Alisha Searcy

Candidate for Superintendent of Schools, Democrat

Websites: SearcyforSuperintendent.com

Occupation(s): Former State Representative, former superintendent and education consultant

At 23, Alisha was the first African American elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. She is also a former superintendent, a mom of 3 school age children and married to a retired State Trooper. Alisha won a historic Democratic primary, winning almost 60% of the race in a four way race and won all 159 Georgia counties.

Image source: Searcy for Superintendent

Our health is affected by a variety of factors that are directly influenced by policies made by and supported by the Superintendent of Schools:

Priorities

What priorities or key issues will you address if elected to this office?

My priorities as School Superintendent are school safety, teacher burnout, mental health for students and educators, and designing schools that work for children in the 21st century

Experience

What key experiences would you bring to this role?

I am the only candidate in this race who has served as a state legislator. This is key because the State School Superintendent plays a significant role in the policy making process, especially at the State Board of Education and Department of Education levels. I am also the only candidate who has experience leading a system of schools. Not only have I led schools, I also achieved great results for teachers and students. Given the challenges we have in terms of learning loss, teacher retention, funding our education system, and an overall lack of leadership in our education system, I am uniquely qualified to take on the challenges our state faces.

Burnout and Teacher Shortage

Over half of Georgia’s teachers have expressed some concerns about burnout. How do you plan to improve retention in the teacher workforce and address teacher shortage?

  1. Create the Office of the Teacher Advocate. In this office, full-time staff will focus solely on addressing teacher burnout. They will listen to teachers, create partnerships with community and business organizations to provide resources to teachers, and they will ensure teachers are involved in EVERY policy-making process of the DOE. This is my commitment to teachers, and my ongoing dedication to retaining – and then attracting – teachers to Georgia schools.

  2. Work with the legislature to raise the starting salary for teachers across the state to 65k. Teachers should not have to work two jobs, and I am committed to working with the state and local districts to identify the funds to do this.

  3. Address the high stakes testing issue by working to align our testing system with districts so that we aren’t over-testing, which has added too much pressure on educators and students.

  4. Work with the legislature to enact three laws:

    • A law that gives teachers uninterrupted planning time during the school day that cannot be interrupted with staff or other meetings, so that teachers can focus on planning, preparation and collaboration.

    • A law that gives teachers with children time off so they can attend parent-teacher conferences or other school-related activities for their own children; and

    • A law that, by working with the legislature to identify funds for school districts, will offer mental health days for teachers.

  5. Partner with faith, business, and non-profit leaders to create a campaign to restore the level of respect and admiration for the field of education and educators.

  6. Create statewide celebrations and an award system for teachers to show appreciation constantly and consistently for teachers, including an annual event to celebrate teachers across the state for: great subject teaching, relationships with students, going the extra mile, and educational excellence.

  7. Stand up for teachers, as a former state legislator (the only candidate for this office to serve in the legislature in at least 20 years), when I see bills being introduced that will instill fear or frustration in teachers. I will serve as a champion for teachers both in the legislative process and the rule-making process at the state board level. Far too long, teachers have not had a champion serving in these roles.

  8. Provide a training program for principals to teach best practices for leading and managing schools. We know that school leadership impacts teacher retention. I believe developing school leaders who create a supportive and positive environment for teachers will greatly impact teacher satisfaction as well.

I believe that these efforts will significantly address teacher burnout of current teachers as well as change the way we view education and educators. Once we do that, Georgia teachers can feel pride in their profession again, and we will dramatically increase the number of teachers in our pipeline.

Equity in Funding

Do you have a plan for equitable distribution of public school funding, particularly to students with disabilities?

We need an overhaul of our entire funding system. We need to focus more on student-based need, not districts, or the needs of adults. Assuring we have adequate funding for our students with disabilities I strongly support fully and equitably funding our students and our school systems, so they provide the resources that students and educators need to be successful. Again, it is why having my experience as a state legislator is so important. Tackling the funding issue requires both leadership and the skills to know how to navigate the legislative process.

Meeting the Needs of Diverse Communities

How do you ensure that the public education system is meeting the needs of all Georgia communities - rural and urban, high resource and low resource?

I will create the Office of Equity to first get an understanding of where inequities exist. I will work with school districts to help them be able to identify the local policies and decisions that lead to inequities. Then I will provide support and technical assistance to districts, so they have the skills to make decisions that meet the needs of their students. At the state level, I will ensure that funding, and other state level resources are directed in places that need them most. This is a comprehensive plan that requires a change in mindset, policies and practices. I will always be a champion for students who have been marginalized. As an example, one of my big priorities is also to obtain broadband for students in rural areas. The communities have been ignored for too long. I will no longer allow that to happen.

COVID-19 and Challenges in Education

COVID-19 presented a variety of unique challenges to schools. In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges school systems have faced? Do you believe there is a gap in education due to the pandemic? If so, how do you plan to address this gap?

Of course, there is a gap in education due to the pandemic. There has been significant learning loss in that students were not provided with high quality instruction, some not at all due to access issues. To add to that, there is a rise in mental health issues that districts have not yet determined how to address. I think the greatest challenge is that districts were left to their own to navigate what is arguably the most difficult time in public education. Sadly, there was no leadership or guidance from the current State Superintendent to provide resources, share best practices, or provide hands on support for districts. This was a tremendous, missed opportunity. If elected, I will assess where districts are, where the student need is, then be hands on in providing resources to districts so they can fill these gaps and rely on the state to be their partner in meeting the needs of students and educators.