Jana Johnson-Davis elected and sworn in as school board member

Johnson-Davis adds that “there were members of the community who initially planted the seeds in terms of suggesting that I should run.”

On Nov. 12, Jana Johnson-Davis was sworn in as the new school board member, replacing six year board member Annie Caiola, who announced her resignation with 29 months left in her second term.

Though Johnson-Davis did not anticipate running for school board following Caiola’s resignation, she felt as if it were a “very natural progression once I started thinking about my experiences.”

According to Johnson-Davis, her involvement in the community as a teacher at Renfroe and a member and co-founder of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance heavily influenced the decision to run. They gave her the outlook and skills she believes are necessary for the job. 

“[I ran] because I really wanted to continue to make a difference in the lives of the children in the City of Decatur. I loved being a classroom teacher. It was a difficult decision to leave, and I had really been trying to figure out how to remain connected. So when Annie Caiola decided to resign, it seemed like divine timing.”   

Immediately after she made the decision to run, Johnson-Davis built up her platform and name with the goal to “hopefully dissuade opposition.”  She did this through a campiagn kickoff in August, setting up a website and soliciting donations for her compaign. 

Though Johnson-Davis ultimately ran unopposed, she gladly accepted opportunities to speak to the community, such as through the Decatur Business Association (DBA), Decatur Bulldog Athletic Booster Club (DBB) and Westchester’s PTA meetings in order to show her intent to be involved in the community. 

Johnson-Davis also sponsored the Renfroe club Young Ladies of Excellence for six years, and credits the relationships she forged with students as her motivators. She is “always thinking about…what their experiences are like in the district.”  

Once in office, Johnson-Davis plans to prioritize equitable policy.

“The system has acknowledged that we do have a discipline disproportionality issue and an achievement gap and I have a background in special ed so I know how different

groups of students can get marginalized because of others perceptions or biases about different groups of people,” Johnson-Davis said. “So I want to make sure that we are always looking through an equity lens as we set policies for the district.”

Johnson-Davis acknowledges that this is not something she can achieve independently, and wants to make herself easily accessible to members of the community to express their concerns or share success stories about the district.

“As I hear about those stories, I will share them with my fellow board members and then I will always be looking for practical solutions to how we can solve some of our challenges,” Johnson-Davis said. “So I think listening and then looking for solutions is how I will attempt to make a difference as a school board member.”

In addition to utilizing her platform to better hear the community, Johnson-Davis believes it is important to be informed on how other schools, with similar challenges to Decatur, are experiencing success. 

“[Decatur should] stay educated about research and evidence based practices that are working in other places and how we can facilitate and implement those practices in the district,” Johnson-Davis said.

Decatur is special to Johnson-Davis not only because her family has made a home there and her kids attended CSD schools, but also due to her relationship with Mayor Elizabeth Wilson, Decatur’s first and only black mayor.

“She’s 88 and still actively involved in the community. She has a lot of historic firsts in addition to being the first black mayor, but she fought to desegregate the schools here in the City of Decatur. Looking at her legacy and seeing how she continues to work in the community has been really inspiring for me, so she was another big influence in me running,” Johnson-Davis said. 

Ultimately, Johnson-Davis cites her “desire to maintain a relationship and continue to make positive changes in the district” as what led her to run for school board.