Nine seats on the Atlanta Public Schools school board—three at-large and six district seats—are up for general election on Nov. 2, 2021. Twenty-two candidates qualified to run in the race by the Aug. 20, 2021 filing deadline. If necessary, a runoff election is scheduled for Nov. 30, 2021.
Six incumbents are seeking re-election: Cynthia Briscoe Brown (At-Large District 8), Jason Esteves (At-Large District 9), Aretta Baldon (District 2), Michelle Olympiadis (District 3), Erika Yvette Mitchell (District 5), and Eshé Collins (District 6). Three incumbents are not seeking reelection: Kandis Wood Jackson (At-Large Seat 7), Leslie Grant (District 1), and Nancy Meister (District 4).
With one-quarter of APS students enrolled in charter and partner schools, standards for renewing and expanding charter schools have been a major issue in this race. In 2018, the board voted 5-4 to allow KIPP Metro Atlanta, a network of charter schools, to continue to operate until 2023 when the charter must be renewed or terminated. Of the incumbent candidates in this election, Esteves and Collins supported the KIPP charter, while Brown, Mitchell and Olympiadis opposed it.
COVID-19 response policies, including mask and vaccine mandates, are also an issue. In addition to implementing a school-wide mask policy and mandatory twice-weekly testing requirement for staff for the 2021-2022 school year, Atlanta Public Schools released a statement on Oct. 7, 2021, saying the school district would “continue to study the feasibility and need for a vaccine mandate in our district.”
The 2021 election is the last election when every board seat is up for election simultaneously. Georgia’s HB 1075 changed the state’s school board election process so that members’ terms are staggered. The candidates who win in odd-numbered districts will serve a two-year term ending December 31, 2023. Candidates who win seats in even-numbered districts will serve a four-year term ending Dec. 31, 2025.
Atlanta Public Schools is located in northwestern Georgia in Fulton County and DeKalb County. It is classified as a large city school district by the National Center for Education Statistics. The district served 52,377 students during the 2018-2019 school year and comprised 89 schools.