Opinion | School board candidate Michael Atkinson: Student performance, fiscal responsibility are paramount

Michael Atkinson
School board candidate
Michael Atkinson/Courtesy photo
Michael Atkinson is running for a Summit Board of Education seat on Nov. 7.
Michael Atkinson/Courtesy photo

My wife Carolyn and I moved to Summit County in January 1988, and I have loved serving the people of Summit County for 35 years as the pastor of The Church at Agape Outpost. Our two children were raised in Summit County and attended Summit High School. Over these years, my wife and I have engaged regularly in a variety of local volunteer, counseling and service opportunities. 

Occupation: Senior pastor at The Church at Agape Outpost, January 1988 to present.

Years in Summit County: 35 years.

Family: Wife, Carolyn; married since January 1982. Two children attended Summit High School.

Civic involvement: Locally: provided food, showers, laundry for those without housing during the COVID-19 shutdown; provide counseling for couples, families, and at-risk individuals; regularly house at risk people; provide financial resources to people for food, fuel, rent, clothing; provide for Latino church and benevolence ministry. Internationally: helped build housing and hospitals in Central America and provided medical supplies to several countries.

I come from a military family. My dad was a master chief in the U.S. Navy. Several of his brothers were also career military members. My parents instilled in my sisters and brother and me a love for America and a love for learning as well as for serving the world and our communities. My sister Sandy is a retired, award-winning middle school math teacher. My sister Beki was a decorated U.S. Marine. My brother Jim is an author who developed after-school youth programs and training used by the U.S. military and school systems across the United States. 

I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in 1981, Master of Divinity in 1987 and  Doctor of Ministry in 2009. I have counseled troubled youth at the Orlando Juvenile Detention Center, and I was a high school youth counselor in Orlando, Florida. I have counseled individuals, couples, and families for many years. I have also counseled inmates for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. 

During my career, I have had the opportunity to serve around the world, traveling to 32 countries including Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. I have helped build hospitals and housing in third-world countries  as well as training pastors and teachers. As a result of my international experiences, I gained an even greater love and respect for the United States and our founding principles of equality, freedom and opportunity. I  am committed to serving my community and especially the next generation. 

I am concerned about Summit School District’s declining test scores. Our children’s and community’s future are in the balance! We cannot let them down by continuing in this direction! It is not acceptable that a school district with the financial resources and dedicated teachers that we have is failing our children! Test scores have been falling since 2014 and are near their lowest point ever today. We need to ask some hard questions and make wise decisions about what needs to change. The effective teachers can become models and coaches for those who are struggling. I would also challenge members of the community to serve as volunteers to work with struggling students as well as to assist teachers in order to maximize their instructional time. 

Priority No. 1

Academics and performance. The schools must teach students the academic foundations needed to achieve economic freedom and how to think critically for themselves. Eight years of decline must be  reversed for our kids to succeed. I would make sure the entire district gets back to academic basics. I would make sure that teachers have sufficient training, materials and support to accomplish this vital task. 

Priority No. 2

Budget, investment and fiscal responsibility, investing in our students and teachers. I would eliminate spending that does not directly support teachers and help students to learn. Teaching staff would take  budget priority over other positions and expenses. 

Priority No. 3

Children and parents. My goal is to serve the children and their parents as the top priority. All staff would support families. I would honor parental rights and values, being extremely conscious of the line between educating and raising children. The schools will not keep any information about students from their parents. Families’ values will be honored over social and political agendas.

Michael Atkinson is a candidate for Summit School District’s board of education. For more election coverage, visit

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