Andrew Ziffer

Andrew Ziffer.

Occupation: Real Estate/Information Technology, self-employed; Greenleaf NNN Holdings, Managing Partner

Previous elected offices held: None

Other community service experience: Leadership DeKalb Class of 2020; Peachtree Charter Middle School Foundation Board; Peachtree Gateway Council on Schools Board; Dunwoody Elementary School Principal Advisory Council; Dunwoody Elementary School PTO Board; Springfield Neighborhood Association President; PHACE Syndrome Community, Inc., co-founder and founding Board member (family support non-profit); Georgia Real Estate Investors Association Board

What is motivating you to run for this office?

Schools are the foundation of our community and must be treated as a valued resource. As a decade-long volunteer in DeKalb Schools, I watched leaders fail to make meaningful change for our students. We require a better school system with new and different perspectives. I am ready to face the complex challenges DeKalb Schools face and contribute to successful solutions. Conversations need to change. DeKalb Schools and local communities need to become partners solving our multifaceted problems. We must address priorities such as overcrowding, financial management, organizational culture and long-term planning.

What is the biggest issue facing the school district and how will you address it?

The single biggest issue we face is trust in our school system. We do not have faith that the district is managing money transparently, hiring qualified people and operating effectively. The culture needs to change. My focus is serving students first.

We must have a culture that better serves our students. I will improve policies to place qualified staff in key positions. I will make DeKalb Schools the first choice for teachers and highly qualified administrators. I will champion new levels of financial transparency and lean operations that create new confidence in our school system.

What is the best approach to deal with school overcrowding and how can the school district feasibly pay for it?

Region 1 is projected to need 1,200 middle school and 2,100 high school seats over the next seven years. The proposed elementary school in the Chamblee/Dunwoody area must be built. We need to build schools or add seats to existing schools. Find affordable land or determine adding onto existing schools will serve students better with available tax revenue. The forthcoming Comprehensive Master Plan must have the correct inputs and be followed once complete. Future SPLOST funding and savings from lean operations will fund new projects.

What strengths and weaknesses has the coronavirus pandemic crisis revealed in the school district?

COVID-19 provides an unexpected opportunity for purposeful innovation in DeKalb schools. Strengths: County administration and staff quickly created and executed online learning. We should evaluate how technology and virtual learning can be used to address issues like overcrowding for students that thrive in this environment.

Challenges: Many children are encumbered by lack of access to technology and services and are not having their needs met physically, academically, emotionally, and socially. We must find innovative ways to deliver essential services like meals and academic accommodations to ensure all students’ needs are met.

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John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.