|Board Member, Atlanta Public Schools District, At-large seat 8|
|Elections and appointments|
|Last election||November 5, 2013|
|Bachelor's||Georgia State University|
|J.D.||The University of Georgia|
- 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
Tidwell received an economics degree from Georgia State University and earned a law degree from The University of Georgia School of Law. He has been practicing law for 21 years. He is on the Board of Trustees at Northside Methodist Church, the Vice-Chairman of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, a Board member of the West Paces Northside Neighborhood Association and recently served on the Morris Brandon school council task force.
- See also: Atlanta Public Schools elections (2013)
Tidwell ran for the at-large seat 8 against Dave Walker, Reuben McDaniel, Cynthia Briscoe Brown and Mark Riley on November 5, 2013. Opponents Reuben McDaniel and Cynthia Briscoe Brown faced each other in a runoff election on December 3, 2013.
|Atlanta Public Schools, At-large seat 8 General Election, 4-year term, 2013|
|Nonpartisan||Reuben McDaniel Incumbent||35.8%||13,627|
|Nonpartisan||Cynthia Briscoe Brown||25.8%||9,812|
|Source: Fulton County Board of Election, "Election Results," accessed January 29, 2014|
Tidwell reported $61,818.94 in contributions and $33,497.56 in expenditures to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, which left his campaign with $28,321.38 on hand.
Tidwell received an endorsement from BuckheadView.
Tidwell identified the following campaign themes for 2013:
Atlanta Public Schools has a fundamental problem; it is not educating our children. During the past four years of the current Board leadership, graduation rates have dropped significantly. Far too many children drop out before graduating. The graduation rate is an embarrassment to the City of Atlanta and to each of us as citizens. It goes without saying that we must increase the graduation rate, but we also need to make sure that our graduates are prepared to move on to their next step in life, whether it’s college, work or some other pursuit.
Too many students enter high school without the basic skills necessary to succeed, such as reading and writing. This is not a problem you can fix overnight, and it is not a problem that starts in high school. It is inexcusable to have a ninth grader that reads at a 5th grade level. We cannot accept or condone social promotion in the early grades.
We need to make sure 9th graders arrive with the proper educational fundamentals, and once they arrive, we need to make sure they stay on track. High school students are young adults, but they still need our guidance and help to navigate the distractions that present themselves.
Increasing early education programs
We need to increase K-3 educational programs for our children. Our goal should be for every 3rd grader to read at or above grade level. Anything less than a 100% success rate is unacceptable. In 3rd grade, children stop learning to read and begin reading to learn. If our children are not reading at grade level by the end of 3rd grade, then they start to fall behind. They lose confidence and self-esteem and become increasingly frustrated with school. These are the children who are most likely to become disciplinary problems in middle school and dropouts in high school. If our children are struggling, we need to identify them early and reach out to them while we can make a difference and get them back on track. If we wait until 9th grade, the train has already left the station.
Reducing class size
The State of Georgia sets a maximum class size for each grade level at public schools. Each year under the leadership of my opponent, the Board of Education has requested a waiver of the State-mandated class size limit and maximum class sizes at APS have increased by 25%. This is simply unacceptable. Increasing class sizes diminishes the learning experience for every child, but it has a disproportionately negative affect on young children (grades K-3) and children from impoverished areas. The more children you squeeze into a classroom, the more disruptions you have and the greater potential for school ground violence. Most studies show a positive effect between smaller class sizes and academic performance, especially for younger children. There is not a single published study I know of that even suggests larger classes enhance the educational experience for children.
Of course, we don’t need a study to tell us what we, as parents, already know. When my second child was born, it was far more than twice the work of having only one child. When we have a play-date with 8 children, it is more than twice the amount of work compared to having only 4 children visit. Next school year, 2013-14, some 4th and 5th grade teachers could have 33 students in their class room, 8 more children than they had four years ago. Ask your child’s teacher if they can be as “effective” with 33 students rather than 25 students.
The real tragedy of this misguided policy is that the children who suffer the most are the ones who need our help the most. There is a reason the State of Georgia has mandatory maximum class sizes. There is a reason why private schools, with a financial incentive to increase class sizes, refuse to do so. APS and the current Board are failing our children by repeatedly requesting a waiver from the State maximum class size limits.
Reforming the budget
Everything I have discussed above takes money, but APS already has the money to accomplish these goals. Revenue is not the problem. We don’t need more money – we don’t need to raise property taxes. Spending more money is not the solution. APS spends more money per student than any other school district in Georgia and more than most school districts in the nation. We need to spend the money we have more effectively. We can do more with less. Spending the money we have more effectively will improve our schools. To accomplish this, we must drastically reform the budget process.
The first step is to implement financial accountability. We need to find out where the money is being spent, and then redirect it so more money goes into the classroom to be spent on teachers and supplies rather than administrative expenses downtown. Over the past four years, teacher salaries have been frozen but salaries for administrators downtown have increased significantly. One high-level administrator received $68,000 in raises from 2008 to 2012. This raise alone would be enough to pay for a teacher. Another administrator received $27,000 in raises over the past 3 years. This is fiscally irresponsible, especially at a time when most of us in the private sector are struggling to pay bills, including our property taxes which fund these raises.
Reform the current model: Decentralize decision making
Atlanta Public Schools is not a one-size-fits-all school district. We have schools in very wealthy areas and schools in areas where parents are struggling mightily. Such a disparate school district cannot be governed effectively by bureaucrats in a downtown office. We must decentralize decision-making control and give principals more autonomy over their schools, staff and children. Principals are in a far better position than downtown administrators to know what their students need the most.
To accomplish this goal, we will need to find a dynamic new Superintendent that is willing to change the paradigm of public education. We simply cannot afford to continue under the current model which does not work and has not worked.
Reduce violence in schools
Children cannot learn if they are afraid to attend school. Parents are less likely to support a neighborhood school when their first thought each day is “I hope my child doesn’t get hurt at school.” We must work to reduce violence, which includes bullying, in our schools so children are not afraid to attend school and parents are not afraid to send their children to school. Many of the policies outlined above will help, such as reducing class sizes and engaging students at an early age so when they reach high school they are thinking about college and not dropping out.
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 $45,946 compared 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%.
Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin, not a race. Therefore, the Census allows citizens to report both their race and that they are from a "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin simultaneously. As a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table will exceed 100 percent. Each column will add up to 100 percent after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages.
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Tom + Tidwell + Atlanta + Public + Schools"
- All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.
- Tom Tidwell for APS Board of Education Seat 8, "Meet Tom," accessed October 30, 2013
- Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, "McDaniel III, Reuben R," accessed December 26, 2013
- BuckheadView, "Commentary: BuckheadView’s city elections choices," accessed October 30, 2013
- Tom Tidwell for APS Board of Education Seat 8, "Tom on the issues," accessed October 30, 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
- United States Census Bureau, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed April 21, 2014