Alfred “Shivy” Brooks with son Christian and wife Crystal. Shivy holds a portrait of his son Bryce, who died last year saving young children from drowning.

Alfred “Shivy” Brooks with son Christian and wife Crystal. Shivy holds a portrait of his son Bryce, who died last year saving young children from drowning.

Credit: Courtesy the Brooks Family

On Jan. 8, 2024, Alfred “Shivy” Brooks was sworn in as the first active teacher elected to the Atlanta Board of Education (ABOE) in Atlanta Public Schools’ 150-year history. Before 2023, a teacher couldn’t serve on the board regardless of where they taught. But now, Brooks, an economics teacher at Charles Drew High School in Clayton County with 13 years of teaching experience, is the District 7 At-Large member. 

Brooks said he hit the ground running focusing on teacher compensation, the hiring of a new superintendent, student nutrition, and more. 

To be given this opportunity is an honor but also a responsibility,” Brooks said. “My ask of the community is just to continue to support our teachers and support the initiatives that we are going to be pushing out to make Atlanta one of the most desirable places to educate a child in America.” 

Brooks is also a dedicated APS parent, coach, and the Georgia NAACP education chair. He and his wife Crystal have a 7-year-old son but lost their 16-year-old son Bryce last April when he was pulled under by an ocean current while saving four children in distress off a Pensacola, Fla., beach. 

Bryce “was the best in what Atlanta Public Schools can produce… an honor roll scholar and a hero… a GOOD friend to ALL,” Brooks posted on Instagram.

To honor Bryce, the family started the Bryce Brooks Foundation to provide college scholarships, free swimming lessons, and lifeguard certifications. 

Bryce’s legacy allows us to really check our biases and see the best in our kids first,” Brooks said, referring to the adultification of Black children that can treat them as a threat or as irredeemable. Adding, “the 6’2” kid with a size 14 shoe, serves as a reminder of how caring, thoughtful and community-minded they are.” 

Brooks also models community engagement through his Georgia NAACP efforts.  

“In 2020, he led a protest and civic engagement called Teachers for Good Trouble where he brought hundreds of teachers to the state capitol to push back on attempts to ban the teaching of African American history and efforts to remove DEI [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion],” said Attorney Gerald Griggs, President of the Georgia NAACP and the Atlanta NAACP chapter. “Now he’s leading the charge at the college level.”

Fittingly, Brooks was appointed to the ABOE Policy Committee.

“He’s going to bring a grassroots level intimate knowledge of what is necessary to turn policy into practice that benefits Atlanta’s school children,” Griggs said. 

On top of his to-do list for 2024 is a teacher compensation plan that addresses the teacher shortage and improves student outcomes. 

“I ran on getting our teacher base salary to $65,000,” Brooks said.  “In some parts of America that’s laughable; in the Southeast, that’s a feat.” He also plans to work on creating affordable housing to help “teachers afford to live in the city that they serve.”

By the end of February, Brooks said the ABOE executive board will begin the process of hiring a new superintendent that will include community engagement. The search for a new leader comes after the board decided not to renew Dr. Lisa Herring’s contract beyond the 2023-24 school year and her early departure to become an advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. 

“The superintendent hire is going to be one of the most important decisions we make this year,” Brooks said.

Less in the limelight, Brooks said he’ll work on the school system’s nutrition plan that shifts from a third-party contract to preparation by APS employees. 

“We have an opportunity to make the food in our schools highly desirable — not just a meal,” Brooks said. “I make it an emphasis because it’s super important to our kids.”

To connect with stakeholders across the district, Brooks is engaging through school visits, town hall meetings alongside other district board members, and social media.

“I am a fan of efficiency,” Brooks said. “My schedule is a little different than other board members because I have to be in my own classroom. I’ve been trying to visit as many schools as possible. With 90,000 followers on Instagram and 65,000 on TikTok, I hear from teachers, administrators, parents, community stakeholders on a regular basis.” 

He’s also a fan of hats. All of his are made by the Black-owned Atlanta-based Fruition Hat Company.

“Most people can’t recognize a school board member, but that’s not true of me,”  Brooks said. 

“Hatting culture is normalized in Black culture. If we look at old photos of Dr. King, Malcom X, or other Black social justice fighters you would often see them outside wearing a brim. It’s become a moniker.” 

The many hats he wears literally and figuratively are celebrated by his students, who just voted him “Most Inspiring Teacher” and “Most Likely to be on the Big Screen” for the yearbook.

“He’s loved by all of his students — past and current,” Griggs said. “He’s a ball of energy. He has a lot of ideas that I think will turn into great policy to help move Atlanta forward.”

This story comes to GPB through a partnership with Rough Draft Atlanta.


An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Logan Ritchie as its author.