By: Alicia Sands Lurry
School Board Appreciation Week is a weeklong observance dedicated to recognizing the contributions of local boards of education. As Atlanta Public Schools proudly celebrates this occasion, be sure to get acquainted with the nine board members who establish and approve the policies that govern the district. Today we will take a closer look at five of those members who are dedicated and committed to providing quality education and resources for the children they serve. Tomorrow we will feature the remaining four members.
Prior to his election, Board Chair Courtney English (At-Large, Seat 7, Districts 1 & 2) was a founding teacher at B.E.S.T. Academy at Benjamin S. Carson, the first all-male school in the city of Atlanta, and actually taught seventh-grade social studies in the same room he took seventh-grade social studies as a student. In addition to his role as coach of the football team and championship baseball team at B.E.S.T., Courtney has championed school autonomy; increased rigorous course offerings throughout the district; commissioned a district-wide equity audit to close longstanding resource and achievement gaps; fought to give parents more options for their kids; and instituted a number of policies to clean up years of administrative mismanagement – including a widespread cheating scandal.
Currently one of the longest-serving board members, Courtney has worked to build public-private partnerships to address the city’s drop-out crisis. To date, his efforts have generated over $2.5 million in additional resources and resulted in the launch of Atlanta’s first drop-out prevention and recovery program. As chairman, Courtney has fought to ensure the equitable distribution of resources to Atlanta’s neediest students, grew the system’s reserves from 44 million to over 90 million dollars without raising taxes, and put the district on track to pay down its unfunded pension fund liability after decades of neglect.
As a parent and stakeholder, Board Vice Chair Nancy M. Meister (District 4) is passionate about the future of Atlanta Public Schools, and has been personally involved in the district for many years and recognizes the importance of public education. She and her husband have watched their children grow and thrive in the Atlanta Public Schools system. As a residential real estate agent, she understands and appreciates the importance of great neighborhood schools, their impact on attracting new businesses to the city, and their contribution to the overall sustainable growth of the metro area.
Some of Nancy’s community activities include the following: president, North Atlanta Parents of Public Schools (2006-2009); founding member, North Atlanta High School Foundation (2006); PTA president, North Atlanta High School (2007-2008); PTA president, Sutton Middle School (2004-2006); member, Northern Corridor Task Force (2003); and participant, Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk, Seattle, Washington, (2007) and San Francisco (2008). As a member of the Atlanta Board of Realtors, Nancy is currently a residential real estate agent with Beacham and Company. Prior to joining Beacham, she worked in the Buckhead office of Harry Norman Realtors.
With deep roots in the Atlanta community, Byron D. Amos (District 2), is chief executive officer of Capacity Builders Inc., and has been involved in community organizing for over 20 years. A dedicated father, community leader and resident of Vine City, he has demonstrated a passionate commitment to service that comes from a desire to see the residents of his community grow and prosper.
Byron has served as the chairperson of Neighborhood Planning Unit L and as president of the Vine City Civic Association, Inc. In these positions, he served the interests of the community with a deep sense of commitment, dignity, integrity and dedication over the past several years. As a result of his stewardship, Byron has received many honors and awards, including being recognized as a WATL 36 Unsung Hero, as well as an Outstanding Atlantan. Both awards were a testament to his unwavering commitment to community service and leadership. He is also a graduate of the FBI Citizens Academy and the city of Atlanta Citizen Police and Fire Academy. A proud father of three daughters and one son, he is a member of Beulah Baptist Church in Vine City, where he serves on the trustee board.
Matt Westmoreland is the District 3 representative on the Atlanta Board of Education, where he serves as chair of the Budget Commission and Legislative Liaison to the Georgia General Assembly. He also serves as assistant director of Horizons Atlanta, an educational non-profit serving low-income students across Metro Atlanta through summer enrichment programs. An Atlanta native, Matt attended Atlanta Public Schools and received his bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton University, where he served as editor-in-chief of The Daily Princetonian.
After graduation, Matt returned to Atlanta as a Teach for America Corps member and taught history at Carver Early College High School in southeast Atlanta. Named one of the “20 People to Watch” in 2014 by Creative Loafing and one of the “Top 30 Under 30” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle in 2015, Matt is a graduate of LEAD Atlanta and New Leaders Council-Atlanta, and serves on the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Millennial Advisory Committee.
Steven Lee ran for school board because he believes that every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of prayer and insists they become the best they can possibly be. A community advocate, business owner and father of four, believes his work as a board member impacts students because he makes it a point to listen. “We meet, they talk and I listen,” he said. “I carry their voice and concerns with me when I make decisions and cast votes.”
With a passion for gospel music and serving his community, Steven has worked as a mentor, youth counselor, community volunteer and business owner. His community service experience includes serving as the past president of the board of directors of People TV; chairman of the board of Unity Network and Counseling Center; president of the Martin Luther King Merchant Association; member of the Fulton County Juvenile Court Community Restoration Justice Board; director of the In the Zone After School Program; member of the Zoning Review Board for the city of Atlanta; member of the Hollowell/ML King TAD Advisory Committee; board member of Youthfest; and director of the A Guiding Hand Mentoring Program.