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Matt Westmoreland: From APS Teacher to School Board Candidate

History teacher at Carver Early College and product of an APS education, Westmoreland says instilling success across all schools and having students meet or exceed expectations is not impossible.

As an honors student at Grady High School, Matt Westmoreland was struck by the racial differences at his school.

Though a racially mixed school, he was cognizant of the divide, be it the racial homogeny of his honors classes compared with the non-honors courses or even the social interactions where white students mostly hung out in one area and black students in another.

"While it was an amazing four years, I think the problems that plagued Grady are similar to the ones that we face in the city that I've called home my entire life," the Princeton University graduate told a group of Atlanta Public Schools valedictorians and salutatorians in a 2011 speech.

He urged them to give to their communities. "Don't forget about home," he said at the time. "Don't forget about what needs to be done here."

It's that philosophy that he said underscored his becoming a history teacher at Carver Early College three years ago.

Now, the Morningside resident is looking to harness that focus by running for the Atlanta Public Schools Board District 3.

That seat is held by Cecily Harsch-Kinane, who has already said she is she won't seek another term.

"Every child in our city deserves an excellent education that's going to open real opportunity and choice in life," Westmoreland told East Atlanta Patch. "I got an excellent education in my time at Atlanta Public Schools, but I recognize not every student has that opportunity."

His candidacy for District 3, which includes East Lake, East Atlanta, Virginia-Highland, Morningside and portions of Midtown, seeks to do just that, he said.

A graduate of the cluster that includes Morningside Elementary, Inman Middle and Grady, and now as a teacher, Westmoreland said he has the perspective of seeing from both sides what is needed in bringing about change to reduce the achievement gap and the unevenness in schools' academic performance across the city.

If elected, he would join Courtney D. English, an at-large school board member who was a teacher in the district and a graduate of its schools.

A 2006 graduate of Grady, Westmoreland originally planned a career in law.

But he ended up as part of the Teach for America corps, which places recent graduates in schools that have a need for that kind of human capital for a two-year period.

Westmoreland stayed on beyond the two-year commitment, now in his third year as a history teacher at Carver.

He recently sat down with Patch to discuss his candidacy and reasons for running.

Please click on the accompanying video to hear portions of that interview.

JM Hurricane February 06, 2013 at 01:07 PM
Very heartwarming story and a very noble occupation, however, take that Princeton degree and run. Go back to law school, work in an ivory tower, make multi-millions then donate to your heartfelt causes including pro bono work for the poor. You're too talented for the APS its corruption and incompetence. Frankly, you'll be wasting your time. I know, I know you're the one to change all that. Until out-of-wedlock births, felony convictions, gang activity, youth unemployment, fatherless homes get fathers and overall thuggery decreases in Atlanta you'll be banging your head against a brick wall for decades.
vh3 February 06, 2013 at 01:21 PM
Would love to see someone - maybe Mr. Westmoreland - in this role who would actually DO SOMETHING for our communities. Our current board member is completely ineffective and has done absolutely nothing to help our local schools or communities. For a start, maybe you could take on the perpetual overcrowding in our schools, get the kids out of trailers at Inman, actually enforce getting the out-of-zone kids out of Grady, and work towards breaking down the ridiculous Grady cluster that sends more kids to Inman and Grady than could ever possibly fit there. If you are up for all that - wonderful. If that's too much for you, then maybe think again about running. We need some action for a change.
Tim February 06, 2013 at 02:34 PM
Great to see someoone actually working for a positive change, not just complaining. Good luck to you!
Barbara Baggerman February 06, 2013 at 05:15 PM
An outstanding kid when at Inman and Grady; teachers said he'd be president someday. Thank you for your service to our schools; thank you for not becoming yet another lawyer; thank you for your willingness to address overwhelming problems in the face of a discouraging socio-political environment; may you have much success in these efforts. And may every member of the City Council recognize that Atlanta needs to spend its money on good teachers like this (as well as our other dire infrastructure needs), NOT on an unnecessary and unwanted new football stadium, and vote accordingly.
Walt February 07, 2013 at 10:59 PM
I've had the privilege of watching Mr. Westmoreland teach at Carver. His classroom is outstanding. It is clear that "Mr. Wes" (as his students call him) has created a classroom environment where students are passionate about their own education, something that is too often lacking in our schools. Mr. Westmoreland will bring enthusiasm, passion, and a much needed perspective to the APS School Board. I'm thrilled that he's running.

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