Gwinnett County Board of Education, District 5

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Candidate Questionnaires

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Tarece Johnson (Democrat)

[/cmsmasters_featured_block][/cmsmasters_column][cmsmasters_column data_width=”3/4″ data_shortcode_id=”a4f1hlgqy”][cmsmasters_toggles shortcode_id=”hu81zmem4″ mode=”toggle” animation_delay=”0″][cmsmasters_toggle shortcode_id=”pu5txszd” title=”What do you believe are the 2 most pressing challenges/opportunities facing Gwinnett County School District 1/3/5 and how would you work to solve them? Similarly, what is your vision for Gwinnett County Public Schools and how would you implement it? Please be specific.”]

My priority is to ensure all of our policies are equitably executed. I believe the two most pressing opportunities are: 1. Evaluation of the Strategic Waiver (IE square). I would work to ensure equity by advocating for reallocation of additional resources to improve student achievement in low performing schools. I would also do the following: • Partner with parents, students, and teachers to understand their needs and strategize how GCPS may provide better support systems at home, school, and in the classroom. • Use the flexibility allowed under the strategic waiver system to ensure AKS curriculum and instruction include more multicultural and multilingual learning. • Appoint diverse people to a curriculum and instruction committee to ensure our curriculum is more racially inclusive, sensitive, relevant, and historically factual. Facilitate engagement in cross-cultural exchanges to celebrate and respect differences. • Ensure teachers, staff, and administration reflect the rich diversity of Gwinnett County in a variety of ways and at all levels within GCPS. 2. School Discipline Policies – I am committed to ending the school to prison pipeline and according to recent data, Black and Brown students are disproportionately disciplined and punished. I plan to understand the root cause and also address implicit biases that may be related to the discipline disproportionality. I would solve the school discipline issues by advocating for the following: • Innovative behavior management techniques including yoga, meditation, and art therapy • Group sessions, counseling, and anger management • Mentoring programs • Motivational learning environments (friendlier spaces and less like a prison environment) • Provide positive reinforcement for academic excellence, behavior, acts of kindness, and attendance • Required ongoing training related to cultural understanding, biases, and unconscious racism • Engage students, parents, teachers, DAs, school resource officers, counselors, social workers, and other specialists in the process of strategizing and revamping school discipline policies and ending the school to prison pipeline. My vision for Gwinnett County Public Schools is to be a multicultural and equitable world-class system where all students may acquire the knowledge, skills, and abilities to thrive in an ever-evolving world. I plan to implement this vision by listening to and learning from our constituents (students, parents, teachers, administrators, specialists, community organizations, government agencies, and businesses). My goals are to: • Ensure transparency, safety, and accountability. • Improve and create policies to ensure they equitably benefit all students. • Make sure we have relevant standards and reach our goals for overall student achievement. • Set inclusive policies related to the Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS) curriculum. Meeting the goals for student achievement requires us to ensure our instruction is relevant, responsive, representative, respectful, resourced, and real. I want our students to have 21st century learning and engage in innovative learning experiences. • Be smart about cost savings, reduction, and avoidance as well as equitably allocating resources to support student needs. • Provide teacher support, strategic engagement, and attract diverse teachers • Implement policies that create positive and safe environments, social emotional learning, relevant life skills, and academic excellence.

[/cmsmasters_toggle][cmsmasters_toggle shortcode_id=”l0dl35jmbl” title=”Based on your attendance at past School Board meetings, what priorities will you double-down on AND what new priorities will you have to ensure the Gwinnett School system adjusts to changing dynamics within education and to ensure we remain successful in educating the workforce of tomorrow?”]

Based on the last school Board meeting, I would focus more on the impact of COVID-19 and lessons learned. COVID -19 highlighted inequities that already existed, and we have an opportunity to do better in the future. The shifting dynamics and demographic needs require GCPS to be nimble and focused on equity and 21st century learning. In order to prepare our students for the workforce of tomorrow we must teach them life skills, trades, financial literacy, and ensure they are ready for post-secondary learning.

[/cmsmasters_toggle][cmsmasters_toggle shortcode_id=”ot2u3nd2s” title=”Gwinnett County Schools is recognized as one of the best and most innovative systems in the country. What assets would you bring personally and professionally to the board to ensure it remains so and that the system is positioned to educate our graduates for success?”]

My experiences in education as a teacher and leader are assets to the board. Additionally, I have been working in diversity, inclusion, and equity for over 20 years. I earned a Master’s degree in public policy from Columbia University and a MBA from Emory, these experiences will influence how I lead and contribute to the team as we focus on policies, execution of equitable processes, and management of resources. My experiences in HR (including diversity recruitment) will also be an asset as we engage in augmenting, developing, and supporting our teachers. My doctorate in educational leadership and management and experience in curriculum (including my published book, The Global Purpose Approach), frames my commitment to multicultural and multilingual advocacy and other innovations which will help to ensure our students may be globally competitive. As an artist, actress, poet, and author, I support the arts and believe it important to invest in developing the creative skills of our students. My commitment to educational equity and justice will be depicted in how I advocate for my district. I am also dedicated to listening and learning to ensure we meet the ever-evolving needs of our students.

[/cmsmasters_toggle][cmsmasters_toggle shortcode_id=”64rd03devu” title=”How do you plan to balance essential school services with the need to cut significant spending due to COVID-19 impacts? What will be your priorities?”]

I plan to reduce spending by examining the budget to understand where are spending in excess and eliminate discretionary spending. My priorities will be focused on budget transparency, investments in health and safety, equitable execution of our policies, reallocation of resources, and increasing teacher pay and support.

[/cmsmasters_toggle][cmsmasters_toggle shortcode_id=”mwsa99d8nq” title=”How can GCPS be better prepared for future disruptions in teaching & learning?”]

I wrote an article titled, “Equity & Justice During & After COVID-19” (also included on my website) that provides more details regarding how we can be better prepared for future educational disruptions. In order for GCPS to be better prepared, we need to assess the situation of each student to ensure one-to-one regarding technology and other technical needs. Additionally, virtual learning should be part of the emergency management training similar to how school shooter training is conducted. This training should consist of preparing and training teachers on how to use virtual tools and effectively administer e-learning. Students should also participate in such emergency preparedness training to ensure they understand how to use the platform and their expectations. Article: In addition to servicing food and deliveries, we could be better prepared by doing the following: • Providing one-to-one technology • Coordinate emotional/mental health services • Facilitate partnerships with organizations for other services (supplies, materials, internet, and health services) • Invest in communications, streaming meetings, and hosting online townhalls in multiple languages

[/cmsmasters_toggle][cmsmasters_toggle shortcode_id=”c6x63jpb4d” title=”You will represent a specific part of Gwinnett County – how will you balance the needs of your specific constituents with the needs of all of GCPS?”]

I will listen to the voices of my district, be accessible, be transparent, and represent their needs. As I advocate for the specific needs of District 5, I will balance the needs of all GCPS by listening to and working with other members on the board. Teamwork makes the dream work, so I believe it is critical for the success of GCPS for our board to effectively work together to balance the needs of our students in an equitable manner, ensure no child is left behind, and eliminate disproportionate impacts as we set and evaluate our policies. We must engage our teachers and empower them to participate in the process of improving student achievement.

[/cmsmasters_toggle][cmsmasters_toggle shortcode_id=”avt8m8f92p” title=”What strategies would you pursue to improve the safety – both real and perceived – of all children, faculty, and staff at schools? What partnerships are needed to realize these strategies?”]

School safety is first and foremost. To ensure the safety of our students, I would pursue the following: • Require ongoing anti bias training for teachers and administrators to reduce mental/emotional impacts in the classroom. • Ensure anti-bullying policies are enforced. Continuous education on empathy, kindness, and gaining character building skills may eliminate incidents. • Follow the guidelines of the CDC related to keeping our schools safe by sanitizing more frequently (with hand washing / sanitation stations),and making sure our facilities are thoroughly disinfected. • Ensure no weapons are brought to school • Ensure our facilities are secure and teachers are trained and prepared in case of any disaster such as a school shooting • Provide more counselors, counseling and other innovative methods to improve discipline • Ensure we communicate safety issues in multiple languages and engage our multilingual / multicultural community to participate in the process To execute these strategies, partnerships are needed. We must work with experts in antiracism, anti-bullying, and ending school to prison pipeline. We must work with specialists, including behavior management and therapists, we must also work with legislatures, businesses, and empower our teachers to participate in the process of improving the safety of our schools. Related to school shootings, I don’t want schools to feel like a prisons. There is a balance regarding creating a free, fun, and inspiring environment while still maintaining safety. To balance this, we need more classroom level security and systems that instantly inform authorities of an emergency. My vision to address the school shootings include: • Give teachers training and tools to quickly secure their classrooms • School resource officers • Vestibule with bulletproof glass • Metal detectors • Clear backpacks • Video cameras • Automatic electronic door locks at entrances

[/cmsmasters_toggle][cmsmasters_toggle shortcode_id=”pu0n2hf0dg” title=”What innovations in teaching and learning would you like to see GCPS champion that would ensure that the workforce needs of Gwinnett and regional businesses are being met?”]

To meet workforce demands I would champion for more multicultural and multilingual education to meet, identify with, and represent the needs of the diverse county of Gwinnett. I would also champion for trade skills, financial literacy, leadership training, effective communications, and other technical skills to meet workforce needs. Additionally, understanding job requirements and responsibilities of Gwinnett employers help us to tailor programming and develop strategic feeder relationships (including paid internships) to support the economic development of our community. I want to prepare our students to meet current workforce needs and encourage them to own their own businesses. Investing in more innovations related to education in economic development and business ownership empowers our students with the knowledge, skills, and talents they need to improve their lives, build personal wealth, and contribute to the economy.

[/cmsmasters_toggle][cmsmasters_toggle shortcode_id=”t81l2lk0w” title=”How would you advocate for increased coordination of resources and alignment of curriculum between K-12 and Gwinnett post-secondary institutions to ensure seamless transitions for students and their workforce readiness?”]

Understanding workforce needs, student desires, and future trends are important to developing programs to ensure our students are workforce ready. Curriculums should be tailored to best prepare students to achieve lifelong success. Coordinating with businesses and post-secondary partners will inform alignment of curriculum and facilitate the effective design of instruction. Specific courses may be designed to provide opportunities for certifications, credits, and licenses for students to work in their field of choice. Strategic partnerships with local businesses (internships, apprenticeships, and mentoring) and post-secondary institutions (feeder programs and college classes / credits) will benefit our students and ensure seamless transition to work and/or post-secondary school. Additionally, investments in job training, developing a growth mindset, ethical and moral leadership, and business management will ensure the overall economic development of our communities this facilitating the achievement of educational excellence and equity.

[/cmsmasters_toggle][cmsmasters_toggle shortcode_id=”re3x1gswl7″ title=”What is your position on GCPS’ Performance-based Teacher Compensation?”]

We want teachers to be competitive, however we don’t want to unconsciously incentivize behaviors that are not appropriate. I think teachers should get paid more money and be better supported with resources and flexible benefits (mental & physical health). The Performance-based Teacher Compensation needs to be analyzed to ensure biases are eliminated and it is equitably executed. If there is disproportionate compensation to one group of people, one district, or only high performing schools, we need to remove this system and/or revise it to ensure fairness and equity.

[/cmsmasters_toggle][cmsmasters_toggle shortcode_id=”itsbmi1shs” title=”What ideas do you have to improve incumbent teacher retention within GCPS?”]

To improve incumbent teacher retention, I would first listen to the teachers to understand their needs, issues, and desires. I believe in creating “courageous/brave spaces” and would advocate for more strategic sessions, open conversations, and team building to engage teachers in the process of referrals, recruitment, and satisfaction. I would also create stronger policies around retaliating against teachers for sharing their experiences, providing suggestions/feedback, and/or reporting class/school issues. To reduce attrition, I would encourage the analyzation of exit interviews and surveys. The data may help to change systems and revise policies that may contribute to teacher turnover. Other ways to improve teacher retention: • Invest in their professional development • Provide higher teacher pay, more flexibility, and better benefits • Create programs for growth and career advancement • Ensure transparency and more effective and open communications • Encourage teachers to be innovative and empower them to operate their classrooms to best meet the needs of their students • Support classroom innovations and teacher autonomy.

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Contact Paul Oh, Manager, Public Policy & Community Affairs, with questions.
770-232-8804 or

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