Recently, longtime Gwinnett School Board Member, Mary Kay Murphy, is projected to have won her reelection campaign against Gwinnett County special education teacher Tanisha Banks.
And yes, Tanisha is a Black woman whose name is added to the list of Black women across the country who ran for public office on a platform of equity.
The 74 shared a powerful article on the school board election in Gwinnett, Georgia’s pivotal role in the Presidential election and our national fit.
However, I don’t want Gwinnett stakeholders to lose focus on the years ahead. According to The 74, Murphy ultimately received 45,031 votes to Banks’s 44,060 showing how close the election truly was.
I see this as a way of stakeholders in Gwinnett showing they are no longer afraid to go against the old regime that in many instances represents white privilege, segregationist theology, and the social injustices impacting many Black and brown students in Mary Kay’s district.
Gwinnett County Stakeholders are Tired of Incumbent Mary Kay’s B.S.!
A few months ago I had Tanisha Banks as a guest on our Lifting Black Voices series. She spoke about the injustices within the district as a teacher, parents, and stakeholders. Special education teachers can make a huge impact on the school board.
I’m not simply stating this because I’m a special education teacher either. We are a bridge to helping implement stronger pedagogy in classrooms by improving co-teaching models, our expertise in case management can help improve discipline in classrooms, and most importantly, our familiarity with law. These attributes within themselves would help a candidate like educator, Tanisha Banks seeking to be on the school board.
So what happens now?
EdLanta’s Student Coalition has two student leaders from Gwinnett County, one from Mary Kay’s District. “We’re building our voices, and we will no longer let the racial injustices that happen in our district be swept under the rug!” stated by one student leader in Gwinnett inspired by her teacher Tanisha Banks and newly elected Gwinnett School Board member Karen Watkins and Dr. Tarece Johnson.
The students are working to build opportunities to elevate student leadership and build civic engagement amongst students now. The students are also encouraging recent graduates of Gwinnett to become civically engaged now that they are of age to vote.
Our classmates remember the recent racial incidents from band performance, to school board member comments, to yearbook photos, we’ve had enough. One senior in a Gwinnett high school of Latino descent asked his peers at a recent EdLanta Student Townhall, “Do we want our younger siblings to have to experience these things?”
Banks is awaiting the election to be certified and all ballots counted!
Stated by The 74, “The local paper called the race for Murphy and Watkins Wednesday, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the county was having trouble counting absentee ballots.”
EdLanta’s Student Coalition stands with Banks’ decision. We are engaging more students in the process and hearing all voices is one of the first areas of work we’re doing. Currently, the students have developed a petition to bring awareness to students having a voice at the decision making table.
“Whether the board has three Black members or four, the dynamic between them and longtime Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, who has led the district for 24 years, will likely change” as highlighted by The 74. The students agree with this, too! For the last 24 years, Black and brown children in Gwinnett have contributed largely to Georgia’s school to prison pipeline which Gwinnett SToPP has fought against for decades.
Change in Georgia’s largest school district is long overdue. The 74 highlights Wilbanks recent statement that he tries to stay out of board politics as much as he can, but that he hopes the new and current members will “continue to be a board that people respect.”
A senior in Gwinnett and leader of our EdLanta Coalition says she hopes the new board members will lead us into an era of equitable learning for all children. Especially Black and brown children who for too long in Gwinnett have been overlooked and underserved.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.