Hussein K. Dido wants the best education for his children, as most parents do. Coming from a private school background, the Norcross resident doesn't believe the public schools in his area possess it, however.
"I wanted to enroll my kids into public school, but before I did that, I did a little bit of research," he said. "I found out that public school is really lagging behind private schools, big time."
He was appalled in some of the statistics he saw, including the fact that institutions such as Meadowcreek and Norcross high schools have graduation rates that are less than 60 percent, so he decided to take the plunge in trying to improve the school system himself.
Dido has decided to run for the Republican seat for District 5 in the upcoming November election. The district covers Norcross schools such as , , and , and also some in Duluth, too. Incumbent , who's been on the Gwinnett school board for nearly 40 years, will be running for the same seat as a Democrat after switching from being a long-time Republican.
Dido is currently an administrative fellow at Emory University's School of Medicine in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences, but he has a professional background in schooling. At Dar-Un-Noor Academy, an Atlanta private school where his children attend, he served as an assistant principal for five years and taught foreign language, math and social studies for the 10 years before that. He still resides on the school's board of education, in addition to being on the board for the Oakhurst Medical Center and other organizations.
As a Kenya native, Dido has a master's degree in public health and a second master's in international affairs and politics. He moved to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia in 1995 through a diversity program, landed in the Atlanta area in 1996, and finally settled in Norcross in 1997.
For his campaign, Dido talks about three major goals he would aim to accomplish as the District 5 chairman: accountability, accessibility, and safety and security.
On his website under the accountability description, Dido wishes to "set high academic measurable standards, provide/allocate necessary resources to achieve these standards, monitor the return on investments by using data, and engage District 5 residents in the process and share with them the progress reports."
For data, Dido gave an example of administering a pretest for students at the beginning of the school year so that teachers can focus on the children's weaknesses and know their strengths before classes start.
"That way, we know how to focus on each individual child," he said, adding that teachers would be accounted for improving every student's progress through specific numbers. A specific percentage goal increase would be set for every student in order to better manage that child's progress.
He believes the school isn't doing enough monitoring through this type of data, which is one of the main reasons why District 5 students aren't doing as well overall.
"Right now, [students] go to class, everybody takes a test, some fail, some pass, and you move on until the child is about to graduate, and they drop out and become a burden to society," he said.
In terms of accessibility, Dido wants all necessary books, technology and resources available to students in order to provide the best education possible. He doesn't think there are enough parents and school members who go out of their way to approach the other, so he aims to make all parties aware of the possible relationship.
Providing accessibility to every student to make sure he or she succeeds sounds like it would cost the county funds it doesn't have, but Dido assured that the budget is not an issue.
"I get that question a lot, but it's not about money. It's about intention," he said. "Are you really there to help the kids, or are you there to collect funds? How many board of education [members] went to the community and said, 'We need volunteers'? We don't know, and that's the point. There are so many people willing to help, so many parents, retired people, who are willing to volunteer in tutoring, in making sure the environment is safe and making sure they can provide minor things. We haven't used all our resources that [are] free to us."
"There is a management problem and willingness, and the sincerity isn't there," he added.
When it boils down to it, Dido believes something in District 5 schools needs to change, and that includes its current board member.
"If Louise Radloff did not change anything in 40 years, are we expecting her to change anything in the next four years? Absolutely not," he said. "If she's confident enough about her work, she would not have switched parties. She is not loyal or honest, because [she ran] 39 years as a Republican, and when they changed the district boundaries, all of the sudden, she's a Democrat. This is misleading the community."
Do you agree with Hussein K. Dido's views on the area's schools? Do you plan on voting for Dido or Louise Radloff in the upcoming November election for GCPS's District 5 school board seat? Tell us in the comments.