teacher”, another “T. Madhi” and the third was signed “Terry”, a resident of District 6. Cardinale saw that all three of the comments had the same IP address, meaning that they all came from the same computer. He then discovered that the IP addressed belonged to Hayes-Tavares’ computer because the candidate had previously commented on an Atlanta Progressive News article containing an interview with her on July 08, 2013. In a text message, Hayes-Tavares claimed that there were three campaign volunteers at her house posting the comments unbeknownst to her, and that she was not home.
About the district
- See also: Atlanta Public Schools, Georgia
Atlanta Public Schools is located in parts of Fulton County and DeKalb County, Georgia. Atlanta is the county seat of Fulton County. Atlanta is home to 443,775 residents.
Atlanta underperforms the state in median household income and poverty rate, but outperforms the state in higher education. According to the 2010 Census, the median household income in Atlanta is $45,946compared to Georgia's statewide median of $49,736. The rate of residents below the poverty level in Atlanta is 23.2% while the state rate is 16.5%. The percentage of residents over 25 with a bachelor's degree or higher in Atlanta is 46.1% compared to the state average of 27.5%.
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Nisha + Simama + Atlanta + Public + Schools"
- All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.
- APS Privatization at Stake in Four Board Run-off Elections - Atlanta Progressive News
- My Part of the World: Re-Elect Mayor Kasim Reed - atlantadailyworld
- Nisha Simama for Atlanta Board of Education At-Large Seat 7, "Home Page," accessed October 29, 2013
- Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, "Simama, Nisha H," accessed December 26, 2013
- Atlanta Progressive News, "APN Full Endorsements: APS BOE 2013," MATTHEW CHARLES CARDINALE, October 20, 2013
- BuckheadView, "Commentary: BuckheadView’s city elections choices," accessed October 29, 2013
- Financial Deconstruction, "Atlanta Federation of Teachers endorses slate of candidates for the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education," accessed October 29, 2013
- Nisha Simama Altanta Board of Education At-Large Seat 7, "News," accessed October 29, 2013
- Nisha Simama for Atlanta Board of Education At-Large Seat 7, "Home Page," accessed October 29, 2013
- Scott Henry, Atlanta Magazine, "School board races begin heating up," June 7, 2013
- Larry Coplan, USA TODAY, "School cheating scandal shakes up Atlanta," April 14, 2013
- Office of the Fulton County District Attorney, "GRAND JURY INDICTS 35 IN CONNECTION WITH ATLANTA PUBLIC SCHOOLS CHEATING SCANDAL," accessed October 23, 2013
- Maureen Downey The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ""Most important school board election in the history of Atlanta"," October 20, 2013
- Mark Miesse, ajc.com, "Georgia Supreme Court rules in favor of charter schools in pension fight," September 23, 2013
- MATTHEW CHARLES CARDINALE Atlanta Progressive News, "APS Board Candidate, Steven Lee, Touted Diploma Mill PhD," accessed October 24, 2013
- Atlanta Progressive News, "APS Candidate, Hayes-Tavares, Has Arrest Record, PTA Ban, Pending Lawsuit," MATTHEW CHARLES CARDINALE August 22, 2013
- The Southerner, "APS board candidate faces accusations," JOSH WEINSTOCK AND ARCHIE KINNANE, October 17, 2013
- Atlanta Progressive News, "Hayes-Tavares Caught in Apparent Fake Commenter Scheme" MATTHEW CHARLES CARDINALE August 24, 2013
- 2010 Census: Quick Facts, "Atlanta," accessed October 23, 2013"
- Fulton County Registration and Elections "Archived Election Results," accessed October 23, 2013