Archives for category: Georgia

Ed Johnson is an Atlantan who acts as a watchdog for the Atlanta Public Schools. He is also a systems thinker, influenced by the seminal work of W. Edwards Deming.

He recently wrote about how the Atlanta pPublic Schools could help revitalize the city by thinking systematically instead of following its course of jumping from reform to reform.

His post begins:

Loopy APS is my mental model of interrelated causal factors exposed for all to see, question, and critique in a spirit of collaborative discourse. It began as a visual representation of my thinking about why Atlanta Public Schools cannot improve and why it can improve dumped out onto paper, static. The 2009 APS cheating scandal prompted doing so.

Then, during April 2017, by chance I discovered the cleverly named Loopy™ and promptly rendered my mental model in it. Hence the name Loopy APS.

Created by systems thinker Nicky Case, Loopy™ is “a tool for thinking in systems” and for simulating systems. It is highly effective and simple but not simplistic to use. If you can think, you can use Loopy™. It is freely available.

Loopy APS allowed seeing the dynamic behavior of a vicious causal loop that went unnoticed on paper. The vicious causal loop simulates interrelated factors influencing violence and crime in Atlanta to continually worsen amid a great deal of systemic instability.

It wasn’t clear at first why the vicious causal loop was in Loopy APS, as I did not knowingly model it. It was only after being able to see my thinking play out dynamically in Loopy APS did I notice it. So, to find out why, I ran Loopy APS, time and again, observing its behavior until a particular story became clear.

Reading from the snapshot image, in Figure 1, below, the story, told tersely, goes like this:

Greatly influenced by Partner Purposes, Atlanta BoE (Board of Education) and APS Superintendency provide for frustrating Authentic Education by employing SEL & Police (behavioristic practices) to favor inculcating routinized Teacher Learning and Student Leaning that obviate Wisdom, so as to obscure Democracy to allow Selfishness to flourish as Violence & Crimeto entangle Civil Society, while Atlanta BoE (Board of Education) and APS Superintendency are ever more greatly influenced by Partner Purposes.

Note the end of the story goes right back to its beginning. This makes the story a closed loop. Being a closed loop means every “thing” in the loop represents a causal factor that influences the behavior of every other “thing” or casual factor in the loop, including itself.

In other words, influence that goes around, comes around, whether directly or indirectly. Or, as Martin Luther King Jr tried to help us know and understand: “What affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Systems thinker Nick Chase did this short video honoring systems thinker Martin Luther King Jr. But, alas, I guess it takes one to know one, because being a systems thinker is not ordinarily ascribed to Dr. King. To many, he remains the guy who had a dream.

The overall, systemic behavior of a causal loop may be vicious or virtuous, or status quo-keeping. In the story above, pulled from Figure 1, it is vicious systemic behavior influencing violence and crime in Atlanta to continually worsen.

Now, given that story, the question becomes: What needs to change, so as to transform the closed loop of causal factors influencing violence and crime in Atlanta to continually worsen into one influencing violence and crime in Atlanta to continually lessen?

This question, of course, comes from recognizing that every vicious cycle holds the potential to reverse and become virtuous and, conversely, every virtuous cycle holds the potential to reverse and become vicious.

To follow Ed Johnson’s analysis, open the link and view his graphs and finish reading.

Tom Nichols, a staff writer for The Atlantic, posed the question that is the title of this post. Nearly half the voters of Georgia cast a ballot for a man who was manifestly unqualified for the office, by any measure. Republicans thought it was cunning to pick a Black candidate, hoping to peel support away from Senator Warnock. It didn’t work. Walker got very few Black votes. Warnock won with unified Black support and a multiracial coalition.

Nichols fears that Trump has dumbed down expectations for Republican candidates to an alarming degree. Following his model, they can be stupid, they can be immoral, they can be liars, they can be adulterous and flaunt it, they can mock democracy. There is no low too low for them.

Nichols writes:

Walker’s candidacy is a reminder of just how much we’ve acclimated ourselves to the presence of awful people in our public life. Although we can be heartened by the defeat of Christian nationalists and election deniers and other assorted weirdos, we should remember how, in a better time in our politics, these candidates would not have survived even a moment of public scrutiny or weathered their first scandal or stumble.

And yet, here we are: An entire political party shrugs off revelations that a man running on an anti-abortion platform may have paid for an abortion (possibly two), has unacknowledged children, and may also be a violent creep. Not long ago, Walker would have been washed out of political contention as a matter of first principles.

Think of how much our civic health has declined in general. Only 35 years ago, during the long-ago Camelot of the late 1980s, Gary Hart had to pull out of the Democratic primaries for getting caught with a pretty lady on a boat named “Monkey Business,” and the televangelist Jimmy Swaggart stood with tears streaming down his face because he’d been caught with a prostitute in a Louisiana motel. In 1995, Senator Bob Packwood (again, more tears) resigned in the aftermath of revelations of sexual misconduct just before being expelled from the Senate.

The Republicans were once an uptight and censorious party—something I rather liked about them, to be honest—and they are now a party where literally nothing is a disqualification for office. There is only one cardinal rule: Do not lose. The will to power, the urge to defeat the enemy, the insistence that the libs must be owned—this resentment and spite fuels everything. And worst of all, we’ve gotten used to it. I’m not sure who said it first, but the Doobie Brothers said it again in the title of their 1974 album: What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits.

There’s a lot of blame to go around, but no one did more to pioneer the politics of disgust than Donald Trump, who took the outrageous moments of his two presidential campaigns and turned them into virtues. Trump ran, and still runs, as something of a dare, a challenge to see if we’re just a bunch of delicate scolds who get the vapors over things like veterans or foreign influence or nepotism. Are you really going to let the commies and immigrants from the “shithole countries” take over? he seems to ask at every turn, just because of little nothing-burgers like whether I’m keeping highly classified documents in the magazine rack next to my gold toilet?

As usual, however, the real problem lies with the voters. The Republicans are getting the candidates they want. This is not about partisanship—it’s about an unhinged faux-egalitarianism that demands that candidates for office be no better than the rest of us, and perhaps even demonstrably worse. How dare anyone run on virtue or character; who do they think they are?

It’s terrifying to realize that totally unhinged candidates, not only in Georgia but in other states, like Arizona, received almost half the vote.

My hope lies with changing demographics and our youth. Young people who have grown up in the 21st century are likely to replace the shrinking generations of old white bigots, who are now the GOP base. America will be a better nation in the years ahead, as these voters make better choices and choose a better future where all of us make progress. Together.

The Senate race in Georgia was incredibly close, with the lead seesawing back and forth after the polls closed. The legislature changed the election law in hopes of reducing the African American vote. The polls closed at 7 pm, whereas in many other states the polls stay open later so that working people can vote.

About 10:20 pm, the major networks called the race for Democrat Senator Warnock.

Democrats in the Senate can no longer be held hostage by one member (Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia). Democrats will have a majority on Senate committees instead of equal numbers with Republicans.

This is a big night for the Democratic Party and another defeat for a candidate selected by Trump.

Georgia’s African Americans voted overwhelmingly for Warnock. Whites and Trump Republicans voted for Herschel Walker.

Warnock assembled a multi-racial coalition of blacks and whites.

Walker can now return to his palatial mansion in Texas.

And Republicans will have to figure out what to do with their titular party leader, Trump, who is an albatross around the party’s neck. A three-time loser: 2018, 2020, 2022.

Jack Hassard, a retired science educator, has watched Donald Trump’s actions closely and even written a book called THE TRUMP FILES.

Hassard, Jack. The Trump Files: An Account of the Trump Administration’s Effect on American Democracy, Human Rights, Science and Public Health (p. 65). Northington-Hearn Publishing LLC. Kindle Edition.

In this post, he links to an in-depth study by scholars at the Brookings Institution, who examine Trump’s efforts to overturn the Georgia election results.

Hassard prints an excerpt from the Brookings report:

The researchers who wrote the Brookings report of the Fulton County Investigation of Trump’s election interference conclude:

We conclude that Trump’s post-election conduct in Georgia leaves him at substantial risk of possible state charges predicated on multiple crimes. These charges potentially include: criminal solicitation to commit election fraud; intentional interference with performance of election duties; conspiracy to commit election fraud; criminal solicitation; and state Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act violations.

Please open the link and read the rest.

Ed Johnson is a systems analyst in Georgia who is a strong supporter of public schools. He has consistently criticized efforts to multiply privatized charters and charter chains in Atlanta. Much to his chagrin, the Democratic nominee for State of Education is a veteran leader of charter schools and a graduate of the Broad Academy, which is hostile to public schools. Consequently, the Georgia Association of Educators has endorsed the Republican incumbent, State Superintendent Richard Woods. Johnson says: “The BIG lie is ‘charter schools are public schools.’”

Johnson wrote a post for his regular mailing list, explaining that charter schools are not public schools. He was responding to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that profiled the two candidates—the Democrat, Alisha Searcy, and the Republican, Richard Woods.

Johnson’s critique was titled, “No, AJC, charter schools are not public schools, even if Alisha Searcy pretends they are.” Searcy is a proponent and veteran leader of charter schools.

Johnson wrote:

In profiling the candidates, AJC reports that the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) is endorsing Richard Woods and suggests why GAE is doing so:


The Georgia Association of Educators is endorsing Woods, saying [school choice] policies like those [Searcy stands for] leave less money for traditional public schools. (Charter schools are publicly funded public schools governed by independent boards with government oversight.)  Her [Searcy’s] “school choice” advocacy has also rankled members of her own party.


Now, see that parenthetical statement AJC makes right after reporting that GAE is endorsing Woods?

Why would AJC do that? Why would AJC perpetuate the “Charter schools are public schools” lie?

Charter schools are not public schools, plain and simple.

Rather, charter schools are private business enterprises operating within the so-called public education industry. And that does not make them public schools.

Heck, the private business enterprises themselves have told us they are not public schools.

Take, for example, Ivy Preparatory Academy, where Alisha Searcy was, at first, Executive Director then Superintendent, so-called:


After leaving the state House, Searcy became executive director of Ivy Preparatory Academy, a network of charter schools in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties. […] Searcy said her title at Ivy Prep was changed to superintendent a year or so after her hire.  She wields that in her campaign against Woods, asserting she has more leadership experience than he does.


Ivy Preparatory Academy applied for and received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan of more than one-half million dollars, all the while suckling public money from DeKalb County and Gwinnett County public school districts:


IVY PREPARATORY ACADEMY (NAICS 611110)
1807 MEMORIAL DR
ATLANTA GA 30317
PPP Loan Amount: $643,603.00
Date Approved: 2020/04/14
Number of Jobs Protected: 53
PPP Loan Amount per Job: $12,143.45

Ivy Prep applied for and received a PPP loan because it was eligible to do so, as the private business enterprise it is in reality:


In order to be eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, an applicant must be a small business, sole proprietor, independent contractor, self-employed person, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, 501(c)(19) veterans organization, or a tribal business.


Public schools were ineligible for the Paycheck Protection Program.

But charter schools were eligible.

In Atlanta, a breakdown of charter schools that applied for and received PPP loans goes like this: 

  • $4,822,200.00 to Purpose Built Schools Atlanta, Inc.
  • $4,039,752.60 to Drew Charter School, Inc.
  • $3,855,982.00 to The Kindezi Schools Atlanta, LLC
  • $1,850,000.00 to Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, Inc.
  • $1,659,400.00 to Centennial Place Academy, Inc.
  • $1,085,420.00 to Wesley International Academy, Inc.
  • $750,400.00 to Westside Atlanta Charter School, Inc.

That comes to more than $18 million dollars ($18,063,154.60) in PPP loans that went to these charter schools.

So, here are these charter schools telling us they are private business enterprises and not public schools.

Yet, also, here is AJC saying, “Charter schools are public schools.”

One would be wise to believe the fox when it tells one it is a fox although some may choose to believe the fox is a hen.

One would be wise to not believe the “Charter schools are public schools” lie.

And one would be wise to not want to have Alisha Searcy (aka, Alisha Thomas Searcy; aka, Alisha Morgan; aka, Alisha Thomas Morgan; aka, Alisha Thomas) be Superintendent, State of Georgia.

On her campaign website, Searcy boldly and shamelessly calls attention to her charter schools track record and associations with school choice enterprises, such as EdChoice (à la Milton Friedman), Broad Superintendent Academy (à laEli Broad), and such others. See more here.

The school choice enterprises with which Searcy associates are known to be about undermining and ultimately destroying public schools, so as to then privatize and commodify them, especially when it comes to education for children labeled “Black” and other minoritized (not “minority”) children.

Thus, out of her own mouth, Alisha Searcy tells us she has not the wisdom to perceive, understand, and appreciate public schools and public education being fundamental common goods essential to the sustainment and continual advancement of democratic practice ever closer to realizing democratic ideals.

She tells us that aspects of her school choice advocacy necessarily and unavoidably begs selfishness, immediate gratification, and wanton consumerism—all attributes that, in excess, make circumstances fit for giving rise to oligarchy and such other societal dysfunctions hence the demise of democracy and civil society.

So, let’s believe Alisha Searcy when she tells us she is a far-right Republican dressed as a Democrat.

But, for Pete’s sake, do not believe, or stop believing, the “Charter schools are public schools” lie.

Moreover, let’s understand there are no such things as “traditional public schools” because that implies other types of public school exist—charter schools, specifically—and they don’t. It’s just “public schools,” so let’s just drop the qualifier “traditional,” already.

Please.
Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com

A comment by Diane:

Bravo for Ed Johnson for calling out the blatant hypocrisy of privately managed charter schools applying for and receiving Payroll Protection Program money that was available to private businesse , but not to public schools.

How can a “public school” receive federal money for which public schools are ineligible? They did, but doing so was hypocritical, and the Trump administration didn’t care.

If you open the last link in Johnson’s post (“see more here”), you will learn that Searcy champions high-stakes standardized testing and co-authored a teacher evaluation bill based on test scores, although she was never a teacher.

If Georgia wants to maintain public schools with elected school boards, voters should re-elect State Superintendent Richard Woods.

Maureen Downey of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted this essay on her “Get Schooled” blog by Peter Smagorinsky. He is professor emeritus at the University of Georgia.

He writes:

I recently spoke with an Atlanta metro area high school teacher about the start of the new school year. Her school is like a lot of schools nationally. On the Friday before classes began, after a week of orientation, many teachers did not know their assignments or schedules. To manage the business side of teaching, everyone had to learn yet another new system and its technology.

Once students arrived, there were jitters about safety. COVID-19 remains in the air, and monkeypox is up next. Masks remain optional. After so much remote learning, student behavior doesn’t fit classroom expectations, creating management problems that can be threatening.

The Uvalde school shooting has left many unnerved and waiting for the next incident. Teachers appreciate Gov. Brian Kemp’s initiative to raise pay and provide some money for supplies. But these increases, unfortunately, provide more a surface patch than a deep investment in quality education. With teacher absences up and the pool of substitutes down, teachers are often summoned to cover classes when a colleague is out, shrinking time to plan, grade, and fill out forms.

Yet, in spite of all these problems, after a few weeks of classes, the teacher I spoke with was remarkably upbeat. A new school rule, she said, has already been a “game-changer.” That rule, she believed, has made her school the envy of every school in the country. The school has decided that students can’t have access to cellphones in class.

Imagine what a teenager with unfettered phone access does all day. If you’re a teacher, you don’t need your imagination. You know that you spend most of your time telling kids to get off social media and focus on the academic work. And then do it again. And again.

But kids shouldn’t be blamed for being kids. Parents are often as addicted to phones as their kids. Recent studies have found kids wish their parents would get off their phones and spend more time with them. Many parents have asserted their need and right to text and call their kids throughout the day to check in on them.

Some concerns make sense to me, such as using phones during emergencies or, heaven forbid, an assault. They might come in handy if cellphone footage would help identify who did what in a conflict. If there’s an emergency at home, a parent might need to talk to a child or teen.

Just checking in, though, is disruptive, and creates the need for the phone to always be available. Because it is viewed as a distraction, girls’ clothing is policed in school. But cellphones, which distract students all day, are viewed as a right.

In this school, the administration has listened to teachers. They have created a policy that makes student cellphones unavailable during class. The change has been difficult for kids and their parents, but it’s been a godsend to teachers tired of spending much of their time and emotional energy trying to get kids’ attention.

They also have a way to respond to a student who says, “But my mom says I have to answer when she calls.” They can say, “Tell her to call you when you’re not in class. You can’t have your phone out here.”

I know of another school in North Georgia where the administration has punted the problem to the faculty. Teachers have three options for cellphone access: no phones, phones sometimes, phones all the time. The teacher I know there started in the middle, went to a full ban. Fighting kids over just how long “sometimes” lasts wasn’t working out.

This approach, she says, has its ups and downs. On the one hand, she can teach phone-free and without the distractions they cause. On the other hand, she finds that teachers who allow unlimited phone access tend to take a sink-or-swim approach to kids. If students want to learn, they can put the phone down and pay attention; if they don’t, then that’s their problem. Teachers appear to have the choice to take a callous approach to students who may need personal relationships.

Beyond ceasing to care about whether kids learn or not, there may be other reasons to allow students to be on their phones in class. I just can’t think of any.

Technology has often been considered the present and future of education. Remote learning during the pandemic suggested that it doesn’t solve all problems and creates a few more from a school standpoint. The typical kid seems more interested in TikTok than Shakespeare or algebra. On a remote computer or on a cellphone in class, the fun option is easy to take. And when mom calls, you’d better answer.

But, in at least one area school, the administration has taken responsibility, and teachers don’t have to compete with phones anymore. It’s put a spring in their step and produced an uptick in their kids’ time-on-task and learning.

And it’s something that any school could do.

The state of Georgia will allow people to get a tax break by claiming a fetus as a dependent.

If that is the case, then a pregnant woman should be allowed to drive in the HOV lane because she has a passenger in her womb.

What other privileges can the state award to fetuses now that they are full-fledged people six weeks after conception?

Maureen Downey of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted a guest column by two university scholars in Georgia, warning about the dangerous legislation now under consideration.

T. Jameson Brewer is an assistant professor of social foundations of education at the University of North Georgia. Brandon Haas is an associate professor of social foundations and leadership education at the University of North Georgia.

Brewer and Haas write:

At present, several bills in the state Legislature — including House Bill 1084 and Senate Bill 377 — weaponize grievance politics in the culture wars during a Georgia election year. These bills are our state’s iteration of “anti-critical race theory” proposals across the nation.

In Florida, lawmakers are seeking to make it illegal for white students to feel discomfort. In Oklahoma, a recent proposed bill would allow parents to sue teachers for $10,000 per day if they discuss any topic that does not perfectly align with a student’s closely held religious belief.

The House and Senate bills here in Georgia do not mention critical race theory by name. But they are part of this growing ideological trendto manufacture and capitalize on outrage as it relates to what students are taught or not taught in schools — the front line, as it were, of the nation’s culture war.

While there have long been efforts from the political right to censor curriculum and ban books in U.S. schools, these efforts have reached a fever pitch over the past two years. First, parents shouted at local school boards to ignore medical science and reopen schools as well as remove mask mandates during the height of the pandemic. Then, concerns over the teaching of CRT began to spring up across the country.

The simmering perception that K-12 schools and universities are engaged in teaching students to hate the United States or themselves was captured in the Trump administration’s 1776 Report. That report, not penned by historians, is full of inaccuracies in its attempt to promote fascist-like indoctrination that the United States is without historical or contemporary issues. Among many concerns, the 1776 Report attempts to suggest that George Washington freed his slaves and, thus, the United States does not have a legacy of racial oppression. Those with an accurate understanding of history know Martha Washington freed one of approximately 123 slaves.

Recently, the Heritage Action group tweeted about “uncovering” the teaching of CRT in Gwinnett County Public Schools despite K-12 districts suggesting that they do not teach CRT. Yet, this tweet was not the “gotcha” that Heritage may think it was for a few reasons: (1) The course in question was an Advanced Placement language and research course (that is, a college-level course), (2) students learn myriad frameworks for examining and critiquing issues, and (3) this type of critical thinking is precisely what we should want education to teach our students. All of that said, Superintendent Calvin Watts, noted that the syllabus in question was never used in classes. A district spokeswoman said it was a sample syllabus submitted to the organization that provides AP curriculum.

Georgia’s proposed bills seek to establish that racial injustice is an artifact of the past that no longer exists. They state that educators cannot suggest that the United States or Georgia is fundamentally biased based on race. Yet, any examination will clearly show that racial bias was a fundamental component of our legal, social, and educational system — from slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarcerations. The question, then, is whether or not these inequalities still persist. For this, students need to develop the ability to examine, evaluate and critique myriad forms of data and generate their own fact-based conclusion.

While part of any learning process is extending beyond our comfort zones, that discomfort is not what is at stake with these bills in Georgia, Florida and a dozen other states. It is uncomfortable to admit that white schools receive so much more in funding than nonwhite schools. Admitting this reality begs action. If we claim that the U.S. affords all children with a level playing field, the receipts showing that the field is structurally uneven suggests that we either forfeit the claim of equality or seek to remedy the inequality…

The larger problem created by SB 226 is that it creates a slippery slope of giving power to those who lack training in curriculum, instruction, and library media. This trend should alarm anyone who does not fancy a Nazi Germany-style authoritarian government over a democratic republic. In fact, one of the initial steps taken in Nazi Germany was banning of books, control of school curriculum and requirements of “loyalty oaths” and coerced patriotism as we are seeing in a variety of proposed laws across the country.

The United States has a checkered past that is troubling for all citizens. This is known as difficult history and provides students with an opportunity to understand how the past shapes the present so that they can be thoughtful and effective citizens. As novelist and essayist James Baldwin said, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Will Georgia codify lying to students? Will we ban or burn books? While the next political outrage may find another arena to target and destroy for political gain, there are real harmful implications of the one currently targeting schools and books in an effort to satiate the public’s broad ignorance about buzzwords such as critical race theory. These bills are not anti-CRT, whatever that may mean. They are explicitly anti-education.

Georgia educator Anthony Downer announced a call for sponsors for a rally on July 23.

Hi y’all,

As we gather and reflect on this complicated holiday weekend, I think about how my students are processing their world. Like many of you, I’m motivated by my ancestors’ struggles. I wonder how we’re preparing our young scholar-leaders to fight for equality and liberty, for equity and liberation. The recent education laws in Georgia hinder educators like me from doing just this. So we must continue to organize.

Georgia Educators for Equity and Justice and other education organizations are planning a Rally for Education (name TBA) on Saturday 7/23 at a school in metro Atlanta (location and time TBA). The goal is to highlight the voices of educators as we prepare for the implementation of new education laws during the 2022-2023 school year. Educators from across the state will speak to the negative effects of these laws on our schools and scholars. As we know, while politicians limited public comment and signed into law their draconian restrictions on education, educators were performing their primary duties. Now that we have more time, we have more to say. See below the initial details.

When? Saturday 7/23, time TBA – Please complete this form to share your opinions.

Where? At a school, ground-zero for the implementation and impact of the new education laws

Who? Everyone who opposes the attacks on public education in Georgia – This is an opportunity for our communities to rally to protect educators and students’ education. If you are an educator who is interested in speaking OR would like to sponsor the rally, please complete this form.

We will meet on Wednesday, July 13 at 4 PM. More details about this meeting and the event to follow over the next week. As we continue planning, we are eager to include as many voices and encourage as much participation as possible. This rally belongs to all of us. Once again, if you plan on attending, want to speak, want to sponsor, or have some ideas and opinions, please complete this form. Spread the word to your comrades and communities and we will follow up with additional details. Onward!

Best,

Anthony Downer

Voters are not buying the phony claims of the candidates running on platforms against “critical race theory,” not even in conservative counties in Georgia. Thanks to Jennifer Berkshire for this story.

The Georgia Recorder reports on two elections:

Voters in Cherokee and Coweta counties rejected three school board candidates backed by a right-wing federal PAC Tuesday, following similar losses in last month’s primary.

It’s uncommon for political action committees to weigh in on local races, so voters were surprised to open up their mailboxes and find flyers from the 1776 Project PAC endorsing a slate of candidates ahead of the primary.

The PAC is a response to the 1619 Project, a New York Times initiative examining the lingering effects of slavery throughout U.S. history.

The 1619 Project; critical race theory; diversity, equity and inclusion and social and emotional learning have become rallying points for white, conservative parents who say their children are being made to feel guilty for racial injustice.

On its website, the committee describes itself as “dedicated to electing school board members nationwide who want to reform our public education system by promoting patriotism and pride in American history. We are committed to abolishing critical race theory and ‘The 1619 Project’ from the public school curriculum.”

Among the PAC’s endorsees were Cherokee County’s Sean Kaufman, a small business owner, and Ray Lynch, a physician.

Cherokee

The two previously teamed up with fellow 1776 Project endorsees Cam Waters, who works for the Georgia Association of Health Underwriters, and accountant Chris Gregory, styling themselves as 4CanDoMore, a slate for parents who “have been silenced, ignored and belittled.”

“With 4CanDoMore we can have a board majority that asks questions, a board that is transparent and unafraid, a board that reflects the family values of Cherokee County,” reads a statement on their website.

Their goal was to create a majority on the seven-member board to prevent policies they view as divisive, especially critical race theory and diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

The district had plans to hire Cecelia Lewis, a Black principal from Maryland to serve as its first diversity, equity and inclusion administrator, but she decided not to take the offer after watching a raucous meeting in which parents railed against her hiring.

The 4CanDoMore team offered Lewis’ planned hiring as evidence that the board did not consider the desires of parents.

Lewis has said she did not know what critical race theory was at the time and had no plans to incorporate it in her role. Cherokee County has never included the concept, which is typically reserved for higher-education graduate studies, in its curriculum, but the school board approved a resolution to ban it anyway. The state school board went on to impose its own ban on lessons teaching that the United States is racist, and Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law further banning “divisive concepts” regarding racial history. Teachers and administrators have largely said such measures were unnecessary.

Cherokee is a conservative county — nearly 70% of voters there chose Donald Trump in 2020, but their rejection of the 4CanDoMore squad suggests local issues can still trump national culture war arguments, said Jamie Chambers, a writer and Cherokee County resident who opposed the four candidates.

“In my area, Ray Lynch was running against Susan Padget-Harrison, and unlike him, where he came from out of state and was just kind of attacking, she has experience. She has been a teacher. She’s been involved with our school system for decades and has ties to our community,” he said. “And I think, ultimately, that’s the thing that carried the day with voters, people who were connected, that were actually talking about real issues within our schools and not just repeating talking points that don’t apply to us. While we live in a very conservative area, I don’t think that the kind of people who were protesting the hiring of Lewis, who were banging on the windows and doors of the superintendent’s office, those aren’t representative of the voters around here.”

Kaufman lost to Erin Ragsdale, a businesswoman and educator, and Lynch was defeated by Padgett-Harrison, a professor of education at Piedmont College.

In last month’s primary, Waters and Gregory were both defeated by incumbent board members by significant margins.

Coweta

In Coweta, incumbent school board member Linda Menk was ousted by baseball coach Rob DuBose, who received nearly 80% of the vote in the runoff.

Menk received calls for her resignation after she attended the Jan. 6, 2021 rally in Washington that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Critics also offered a list of insensitive and conspiratorial social media posts as evidence of her unfitness.

She also raised hackles on the board in 2019 for contacting the FBI, allegedly in an attempt to set up colleagues in a non-existent bid-rigging scandal.

Menk said she did not breach the Capitol and was simply expressing her First Amendment right to protest.

She offered no apologies in a school board meeting days after the riot.

“It was not sedition, it was not insurrection,” she said. “I attended a very peaceful rally, one of the most meaningful things that I actually had the privilege of engaging in was a large percentage of the attendees were there who had escaped communist China and had emigrated to this country, and the stories that they told me, basically, the United States was the last hope, it was the last place that they had to go.”

At the same meeting, then-board chair Amy Dees castigated Menk for distracting from the job of supporting students.

“We do have First Amendment rights as board members, but as an elected official, there are consequences for what we post and say,” she said. “Tonight, three board members took an oath of office. That oath of office means something, it means something to me. I uphold that with the utmost of integrity. It saddens me that we are here again and again and again, and it seems to me, Miss Menk, that you’re in the center of that.”

Other Coweta candidates endorsed by the 1776 Project PAC, Maxwell Britton, Megan Smith and Cory Gambardella, fell to board incumbents in the May primary.