By Harold C. Ford
Adrian Walker, director of community and government affairs for the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, emerged from two rounds of interviews as the Flint school board’s choice to fill a vacant seat on the seven-member panel.
Walker fills a seat left vacant by Anita Moore, who failed to complete certification requirements for board membership after finishing as the second leading vote-getter in the Nov. 2020 election. Walker was chosen from a field of 11 candidates interviewed by the six current members during a special meeting that lasted nearly 3.5 hours on Jan. 15. A twelfth unidentified candidate withdrew from the selection process before the interview session began.
Other candidates who interviewed for the vacant position included Abel Delgado, Ashley Psalms-Harris, Audrey Young, Kasey Calvert, Timothy Abdul-Matin, Alexis Love, Dale Potter, Billie Mitchell, Michael Lynn, and Alec Gibbs. Abdul-Matin and Mitchell had been among twelve candidates vying for three board positions in the Nov. 2020 election.
Thus, Walker becomes the only male on the seven-person panel that includes: Carol McIntosh, president; Vera Perry, vice president; Danielle Green, secretary; Laura MacIntyre, treasurer; Joyce Ellis- McNeal, trustee; and Diana Wright, trustee.
Board officers were chosen two nights earlier on Jan. 13 at the board’s annual organization meeting. The six-year terms of Walker, MacIntyre, and Ellis-McNeal will expire in 2026.
First round of interviews narrowed field to three
All eleven candidates were given the opportunity to answer six questions posed by current board members during the first round of the interview process. The same six questions were put before all candidates in the same order and included:
1. Describe anything in your background that would affect you from qualifying to sit on the Flint
public board of education or would stop you from interacting with students.
2. What do you see as the role of a school board member?
3. At times you may be caught between legitimately opposing points of view. There may be a
difference between your personal point of view and the policy or law you are required to uphold
as a trustee. How will you handle this?
4. What contributions can you make to the school district?
5. What are the challenges facing our school district?
6. What is your understanding of the racial history of the Flint Community Schools and its continuing legacy today?
The responses of all candidates can be heard and/or viewed on YouTube. A link to the recording can also be found at the website of Flint Community Schools (FCS). (As the winning candidate, Walker’s responses will be excerpted and summarized at the end of this article.)
At the end of each individual interview, the board’s current members ranked the candidates from one (lowest) to ten (highest). Thus, a perfect score would be 60. At the first round’s conclusion, the three candidates with the highest scores—Gibbs, 46; Walker, 44; and Mitchell, 42—advanced to the second and final round of interviews.
Walker victorious after second round of questions
Again, Gibbs, Walker, and Mitchell were given the opportunity to respond to six new questions, one posed by each current member of the board. Responses were again rated one (worst) to ten (best).
The questions asked were:
1. What are the biggest challenges facing public education today?
2. In the challenging times that we’re facing this year, why have you decided to be a part of the decision-making process as it pertains to the Flint Board of Education?
3. Working effectively with other school board members and the superintendent requires skills in communication and decision-making. How do you see yourself working with other members of the leadership team? What is your vision for education in this community?
4. What qualities, skills, and experiences would you bring to the board?
5. What do you think are the most important skills for students to have when they graduate?
6. What is your understanding of how funding works for the Flint schools and what your role is in this process?
In the end, Walker won the board seat with a score of 48 to Gibbs’ 41 and Mitchell’s 40. Walker’s wildly divergent scores were notable: his interview performance was rated a perfect 10 by four board members—Ellis-McNeal, McIntosh, Perry, and Wright—while earning only one point from MacIntyre. Green scored his performance a seven.
Promising experience and skillset
After high school graduation in 2005, Walker moved on to Michigan State University (MSU) where he received his bachelor’s degree in political science/pre law, according to the Crim Fitness Foundation’s website where he is a board member
Shortly after graduating from MSU, he joined the staff of U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow. In February of 2015, he returned to Flint to work for Diplomat Pharmacy, Inc. He explained his decision in a YouTube video titled “60 seconds with Adrian Walker”:
“Where did I see myself having the greatest impact? Was it in D.C. where there was a million of me? Or was it back in my hometown community that was experiencing some challenges and needed young people like myself to come back and bring that fresh perspective?”
In 2018, Walker moved on to his current position with the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s website describes his “day-to-day responsibility (as) working with business, federal, state, and local government, and local community representatives (and further includes) lead staff support for the Chamber’s Public Policy Committee…”
The Chamber declares Walker’s “areas of expertise” to include: strategic planning; organizational development; government affairs; public policy advocacy; critical thinking; and relationship building.
Walker’s interview responses
Walker’s responses to the questions (see above) posed during the Jan. 15, 2021 interviews are summarized or excerpted below for interested readers. Readers are reminded that full responses can be heard and/or viewed at the sources noted above.
1. Background disqualifications: None.
2. Board member role: Supervision of the superintendent; monitoring the budget; creating policy.
3. Handling conflicts: “I’ve always veered on the side of the law…”
4. Contributions to FCS: ‘My background is heavy on policy…My main contribution would be that of a lived experience of an African American male who went through the Flint school system, whose mother decided to move me to another school district…”
5. FCS challenges: Fiscal sustainability; decline of student enrollment; closing of buildings.
6. FCS racial history: “It’s personal,” he said, explaining that he attended Pierce Elementary when it was racially diverse and discovered later that students of color were steered to other, less well-funded schools in previous decades that resulted in inequality of educational opportunity.
1. Biggest challenges for public education: Decline of student population that affects budgetary solvency; quality teachers in the classrooms.
2. Motivation to be a board member: He said he was up to the challenge, that his business and policy experience would make him an effective board member.
3. Skills to work with other FCS leaders; and vision: “I’ll be the first one to say we won’t agree on everything, but the one thing I will bring into that decision-making process is accessibility and the ability to communicate.” His vision would include Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s “60 by 30 campaign” that endeavors to have 60 percent of all Michigan residents with a high school diploma or secondary certificate by 2030. “As goes Flint schools, so goes the city of Flint.”
4. Qualities, skill set, experiences: Policy experience gained in working for federal, state, and local government; “lived experience as an African American male”; growing up in a single-parent home. “Unfortunately, we know that that’s a lot of people’s stories in this community both black and white.”
5. Skillset students should have at graduation: “Soft skills…how students present themselves.” A sense of entrepreneurship. Literacy and writing.
6. Understanding of FCS funding and the role of a board member: Funding includes fund balance, revenues, and expenditures. Role is “making sure that everything is balanced” as required by state law.
The responses to East Village Magazine’s (EVM) interview questions asked of the FCS board’s other two newest members—MacIntyre and Ellis-McNeal—can be found in an Oct. 19, 2020 EVM article.
EVM Education Beat reporter, Harold Ford, can be reached at email@example.com.