LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. – Taifa Butler is current Director of Policy and Communications at Georgia Family Connection Partnership. Taifa is primarily responsible for directing the Partnership’s policy and communications efforts to promote the strategic work of Georgia Family Connection. She also co-manages the Georgia KIDS COUNT project. Taifa is a candidate for Henry County’s Board of Education 4th District for the coming general election on November 2, 2010. Taifa is serving as secretary on the education committee of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce and as past board treasurer and president of Chosen Heirs, Inc.
Today, we will meet the woman behind the vision.
ASSOCIATED CONTENT: Good afternoon Taifa. How are you today?
TAIFA BUTLER: Good afternoon. I am doing very well. I am excited about the attention education is getting right now. The time is ripe for us to make changes that will benefit our students.
AC: Taifa, can you give our readers a little information about your background in education?
TB: Sure. I don’t have a background in education, per se. I have spent more than 10 years working in the policy arena focused on improving health and education for children. Part of my work has been researching and sharing best practices that work to improve health and education with parents, communities, and policymakers. That’s my connection to education.
AC: I understand you are running for Henry County’s Board of Education for the 4th District. What prompted you to run?
TB: In 2009, I was an education policy fellow and spent nine months with some of the brightest professionals around the state examining all aspects of education policy. As we discussed challenges, I was motivated to be a part of the solution. Immediately I started attending our local board meetings-for more than a year now-and I realized that the system was doing some good things. I was disappointed with the lack of leadership in my district. That compelled me to run.
AC: How important is it that parents get involved in their children’s education?
TB: Education begins at home. Parents are the child’s first teacher. From day one, we must spend time bonding, reading, talking, and giving children enriching experiences to help them explore and learn. From birth to age 3, children are experiencing critical early brain development and everything we do with them impacts their growth and brain development. We have to lay a solid foundation. We have just 2,000 days to get it right. If we don’t, children won’t enter school ready to learn. In school, parents must work in partnership with the teachers to support the students. We often look for educators to “instill a love of learning” in children, but that ‘love of learning’ must be supported and fostered at home. Educators cannot do it alone. I’ll stop there because I could go one. It is vital that parents BE involved in their child’s education at home, in school, and the system overall.
AC: What is one of the major issues with the Henry County Board of Education that you see in the 4th District?
TB: The thrust of this campaign is “Connecting Community Voices to Improve Education.” One of the major issues I saw was the lack of community engagement. As a mother, I did not feel engaged or informed about what was going on at the system level that impacted my child’s education. Secondly, when parents complained that the board wasn’t responsive to their concerns, I found that to be unacceptable.
AC: How would you implement change regarding that issue?
TB: Community engagement cannot be passive. The system reaches out to the Chamber and businesses well, but neglects to fully engage educators, parents and the community at-large. Educators and parents can provide input in the decision-making of the board, perhaps in the form of an advisory council. If we keep student achievement in the forefront, we need leaders that will monitor and track our success, but also sound the alarm when things are not working and we need to make adjustments. The State Board of Education just implemented a parent advisory council. Our schools have councils. The district should model that same level of partnership and engagement so that they can make more informed decisions. Other ideas would be to implement a communications and engagement plan that would specify strategies for improving community engagement, i.e. host more public forums at the school setting, create more opportunity to target public participation, and use technology more effectively and creatively.
AC: Where can people connect with you to volunteer for your campaign?
TB: We would love volunteers to join our campaign. People can visit our campaign Web site, www.taifa4henryschools.com, and click Volunteer to sign up. You can also send me an email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AC: Can you tell Henry County Residents when the election takes place and why they should vote for Taifa S. Butler?
TB: The general election is Tuesday, November 2, 2010. People should vote for me because I am the right leader for the job. The educational system is facing major challenges and we cannot continue doing business the same way. We need new leaders on the board that have relative experience and a track record of working on these issues. I’ve been doing this work everyday for more than 10 years. I am a results-oriented leader focused on what’s best for children and advocating for parents and communities to be engaged in the decision-making process. With my leadership in District 4, we can overcome the challenges facing education together and “ensure success for every child.” I pray the citizens of Henry will give me the chance to serve.
AC: Thanks so much for your time today Taifa and I believe you are doing a great work in the Henry County Community. I wish you great success with your campaign.
TB: Thank you. And, thank you Yahoo for allowing me to share my vision and ideas for improving education in Henry County.