Strong Leadership for Tough Times: Former Board of Education Member Speaks Out

Dr. Steven Lee, former Atlanta Board of Education, is the founder of the Unity Network and Counseling Center (UNCC). The 22-year-old non-profit organization is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Steven is planning to continue his work through the UNCC programs beginning January 2018 when his term on the school board comes to an end. These programs will be centered on college and career training for youth and young adults in Atlanta. Steven shares reflections on his tenure as a School Board member in Atlanta.

Successes as a Board Member

  • Exposure to colleges and career readiness/on site job training for students and parents of District 5
  • Student engagement with ABOE District 5 rep
  • 243 students from District 5 to go to college (the lower 10%). Some of the students have already graduated from college!
  • Community engagement
  • Family engagement

Challenges as a Board Member

  1.  I came onto the Board thinking it was all about the childrenComing onto the Board with a perception that change would be student centered and focused. This was not the case. Coming onto the Board and seeing the actual work was challenging.
  2. Reading initiatives and support with getting over 60% of children on grade level. Too much money was spent on expensive programs that haven’t proven to be effective. I believe in reading because it is fundamental to the success of our children.
  3. Policies that didn’t make progress for children.

Highlights as a Board Member

The biggest highlights of my tenure are West End Academy and Alonzo Crim; because every child deserves a chance. Supporting these two alternative programs made the work worth it. It was an honor highlighting these students successes and providing experiences for them to gain access to success pathways. Focusing on students, especially those who don’t receive the support that they need, ranks highly among my highlights as serving on the ABOE.

A Charge to District 5 and Atlanta Communities

Continue to stand in the gap for children and families. Ensure the needs of the children, families and communities come before those who already have. Do not leave the least of them behind in the changes ahead. Do what’s best for all children at all times. Keep the traditions and legacy of what we’ve built going for the students to succeed. Churches, continue having community festivals for families and providing resources to our schools for families in need. Fraternities and sororities, continue to speak at our Career Weeks, assembly programs and providing mentoring support for our children. Non profit and community organizations, continue to advocate, be the focus for the many diverse groups of people represented in our historic community. Most importantly, continue to let every voice be heard and stand together.

What’s Next

Steven plans to revamp his programs through UNCC that supports inner city youth and families between 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. He is taking lessons learned from being a school board member and doing the ground level work. He believes that with effective collaboration between county commissioners, city council, school board members and community leaders, school can improve. Continuing to provide resources for Atlanta kids and families in need is top priority. His continual work with the Masonics, NPU leaders, his community and other non profits such as Lillie’s Foundation that supports Atlanta grandparents raising school aged children. Many of these families reside in Lee’s former District.

Additionally, Steven plans to continue his work with supporting male engagement. During his tenure, Steven was a strong advocate for engagement amongst families, communities, students and also Black men. Steven learned through working with the family engagement that black male teachers, role models, fathers, big brothers and mentors helped turn around the academic and social success of Black children. UNCC will be developing a program that supports work around disabling the school to prison pipeline for black boys and men. We cannot keep focusing solely on our boys and not ensuring our Black men are empowered, engaged, affirmed and healed in the process too.