South Fulton residents are set to vote for a new Fulton County school board member in District 4. Longtime board member Linda Bryant’s term is coming to an end, and she has decided not to seek reelection.
Ahead of election day on June 9, we reached out to all three candidates to learn more about their vision for education in South Fulton. All responses were sent to us electronically and have not been edited or altered in any way.
Meet Willie G. Davis, a longtime area attorney and Fulton County Schools parent with a 20-year history of serving on and leading local and state PTAs.
Q1: What is your vision for education in the South Fulton community?
A1: My vision for education in South Fulton is that every student that attends a Fulton County School, graduates on time and is fully prepared to enroll in either a college/university, or technical/vocational school or enter the military or start a work program.
Our schools should serve the interest of all students. We must accept the fact that college is not an option for everyone. We must, therefore, offer pathways that would be of interest to a student’s chosen profession. Every graduate should be prepared “to think”, “to create”, and “to learn”. This will allow them to achieve whatever goals or purpose that they strive for.
Q2: What are the primary challenges facing South Fulton schools and how do you plan to address them?
A2: One of the biggest challenges is doing away with the misconception that South Fulton Schools are bad. They are not! We have some of the best administrators and teachers in the District. However, they are not allowed to freely lead and teach. They are asked to implement the Board’s Policies without having any input in what’s best for their school, classroom or students. It is the responsibility of the schools to educate students and prepare them for their futures. We must realize that our schools all have different needs. There must be equity in order to address the needs of each individual school. Every school should receive the necessary resources to provide academic success.
My plan to address this is to create a policy that would allow administrators and teachers to have flexibility in making educational decisions for the betterment of their respective schools. I strongly feel that those inside a school can make better decisions for student success than those in a District office or sitting on a Board. We need to trust those who are dealing with students in the classroom every day.
The other challenge is addressing the lack of Pre-K classrooms in our elementary schools. A Pre-K classroom is where critical foundational skills for literacy and math are established. Those students who are not provided a space in a Pre-K classroom are already behind their kindergarten classmates. Thereby creating a situation where a kindergarten teacher is teaching two levels of students; which creates an achievement gap before the first grade. A gap that widens each grade level.
My plan is to focus on expanding Pre-K opportunities for all four-year-old, within every elementary school District. Short term, we may need to add trailers to house 5th graders and use the additional classroom space for Pre-K students. I don’t like using trailers, but we must provide space for Pre-K students. Long term, we must plan for additional Pre-K classrooms in our elementary schools.
Q3: Prior to running for this office, in what ways have you contributed to the South Fulton community that have benefited students and/or parents?
A3: For the last 20 years, I have been very active working with “all” the schools in South Fulton.
Working with Fulton County School District officials in South Fulton, I organized, what has become an annual event, the College and Financial Aid Fair for South Fulton High School students.
One of the most recent contributions, that I’m extremely proud of, is working with mental health initiatives in our schools. During a three-year period, three Westlake High School students committed suicide. I organized Mental Health Workshops and Community Meetings, to address the topics, I was able to recruit some Mental Health Therapists to provide needed services for students and families. This school year, I recruited and worked with a group of Westlake students to create an organization that brought mental health awareness and management techniques to other South Fulton students. This group also provides peer-to-peer talk on mental health issues.
Listed below are some of the positions I have served for our community and schools.
A.P. Randolph Elementary School
Former Chairman, Local School Advisory Council (LSAC)
Former Chairman, Legislative Committee PTA
Former Chairman, Family Engagement PTA
Former Parliamentary PTA
Former Vice President, PTA
Former President, PTA
Former Vice Chairman, School Governance Council (SGC)
Sandtown Middle School
Former Chairman, Legislative Committee PTSA
Former Parliamentary, PTSA
Former Vice President, PTSA
Former Chairman, School Governance Council (SGC)
Westlake High School
Former Vice President, Westlake Band Boosters
Former Vice President, PTSA
Former President, PTSA
Chairman, School Governance Council (SGC)
Georgia PTA 10th District
Former 2nd Assistant District Director
Former Chairman, Berean Christian Junior Academy School Board
The Main Street Academy, Governance Board and Finance Committee
Superintendent’s Advisory Council – Fulton County Schools
Chairman, Mayor’s Task Force on Education for City of South Fulton
Coach and Judge, Georgia High School Mock Trial Competition
Q4: Tell us about your educational attainment and any professional education experience that you may have.
A4: I was educated in the Atlanta Public School System. Earned a B.A. in Political Science and A.A. in Criminal Justice from Fort Valley State University and I have completed graduate courses at Clark Atlanta University and Georgia State University in Political Science and Public Administration, and I have a J.D. from Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School. While there, I founded the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) and created the Student Honor Court. After graduating from law school, I led a group that organized the John Marshall Law School Alumni Association.
Q5: Why do you think you’re better qualified than your opponents to serve on the board?
A5: No other candidate has the experience of having worked with every school in South Fulton County and the political skills and relationships to get things done. I understand the importance of collaborating and working as a team with other board members to serve the interest of “all” students.
My candidacy is also an opportunity for Diversity and Inclusion on a Board that has no male representation.
I have been active in civic, community, educational and political organizations. Having served as a political consultant on local, state and national campaigns, the Legislative Director of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, an elected member of the State Committee of the Democratic Party of Georgia and the Fulton County Democratic Party Executive Committee, formerly serving as Vice Chairman. I was also a past Chair of the Young Democrats of Fulton County.
I was the former School Board Chairman of Berean Christian Junior Academy, a private school serving K to 8th grade. As Chair, I changed the name of the school, because that’s what the student wanted. Led a board that doubled student enrollment, provided teachers with the necessary tools to be successful, eliminated a $200,000 deficit in 18 months and built a new Pre-K to 12th grade Educational Facility.
So, you see I have worked in many areas relating to education, law, politics and community service that makes me the better candidate.
Furthermore, as a practicing attorney with over 24 years of legal experience, I realized that many of the criminal defendants that I represented did not have beyond an eight or tenth grade education. I realized that by then that the educational the battles were already lost. The real fighting should have happened in the schools. As such, I have transitioned from being an attorney to a College and Career Coach at a high school. I understand how education can turn our young people from a life of crime and make our communities better.
Q6: Many parents have called for more innovation in education. What “outside the box” policies do you plan to implement?
A6: Real innovation in education requires having creative administrators/teachers and engaging parents and community members as participants. Boards set policies without input from those in the classroom and those in the community. My “outside the box” policy is more a change in methods. I would establish an Educational Review Board composed of School Administrators, teachers, PTA/PTSA Officials, parents, community leaders and business leaders. This Board would be responsible for reviewing all proposed Board Policies that involve student achievement, curriculum and instruction.
Q7: As a board member, what type of relationship do you envision having with parents and community members?
A7: For over 20 years, I have had a working and personal relationship with parents and community members for the betterment of our schools. These relationships have made a difference. I have never been one to just talk about problems. The success of our schools will require active involvement and participation from parents, teachers, administrators and community members. A relationship with all stakeholders is vital. That will be my number one priority as a member of the Fulton County School Board. ONE FULTON – Working Together!
Q8: Where can voters go to learn more about you? (ex. website URL, upcoming events, etc.)
A8: My website is www.williegdavis4fcs.org.