School Board Candidate Profile: Aji GreenWritten by Kevin Moore | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Aji Green said he entered the race to bring the Toledo Public School (TPS) school board the perspective of a concerned parent who has a long history of community activism. His daughter is a TPS second-grader and his wife teaches at Pickett Academy.
Having grown up in Arkansas, Green moved to Toledo in 2001, earned a degree in human resources management from the University of Toledo and served in the military from 1993-98.
“Some friends and I used to watch the Black State of the Union once a year. We’d talk about the issues affecting the community and then go back to our lives until the next year. I said to myself, ‘I’m in this community. I know what’s going on. What am I going to do about it?’”
Green ran unsuccessfully for the school board in 2009 and for City Council in 2011. In hindsight, Green regrets running for City Council, but said it was a good learning experience.
“I was interested in politics and was encouraged by the [Democratic] party to run. But it got me away from my passion, which is youth and education.”
This year, Green has not been endorsed by the Democrats or the teacher’s union, though he has received endorsements from other labor organizations.
“I consider myself a young progressive and I do support labor and the people’s right to bargain,” he said. “But I’m all right with not being associated with groups which can distract from the kids.”
Green’s motivation for running is his experience with hardship as a child and wanting a better future for his daughter.
“I’m originally from Arkansas, but the neighborhood was the same. I saw as a child the same things I see in Toledo today: Kids go to school just for free food, they’re trying to escape an abusive family, they want a sense of protection and a feeling of normalcy for the few hours they’re not at home. I see the drugs and the gangs on the streets.”
Green, a member of Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church and the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, has attempted to address the issues facing inner city kids by tutoring and mentoring students and raising money for the Toledo chapter of the Frederick Douglass Community Association.
Two issues Green wants to address within TPS are maintaining a focus on children while the district seeks financial stability and making TPS a stronger alternative to charter schools. Green, now a supervisor at Advance Engineering, worked for Chrysler until 2008. He likens the process of cutting back his family’s budget in the wake of leaving Chrysler to the kind of budgetary mindset he will have on school board.
“If, God forbid, the levy fails, we’ll need an advocate for kids. The administration, unions and workers will have seats at the table. Kids need one too,” he said.
Green said charter schools present a challenge to the district because they give poor and minority families a “false choice and an inadequate education.”
“If charter schools are so good, why are they only in the black neighborhoods, inner city and low-income areas?” he asked. “Nationally, there are some good charter schools, but they have large corporations to fund them. That’s not the case with most charter schools in Toledo. They sell a bill of goods and empty promises, and when kids come back to TPS from charter schools, as they often do, they’re way behind.”
In Green’s view, the only way TPS can deal with the challenge of charter schools is to work on improving its reputation among Toledo residents and to improve its early reading programs.
“I’m invested in the success of TPS. My wife and child go; I’m perhaps the most personally invested of everyone running. That’s the difference. I would never do anything to adversely affect my family.”
Editor’s Note: Each Toledo Public Schools Board of Education candidate was also asked to answer 10 questions. Here are Green’s unedited responses. Plus: Exclusive analysis by Urban Coalition member Steven Flagg.
1. What are the three most crucial issues — in order of importance — facing TPS? What would you do as a board member to address the issues you identify?
Three most important issues affecting TPS is the retention of students, improving underperforming schools, and passing a levy that is drastically needed.
2. Why should voters select you to represent them in decisions and matters affecting the education of Toledo’s children in their public schools?
Voters should select me because I too am a parent with a child in TPS that have fought hard to make sure that my daughter had the best education possible. They should select me because I have a track record of being in the community organizing tutoring sessions, and coat drives, and raised money so that children were able to buy uniforms, and book bags, and school supplies. They should select me because as a parent I will not make a decision that will adversely affect the overall learning environment for our children above all else.
3. What is the primary role of a TPS Board of Education member?
The primary role of the school board is set policy that will create equal opportunity access for all students to achieve a quality education. The board is responsible for the overall operation of the school district’s, but not get so involved that they are micromanaging and controlling the administrative duties. However, it is the job of the board to set the direction and goals for the district while the administration while the administration determines how best to get there.
4. The Toledo Public Schools recently completed a performance audit with projected savings of $91 million over five years. Do you agree with and support implementation of the recommendations provided by the audit?
At the moment I am researching the audit. Currently, I can not in good conscience state my position on it without appearing bias. However, in making a decision I believe that it is of the utmost importance that the board consider what’s in the best interest of the our children and our families above all else.
5. TPS will need to negotiate contractual changes to realize a significant portion of the savings recommended in the audit. Do you believe contractual changes can be made to realize these savings and how would you as a board member facilitate negotiations?
I’m hopeful that any changes that need to be made contractually can be done so with the commitment of improving the overall educational environment for all students. In keeping this in mind it is important that we maintain any provisions contained within the budget that allow for students to have access to an equal and quality education. I am committed to making sure that this happen, and I am willing to be an active participant to make sure that everyone has a voice in this process including our parents and students.
6. TPS currently has a renewal levy on the ballot that will raise approximately $16 million annually for five years, or about the annual savings that can be obtained by implementing the performance audit recommendations. Why should the TPS renewal levy be approved by voters?
The formula used in our state funding model provides such huge disparities and inequalities in educational funding especially in urban communities like Toledo. The only way to close the gap in this funding is to go to the voters and ask them to pass a levy or renew a levy in this case. In recent years voters have lost trust in our schools, and as a result voters refused to pass such levies until the board regained that trust and made certain changes. Toledo Public Schools have done an excellent job in addressing many of the challenges that they have faced in recent years, and have regained the trust of the community. Alls left for them now is for the administration to be proactive and not reactive in leading this district forward. We have a new young and energetic superintendent that the community has rallied around, and the voters want to see him be successful in leading this district forward.
7. Ohio statutes require that TPS teachers and principals have regular performance evaluations with student performance on standardized tests a component of the evaluation. Should teachers and principals be held directly accountable for student performance in their individual performance evaluations? Why or why not?
Teachers should be evaluated, but we shouldn’t have people making decisions that affect them if they themselves have not seen a day in the classroom in order to understand the challenges that teachers face on a day to day basis. Teachers, especially those in large urban districts like Toledo face a multitude of challenges that can’t be measured on a test. So until such a way is defined where it will measure the totality of the contributions of teachers it will be an affront to the students, the families, and of course the educator profession as a whole.
8. Ohio is currently implementing national standards regarding the skills and knowledge all students need for success, referred to as the “Common Core.” Why do you support or oppose the adoption of these standards?
I support the fact that common core standards are being implemented; however, I oppose those standards because I believe that they should be set higher. Students that attend private schools especially those around theToledo area have consistently outperformed our public schools because of the high standards that they place on every student. I believe that every student in TPS have the ability to perform at a higher level. It is the job of the board to raise those standards.
9. What endorsements have you received as a candidate? Do you believe any of these endorsements present a potential conflict of interest with the community you would be elected to represent?
Currently, I have received the endorsement of the North West Ohio Building Trades, The United Auto Workers, The CWA, IBEW Local 8, and Sheet Metal Workers Local 33, Local 500, and Local 805 Heat and Frost workers. I do not foresee any of these endorsement present a conflict of interest against the interest of the children and parents that I am elected to represent.
10. Parents today have a plethora of options including private, parochial, charter, virtual and home schooling besides traditional public schools. How are parents to make this decision? And when is the public school option the best choice for parents?
I’m a parent, and I believe that as a parent I want the best education possible for my child like all parents. I believe that TPS provides the best opportunity for my child to receive a quality education. TPS has a negative perception when it comes to addressing parental issues or providing a quality education, and I believe that it is the job of the board and the administration to change that perception and show why Toledo Public Schools is the best choice.