Imani Scott-Blackwell


Former Candidate for School Board, District 5 (2018)
Imani’s Facebook

Imani was endorsed by Athens for Everyone

 

2018 Candidate Questionnaire

For all questions using a scale from 1-5, 1 is the lowest and 5 is the highest.

Discipline

Q: How effective do you believe alternative approaches to discipline (restorative, educative, conflict resolution, etc.) to be?

A: Highly effective. Punitive discipline goes against our nature and fails to address the root cause of any conflict/issue.

Q: How effective do you believe the current discipline approach of relying largely on punitive consequences such as In-School Suspension and Out of School Suspension to be?

A: Not effective. Punitive discipline merely impacts a behavior in the short-term. Whereas Restorative Justice builds skills, relationships, and cultural “capital” among stakeholders to inform future behaviors.

Q: What do you think the district could do to improve its effectiveness in the area of discipline and behavior?

A: We need to identify a timeline and budget for full-implementation of Restorative Justice practice in schools.

CCSD and the Community

Q: On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate the level of morale of CCSD teachers?

A: 3. The morale varies across the district as certain faculty and administration have healthier work relationships than others. In some schools, teachers report lack of support and intimidation.

Q: What do you believe the district could do to improve faculty morale?

A: We need to see more supportive leadership from the top-down. We need to rebuild broken relationships with teachers that have felt unsupported by the district and include their input in the direction we take. Additionally, we could opt our of the state salary schedule and design a compensation model more geared towards incentivizing strong teaching practices and teacher leadership. Outside of the school district, I would like to see decentralized teacher support networks via local businesses, non-profits, etc.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate the effectiveness of CCSD in creating supportive, student-centered environments which encourage participation and involvement of students and parents? What do you believe the district could do to improve in this area?

A: 3. The district could take parent outreach more seriously. Something akin to a Clarke County BOE Newsletter could suffice for notification and promotion of Board meetings needs to be more widespread. I would also recommend that we push for Board of Education meetings to be televised so that all parents in the district have access to the same information about district goings ons.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 5, how important is it to empower teachers with more involvement in helping to set and evaluate district goals and participate in district-wide decisions? What could the district do to more strongly engage and empower teachers?

A:  5. CCSD must facilitate teacher-led collaborations such as a Teacher Advisory Board to consult during the decision-making process. According to a study by the Learning Policy Institute featured in “Georgia Partnership For Excellence in Education”, most teachers who leave the profession before retirement do so because of “dissatisfaction with teaching conditions” including “the lack of opportunities for professional collaboration, shared decision-making, and classroom leadership.” We need to make teacher leadership a priority and something that is valued in our community to ease pressure on principals, impact student achievement, and provide growth opportunities for teachers. Additionally, we need to encourage our best, most engaged teachers to pursue Lead Professional Certification and mentor new teachers and/or faculty looking to improve. Most importantly, we need to put our money where our mouth is. If we value education, we need to pay our educators to reflect that. Now that we are a Charter System, we should push harder for deviating from the salary schedule and incentivizing exceptional, engaged educators. 

Q: On a scale of 1 to 5, how important is it to devote resources to improving the image of CCSD schools? What resources should the CCSD designate towards improving the image of CCSD schools?

A: 1. If we’re talking solely about image and not improving implementation or ensuring evidence-based interventions than I’d argue we don’t have resources to waste on image control when so many of our students have concrete needs that could be addressed with those resources as an investment in the long-term.

Q: Are you committed to ensuring that absolutely zero tax dollars will be funneled to private education? In other words, are you committed to ensuring that we use our tax dollars to keep public education public?

A: Yes. I am suspect of anyone who does not believe it is the role of a BOE member to lobby in favor of public education at the Capitol.

Q: Do you believe CCSD is currently doing enough to recruit teachers of color to our district?

A: We have 2% Latinx teachers in the district for 25% of the population. Spanish-speaking teachers are sparse. CCSD Minority Recruitment Plan is vague and not prioritized.

Q: What can the district do to improve the pool of quality applicants for teaching and leadership positions?

A: With the additional freedom afforded in a Charter System, we can expand our recruiting pool outside of merely colleges of education at universities. A larger, more diverse pool of applicants will lessen the likelihood that we miss out on a hiring an unexpectedly strong teacher from out of the field. Additionally, we need to adapt professional development in the district to be more localized to the particular set of difficulties facing ACC schools. Finally, we need to make sure that we are retaining engaged, effective teachers and supporting them financially, emotionally, etc. 

Q: On a scale of 1 to 5, how effective is CCSD in engaging, involving, and seeking feedback from parents and community members, especially those of low-income or minority status? What do you believe the district could do to improve in this area?

A: The district should prioritize family outreach and community engagement in the decision-making process. Additionally, it is important that after seeking this feedback, we actually listen to it. Regarding West Broad, for example, we see that in an attempt to stall decision-making and attempt to shirk responsibility to the administration and the Superintendent, the Board requested additional information and tabled the issue for 45 days. At first glance, this can appear to be allowing for thoughtful consideration of all potential outcomes and additional community support. Unfortunately, it’s hard to believe that is the case when thousands of dollars, as well as stakeholder’s time and energy, previously went into the West Broad Feasibility Study that this year sits on the shelf as they discuss future plans for West Broad. We’ve got to start listening the first time and minding the wishes of long-term community residents.

Q: Do you believe that students who are Black, Hispanic, Latinx, or other minority status in CCSD, are currently held to the same achievement standards and treated as fairly as their white peers?

A: No. Schools exist in a feedback loop manifesting and recreating the inequalities we see in our larger society. 

Q: On a scale of 1 to 5, how well does CCSD provide equity in discipline and educational opportunities to students from low-income families and minority groups? What could the district do to improve equity for students from low-income families and minority groups?

A: 1. We need to ensure that school districts are allocating resources to their highest need students first. It is important that we address segregation across schools as well as within classrooms. Also, we desperately need additional Spanish-speaking teachers to make parent outreach for English-Language Learners more accessible and to ensure our Latinx students’ needs are being met. Additionally, we need to implement school based-health centers and/or other wraparound services as needed to address inequities. 

Q: Do you support paying all CCSD employees a living wage (minimum of 11.60 per hour)?

A: Yes.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 5, how important is it for CCSD to promote, improve, and encourage vocational education opportunities throughout primary, middle, and high school levels? What steps can CCSD take to promote, improve, and encourage vocational opportunities throughout primary, middle, and high school levels?

A: 5. We must deepen partnerships with the the University of Georgia, and Athens Tech to prepare students for post-secondary work or education. Existing partnerships should be expanded to achieve concrete, measurable goals regarding CCSD graduate matriculation to either college or work starting after high-school. Additionally, we can pursue partnerships with local community organizations and businesses to facilitate job trainings, resume & job application help sessions, etc.

Q: Do you think teachers deserve an opportunity to appeal or dispute evaluations and present evidence in order to improve their results on an evaluation?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you believe that CCSD should advocate at the state level for funding of universal Pre-K (Pre-K for all age eligible children rather than the current lottery system) and for Pre-K teachers to be granted equal pay and steps of the current K-12 teacher pay scale?

A: Yes. High-quality early childhood education is a strong predictor of later academic success. We need to be advocating for equal pay for Pre-K teachers as their work is just as valuable an investment.

Q: Are you committed to ensuring that CCSD provides an equal opportunity for all district students to access and enjoy opportunities, benefits, and protections available in our schools, regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, national origin, or immigration status?

A: Yes.

Q: Should CCSD Board Members be prevented from openly communicating with their constituents via social media?

A: No. We should all be concerned by any suggestions to restrict Board ability to communicate with constituents and keep them informed of important decisions/conversations.

Q: Do you believe that parents should be allowed and encouraged to access advocates from outside of the school system to help them navigate the system?

A: Yes. It is important that parents’ and students’ capacity to self-advocate be maximized.

About You

Q: Please describe your strengths, skills, and experiences that will allow you to be an effective board member and representative for the people of Clarke County.

A: I am the only candidate for the Board of Education who has matriculated through public education and experienced first-hand the effects of the over-burdening and micro-managing of teachers following No Child Left Behind and other restrictive policies. I have been outspoken and advocating for social justice for most of my life. My work via the Athens Anti-Discrimination movement, as well as my personal experience with school discipline, informs my understanding and passion for fighting the School to Prison Pipeline. As a Philosophy student, I am essentially getting a degree in critical thinking. My program has trained me to analyze problems from a variety of different perspectives in addition to training in rational argumentation and logic which will be aid me in presenting policy recommendations and analyzing changes/decisions proposed by other Board members.

Q: What are your reasons for running for the CCSD school board?

A: I am running for the Board of Education because it is essential that we have someone explicitly fighting for racial and social justice through education policy on the Board. I am particularly concerned with the role that the school district is playing in recreating race and class inequalities in Athens. 4% of students born in poverty ever make it to the middle class here in the United States. With Athens being one of the poorest counties in the nation, I am sure our stats are even more fraught. To me that suggests a fundamental failure in our school system in addressing the needs of under-served. I was raised among a family of strong educators dedicated to instilling a desire to learn within young people and they fostered that same value for education within me. Not only do I understand the value of education, I recognize the privilege I gain through attending the University of Georgia. I am committed to seeing as many children as possible in Clarke County schools are provided high quality education and resources to ensure their success later in life onward from Athens Tech, UGA, trade school, or whatever post-secondary pathway they choose.