Karen Carter

Incumbent

Website: KarenforDeKalb.com

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Candidate Name:
Karen Carter

Position Sought:
DeKalb County School Board District 4 member

Educational Background:
Juris Doctor degree, The Ohio State University undergraduate degree in Speech Communications, Denison University in

Occupation and Employer:
Dept. Chair & Assistant Professor, Georgia Perimeter College


Campaign Website:
http://KarenforDeKalb.com


  1. What is your understanding of the role of a school board member? In your answer, explain (1) the level of engagement that a board member should have in the affairs and operations of the district and, (2) the relationship between the board and district staff.
    The role of a school board member is primarily policy maker and advocate. School board members must be visionaries who understand what the students, teachers and schools need today to help them achieve high academic success and also what will be needed in the future to sustain the next generation of students and citizens in DeKalb County. With this knowledge the board must work together with the superintendent to ensure that the board creates policies that when implemented are effective and sustainable.

    They should provide oversight and accountability, not participation in the day to day operations of the district. I believe it is important for a unified board to understand its role is to balance a commitment to doing what is best for the children in the county and to advocate on behalf of the community it represents. The board operating within its role as policy makers and leaders must choose a superintendent, guide district leadership, and not attempt to direct day to day operations, the superintendent directs the district staff and the board holds the superintendent accountable for meeting the mutually agreed upon goals.
  2. Explain your views on the current state of transparency of information at DCSD.
    Creating a culture of transparency begins with the board and should permeate through the entire system. It is my belief that the district is in a better position than it was a year ago. The board has adopted policies to clarify areas of concern in which stakeholders believe there was a lack of transparency. The finances of the district are presented on a monthly basis during board meetings which are open to the public and all actions that come before the board include an explanation of their impact on the budget and student achievement. There are continued opportunities for growth and it is my goal to work with fellow board members and the superintendent that stakeholders are aware of actions to execute the district's mission and vision.
  3. How would you inspire parents and other stakeholders to have confidence in DeKalb schools?
    To inspire parents and other stakeholders to have confidence in the DeKalb schools requires gaining their trust. In considering this question a year ago, it was clear to me that transparency and engagement were critical to regaining trust. I believe this is an ongoing process. Over the last 13 months the board working with the superintendent has undertaken steps to engage community stakeholders in conversations to help rebuild the district. These meetings allowed parents and other stakeholders to meet the board and share their concerns. This is a beginning and the process must continue. Parents and stakeholders must have an opportunity to hear from me as a board member about my vision and my track record in student advocacy. Parents and other stakeholders should see me and other board members as supporters and not interlopers. Through this perspective they will know that they have a listening ear and my actions will reflect consistency in board and staff roles. It is also important that when parents and other stakeholders call on board members they receive a consistent message regarding their concerns. This is true even when it is not the answer the parents' desire or want to hear.
  4. What skills, talents, and personality traits do you believe that you possess that would make you work effectively with the rest of the board to get things done?
    I have more than twenty years of experience in higher education, have served as an attorney in the public sector and worked with non-profit boards as a trainer, board member and chair. In these positions I provided leadership for diverse teams, managed department and foundation budgets, and maintained communications and accountability with external stakeholders. I am recognized as one who can effectively build consensus, resolve issues and motivate a team to advance the organization's mission.
  5. How will you enhance the mix of skills and backgrounds on the board and help represent the diversity of the community?
    In addition to the skills noted above, as a non-parent whose life work has been the advancement of education, I bring a different type of diversity to the board. I represent the voice and vision of the "reasonable citizen" one who supports education through taxes, attendance at school games, plays and award programs of my friends and neighbor's children. I believe that my initial action in seeking appointment to the board a year ago, my service over the last year as well as my engagement in community, district and local school programs for students demonstrates my passion for helping students develop academically, and teachers and staff develop professionally. While some of my skills are similar to those currently on the board, it is the combination of these skills, my history as a servant leader, and my diverse K-12 experiences make me unique to the current and future board. This combination has allowed me to make meaningful contributions to the revitalization of this board and school district.
  6. What do you see as the opportunities and threats facing the DeKalb school system?
    The greatest opportunities are with our students and the teachers in this district. With the Growth and Achievement model for academic success, each school has a tool, the Universal Screener, to assess every student's reading and math skills. With this information teachers will be able to develop their instruction and assignments to help each child improve their critical thinking and engagement skill. The challenges for the district include increasing the fund balance for long term financial growth and security, and recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers.
  7. Describe the achievement gap in this district. What causes it? What can be done?
    There are great academic successes throughout the district, but not all students have achieved this success. Many factors have contributed to this gap including: the ability to assess a student's current level of knowledge, a student's motivation to persist and low performing schools that need more highly qualified teachers and advocates for students.

    It is my vision that through policy and public awareness programs the district can create an environment where students, parents and other stakeholders can embrace what "high academic achievement" means for all students and the county's wellbeing. It is necessary for the board and the district leadership to develop a sustainable budget and a strategic plan that supports teachers with the tools, and training to deliver high quality instruction and engagement across the curriculum. Further the district and each schoolhouse leadership team must create an atmosphere in which students understand the benefits and requirements to achieve this success. Lastly the district and schoolhouse leaders should identify opportunities that allow other invested stakeholders to volunteer and become advocates of the programs, policies and activities this district has chosen as a part of its guiding plan.
  8. The next school board will likely be tasked with selecting a new superintendent. What will you look for in a candidate?
    The Superintendent position is fundamentally important to school improvement and student achievement. It is imperative that the school board work with community stakeholders (parents, teachers, civic and business leaders) to identify a superintendent who understands the mission, vision and needs of this district. I will work with the board and others to ensure that this search process is completed with fidelity and transparency. Moreover, it will be critical for the board to establish policies and procedures that ensure an effective transition.
  9. What is your experience with reviewing complicated budgets? How will you approach the district's budgetary process from a policy perspective?
    As a current board member I have gained experience through the monthly reviewing and monitoring of the district's budget. In addition I have managed department and program budgets in diverse positions including my tenure as the Director of a small university foundation. I believe that the board must continue to maintain policies that support transparency in establishing annual budgets, consistent periodic reporting, and auditing on an annual basis. Policy development and request for funding district initiatives should reflect the impact on the current and prospective budget for the duration of the initiative.
  10. What needs to be done to ensure the district regains full accreditation, without probation, and what is the role of the board in ensuring DCSD remains in excellent standings with SACS?

    The district is off of probation and has regained full accreditation. As a current
    board member I recognize that is the board's responsibility to manage the policies of the district and to have a fundamental understanding of the broad range of concerns that impact the district. To ensure that the district remains in excellent standing with SACS the board cannot take a "shot-gun" approach to its work it must
    focus on the priorities as established through the strategic planning process and address the issues at a time. By undertaking this approach the board establishes a consistent approach that moves from issue to resolution in a timely manner it also demonstrates to the public the board's ability to work collaboratively.

Jim McMahan

Incumbent

Website: votejimmymac.com

Download Questionnaire

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Candidate Name:
Jim McMahan

Position Sought:
District 4 DeKalb County BOE

Educational Background:
Some College at Georgia State University and Wofford College.

Occupation and Employer:
Residential Loan Officer / Amstar Mortgage Network


Campaign Website:
http://votejimmymac.com


  1. What is your understanding of the role of a school board member? In your answer, explain (1) the level of engagement that a board member should have in the affairs and operations of the district and, (2) the relationship between the board and district staff.
    Answer: The "role" of a school board member in relations to the administration and district staff can be summed up as supportive.
    The BOE has only one employee which is the Superintendent. The Superintendent has over 13,000 employees. It is ok for a BOE member to communicate with staff IF directed by the Superintendent. It is expected for board communications with staff to be directed to the Superintendent's office. The relationship between the BOE and district staff is one of collaboration and support. Our goals are aligned which are to increase student achievement as we support teachers and schools.
  2. Explain your views on the current state of transparency of information at DCSD.
    Answer: Transparency is another word for communication. The better the district's communication the more transparent we become. The administration does a good job of promoting itself through the new DCSD phone app and twitter. On the other hand, direct communication with stakeholders is challenged. This is an area that the board is focused on improving in the near future.
  3. How would you inspire parents and other stakeholders to have confidence in DeKalb schools?
    Answer: Under promise and over deliver. Continue to create efficiencies, improve financials and communication and improve our teachers' compensation.
  4. What skills, talents, and personality traits do you believe that you possess that would make you work effectively with the rest of the board to get things done?
    Answer: My "people" skills allow me to work well with all the board members. I communicate well and I'm a better listener. I focus more on solutions than problems.
  5. How will you enhance the mix of skills and backgrounds on the board and help represent the diversity of the community?
    Answer: I have a financial services background that assists to support efficient and improved financial reporting. We have a good mix currently on the board with members who have experience in legal, private corporate sector, public higher education, self employed members and a retiree. The immense diversity in DeKalb has a positive effect as we learn from our neighbors and fellow students from other countries and nationalities. We represent the world not just Atlanta, Georgia.
  6. What do you see as the opportunities and threats facing the DeKalb school system?
    Answer: The opportunities in DeKalb are immense. We have started to change the direction of not only our school district but the county as a whole. We are starting to collaborate with our county government partners, the private sector and international partners.
    It is truly amazing the positive change we have experienced in DeKalb in a short period of time. The single largest threat is elect individuals to the BOE and return to the old ways of self centered vision and not working together for the benefit of the district as a whole.
  7. Describe the achievement gap in this district. What causes it? What can be done?
    Answer: The achievement gap is correlated to socio-economic conditions and is felt all across the district. We are working hard to support communities and parents to be more engaged in their children's school and education. The Bridge Initiative is the first step in strengthening parental engagement.
  8. The next school board will likely be tasked with selecting a new superintendent. What will you look for in a candidate?
    Answer: The next Superintendent for DeKalb will have a strong educational background with a proven track record of leading a transformational district. I would also like to see experience with a "Charter System" as this is the likely choice as DeKalb moves forward.
  9. What is your experience with reviewing complicated budgets? How will you approach the district's budgetary process from a policy perspective?
    Answer: I have 29 years experience working and analyzing corporate budgets in the financial services industry. We have streamlined and improved financial reporting within the last 12 months. I support Dr. Bell as our CFO as he is tasked to convert DeKalb's existing 200,000 "Chart of Accounts" into an aligned chart of accounts with the State of Georgia. The district has not been aligned with the State of Georgia for over a decade. Watch the FY2015 budget process in May in June for further information.
  10. What needs to be done to ensure the district regains full accreditation, without probation, and what is the role of the board in ensuring DCSD remains in excellent standings with SACS?

    Answer: "Know your role and stay in your lane." That is the responsibilities of the board and the administration. We are continually working to regain full accreditation. Hopefully within the next 12-18 months. Dr. Elgart previously stated this process takes 2-3 years and we are hopeful to accomplish this task sooner.

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Important Dates

June 26

Community Forum with DeKalb County Board of Education Runnoff Candidates
Districts 3, 4, and 5
Dekalb Medical Center Theatre
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Free Event

June 30 – July 18

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July 22

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