Georgia SchoolWatch Interviews Superintendent Candidate Kira Willis

Who: Kira Willis
When: Friday (5/9) @ 8:30pm
Where: This Post

Kira Willis grew up in Roswell, Georgia and has lived in Fulton County for more than 40 years. After graduating from Roswell High School, Kira earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Valdosta State University, a Masters in Education from Kennesaw State University and an Educational Specialist certificate in Curriculum and Instruction from Lincoln Memorial University.

Kira began her career as an educator and has taught for over 18 years at Woodland Middle School, Centennial High School, and Roswell High School. She currently works as a Graduation Coach and Response to Intervention (RTI) Coordinator at North Springs Charter High School in Fulton County.

Kira and Todd Willis have been married for seven years. Todd is an assistant principal at Elkins Pointe Middle School in Fulton County. The Willises attend North Point Community Church in Alpharetta and make their home in Roswell with daughter, Harper, age 6; son, Tanner, age 4; and dog, Jerry, age 11.



Filed under Georgia State School Superintendent, Kira Willis

18 responses to “Georgia SchoolWatch Interviews Superintendent Candidate Kira Willis

  1. We are joined by Kira Willis, Georgia State School Superintendent candidate. Please enter your questions as comments. We will hold, collect and moderate the questions as they come in.

    Kira Willis, thank you for taking the time to join us. Please tell us a little about yourself. Have you held an elected office before? Everybody has a story around why they got into politics. What were you doing when you decided to run for State Superintendent?

  2. Good evening, and thank you all for coming to your computers this evening! I tell you, I like this kind of forum the best.
    As you can see from my bio above, I am a mommy, a teacher, and a wife of a teacher. My mother is a retired educator.
    I actually ran for office in 2010 for Sate School Superintendent for the same reasons that I am running now: I believe that Georgia can do better, that our students deserve better, and that our teachers must be treated better for our educational system to thrive.
    Actually, my story is not all that exciting. I was eating dinner with my family, and my then 6 month old son was throwing rice cereal around, and I was complaining, as teachers are wont to do. My husband got tired of hearing me apparently, and said, “Put up or $hut up, sister.” So I decided to run for state office.

  3. South Georgia Mom

    What is your stance on Common Core?

  4. Well, that is a loaded question these days. Common Core (CC) is a reaction against federal intrusion on states via No Child Left Behind. It began under Governor Perdue and the The Republican Governors Association; it then went to the National Governors Association; it was then vetted through The Association of State School Officials.
    It is not a federal mandate. It is a system where states can opt in. Georgia chose to be one of those states. It was not done in a duplicitous manner; Georgia Code is clear that the legislature was to leave the adoption to the State Board of Education.
    All of that said, I am in favor of a set of standards so that our children can move from one part of the country to the next in a seamless manner.
    I have some students who, as seniors, moved to Georgia, and are not graduating because our requirements are different than their home states’. I have students who are coming as seniors who need to take specific tests when that state window in Georgia has passed.
    I also believe that because the SAT, the ACT, the ITBS, and the International Baccalaureate Curriculums have been aligned to CC, it would be irresponsible to move away from the standards. We can’t keep changing these standards on our children because, in the end, they are the ones who lose.

  5. So, moving away from Common Core would be very painful. Would it be better to retain local control in the long run?

  6. Are we talking states’ rights local control, or are we discussing local county local control? I believe both are equally crucial to our society and our culture.
    Please remember that standards don’t equal curriculum.
    I often give a quick primer for CC vs. curriculum:
    Standards are what we want our students to know.
    Curriculum is what we teach in order for our students to reach the standards.
    Instruction is how we teach the curriculum to reach the standards.
    I believe that each community knows what curriculum is best for its students. Having a set of books and lock step curricula is not in the best interest of our children.
    Having federal mandates is also detrimental.
    Again, though, this was not something that was forced upon Georgia. It was something that was introduced and welcomed by the educational establishment (for lack of a better word) when Kathy Cox was in office here in Georgia.

  7. As a teacher, I remember the onset of GPS. I was scrambling, trying to find good, solid curriculum that would align with our standards. Then I found out that CC was in the works, and I panicked! It takes a LONG time to find curricula to match student ability and interest to a standard, especially as an English teacher. Changing again would set our teachers back a couple of years. Changing again would hurt our students.

  8. State control or local county control … great question! Which is better? Would you like to see the state cede control of standards to the local county?

  9. I think that both have their place, and both places are important.
    I am not interested in the state dictating to me how I teach my students, what I teach my students, or how much seat time I need for each child. Do we really need a set of state approved novels? Do we really need to say that every child MUST take on line courses? And state funding is quite another box for responses.
    Fulton County has done a wonderful job of affording its local schools control of their funds because the local communities know how to best serve students. Each school and school community has its own culture, its own mores and its own values.
    I say that, though, understanding that if we have 180 different standards, 180 different graduation requirements, and 180 different grading scales, that, given our transient society, we are setting our students up to fail.
    As adults, we have to remember, that this is not about us; this is about our children and ensuring that we do right by them.

  10. Stephen Miller

    QBE – Most people agree the formula for funding the school systems must be changed. What don’t you like about the QBE formula?

  11. The Quality Basic Education Formula (QBE) came about when I was a junior in high school. I am now 45 years old. To say that it is antiquated is an understatement (not that I am antiquated, mind you).
    It was never fully funded; I don’t think that anyone ever meant for it to be fully funded if, at its inception, it was lacking in dollars.
    It is not “user friendly”. It is too complex for most people. Teachers don’t understand it; I’m not sure that the folks at the Gold Dome understand it.
    What I propose is assigning a per pupil amount for each child, much like Florida. Regular education, special needs, including gifted students, medically fragile students, and all of the children in between would be assigned a dollar amount.
    This would also open up true school choice, which, to me, is crucial to all of our students’ success. We must allow them to follow their passion and their promise.
    I have two children. I can’t think of two kids who are more different, and they came from the same mom and dad. They came from the same environment growing up. They are different genders; they are salt and pepper in appearance; their interests are at far ends of the spectrum, as are their abilities. If this can come from two siblings who may or may not thrive in the local school, then we, as a society, need to be able to afford those children the ability to find that passion, to find that promise so that they can be successful in school and in life. Not every school can be everything to everyone. That is the beauty of school choice.
    Revamping QBE will kill two birds with one stone.

  12. I’m slightly confused. You said , “Standards are what we want our students to know.”

    Then “I am not interested in the state dictating to me … what I teach my students”

    Are you saying the state should or should not dictate the standards?

  13. Sorry. Good call. Let me clarify.
    When I say “what I teach my students”, I mean curriculum. I am not interested in a state set of approved books, novels, or historical pieces for me to teach my children the standards.
    If I am in a community where a certain novel or poem would be appropriate or welcome, and it fits in with the child’s ability and interest, then I shouldn’t have to check with a state approved list.
    Saying that students should be able to identify tone and voice in a written piece is a standard. Choosing the piece to identify the tone and voice is the local job.
    Saying that all students should be able to distinguish between gerunds and participles would be the standard; choosing the sentences and grammar books to teach verbals should lie on the local school’s shoulders.

  14. FJ

    Georgia’s Department of Education is a multi billion dollar department. It is effectively a Fortune 50 company. Why are you qualified to be CEO of this Fortune 50 company?

  15. I am not the CEO of this company; that is the job of the Governor. Nor am I CFO of this company; that is the legislature.
    The State School Superintendent is, if we should go with the analogy of business, the Director of HR. Someone said that she should at least be the COO, which I would also agree with.
    The bottom line is that the State School Superintendent has an obligation to work under the governor’s vision of education, through the legislative dollars for education, and with the State Department of Education and the local school systems to ensure that we are all:
    A. On the same page for our kids.
    B. Doing what is right by our kids.
    C. Working together to further the educational system of Georgia.
    Make no mistake that I am a bulldog when it comes to the students of our state. But making enemies at the beginning of the primaries will benefit no one, least of all our 1.6 million children in Georgia.
    Back to your question.
    I have made no bones about the fact that I am not a mathematician. I am, however, a people person. I am a teacher. I understand education from the bottom up, and I can ensure that we do right by our kids.
    We already have a department of folks to oversee the budget. What we need is an educational leader.

  16. Ms. Willis,
    Thank you for joining us this evening. It’s 11 days until the primary, so I know you’re busy.

    Do you have any upcoming public events that you would like to tell us about?

    Good luck on May 20th!!

  17. My next public event will be tomorrow! I will be cheering on my daughter at softball at 9 am.

  18. Thank you for having me this evening. It was a pleasure to be here.