Grant Park Mom Running for APS School Board District 1 Seat

Leslie Grant, member of the Jackson High Local School Council and Southeast Atlanta schools advocate, is running for the district, which includes Poncey-Highland.


Leslie Grant, mother of two and member of the local school council at Jackson High School, is running for the Atlanta Public Schools Board District 1 seat.

The new district boundaries include the Poncey-Highland area. The seat is currently held by Brenda J. Muhammad.

Grant, who filed papers to run on Tuesday, said she believes it's time for "transformational leadership" on the board.

That became apparent, she said, following the redrawing of school attendance zones last year, which resulted in the closure of seven schools.

"Redistricting changed a lot," she told Patch. It changed the way people perceived what was going on. And it just seemed to bring a lot of people out and made them energized about being interested in fixing their schools."

The redistricting had been a contentious issue across the city, at times pitting neighborhoods against each other.

It also put the two board members who represent sections of East Atlanta and other intown neighborhoods — Muhammad and Cecily Harsch-Kinnane — under intense scrutiny in advance of the 2013 November elections.

Some parents felt at the time that each advocated for the wants of some neighborhoods at the expense of others.

Indeed, in recent months, residents in a number of communities have discussed potential candidates who could run against both Muhammad and Harsch-Kinnane, who represents District 3.

Harsch-Kinnane, whose district includes Kirkwood and East Atlanta, has already said she will not seek re-election, a point she reiterated to Patch on Tuesday.

Muhammad has not officially announced plans for re-election, but she is expected to run again.

This year's election brings a significant change to the school board in that the districts will change to align with changes in how the Atlanta City Council districts are divided. Those changes for both the City Council and the school board take effect in January 2014.

District 1, for example, will now include Candler Park and stretch north into portions of Midtown and Poncey-Highland. As redrawn it will create a zone comprised of communities that feed into the Jackson, Carver and Grady High school clusters.

Because it includes communities both in Northeast and Southeast Atlanta, Don Grant, Leslie's husband, will resign from his seat as co-president of Southeast Atlanta Communities for Schools, an advocacy group for the city's southeastern quadrant. That decision was made in anticipation of potential conflicts of interest.

Patch met with Grant, who is the founder of Chickin Feed, an organization focused on educating kids on healthy eating and smart food choices,  to ask her about her candidacy and what she seeks to accomplish:

Q. Why are you running for school board?

A. I'm very interested in trying to represent the children of District 1. I'm feeling that we need some — in many ways — transformational leadership on the board. I'm very excited about it, I've been involving schools for quite a while, my daughter is in eighth grade and I began getting involved in high school when she was in sixth grade and seeing all kinds of opportunities for change.

Q. In terms of current board makeup and leadership, what do you see as not being represented on the board that you bring to the table?

A. I think that redistricting changed a lot. It changed the way people perceived what was going on. The board meetings were digitized, people could see what was going on online and it just seemed to bring a lot of people out and made them energized about being interested in fixing their schools. What we've been hearing — because this is a much more connected community — is that they're just looking for something different, a different approach, some leadership that is a little more in tune with what that connected community wants.

Q. With the 2013 elections, the school board districts will realign and change in keeping with the changes made to the City Council district maps. Should you be elected, you're going to have a district that is very diverse racially and economically, with school clusters that have different needs. How are you going to balance the needs of those schools that don't have as much money and resources in terms of parental support on the southern end of the district with those that do on the northern end?

A. Again, I think it's about having more of a connection with the communities and letting them know what representation is available. The system itself has put out a strategic plan that is committed to equity. And I think making sure that that plan is laid out, rolled out, following that lead — just making sure that is followed through on. Specifically what that means is they set up the cluster models, I think that will spread things out a good bit. Having those communities that build K-12, whatever end of the district they're on, is going to help. The community stays together through all of that and I think it will be a lot easier to separate resources.

Q. The current school board has been through a lot from the cheating scandal to the SACS accreditation issue to redistricting. Why would you want to have that scrutiny that they face now fall on you?

A. I think it is about realizing the hope that is within the system right now. You've gone through the perfect storm and it's time to start rebuilding things and some really interesting things can happen, some very phenomenal ideas can take hold after something like that and I think that the future for Atlanta Public Schools is very bright and I would be thrilled to be a part of that.


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