QUESTION: You are asking to be hired (or rehired) by the voters of this county. Give five reasons why they should vote for you and not your opponent.
Five reasons why I should be re-elected.
1. Culture of Innovation — We have fostered an environment that is welcoming of new ideas. The School Board is no longer a place where good ideas go to die.
The FCBOE is winning national and state recognition for our Community of Creativity at Rising Starr Middle School and Flat Rock Middle School. The Georgia School Board Association gave us a Leading Edge award for the groundbreaking work at Rising Starr. We are expanding the program to Peeples’ Elementary School.
We also pioneered a Dramatic Screenwriting Class as we expand our partnership with the Georgia Film Academy and the movie industry.
Sandy Creek High School is starting an International Baccalaureate program and Starr’s Mill High School is adding an Aviation pathway. We have also added foreign languages to elementary schools.
2. Social and Emotional Well Being of Students — It is no secret that anxiety among teens is on the rise. Our community has suffered the tragedy of teen suicides. We want to make sure that every student has a relationship with a caring adult in the building.
It is hard for students to be academically successful when they are dealing with trauma and other issues. We have expanded resources for students and staff. I think the work is beginning to pay off. 22 of our 24 schools have a five-star climate rating and the other two schools have a four-star rating. This is a vast improvement from 3 years ago. Our academics continue to be strong with US News & World Report recognizing all five our high schools as Rigorous High Schools.
3. Taking Care of Teachers — I promised four years to help recruit and retain quality teachers.
I lead the initiative to improve the retirement plan for our teachers and staff.
Employees were paying 2.8 to 3% in annual fees to be in annuities. We drove a hard bargain with our plan provider and switched out the annuities with Vanguard funds. This dropped what teachers were paying from that 3% to 0.33% on average. This is a huge savings and will greatly improve their life in retirement.
4. The School Board — I am proud of the work this School Board has accomplished. We were a finalist for the Georgia School Board Association’s Governance Team of the Year last year. GSBA has also recognized us as an Exemplary Board the past few years. The bickering and backbiting of past Boards is non-existent. When we have disagreements, we handle them professionally. I am proud of my colleagues that disagreement on one issue does not carry over into another issue. I also think my fellow Board members put the interests of students first.
5. Finance — The school system is in good shape financially. We have a Aa2 credit rating from Moody’s and clean audits every year by an outside firm. The Board has 24 million dollars in a strategic reserve and we are currently running about 6 millions dollars under our current budget.
We are in a strong position to weather the coming financial storm. As we make tough decisions, I will work to ensure that we remain a high-achieving school district.
QUESTION: How are you different from your opponent in your philosophy and your approach to this elected office?
My philosophy can be summed up in the Ian Jukes quote that “we need to prepare student for their future, and not our past.” My two daughters attend McIntosh High School so I have skin in the game. One of the big issues we are facing right now is Covid-19 and reopening school in the fall.
I want to be clear about two things. 1) Keeping students and staff safe will always be our top priority. We will take every prudent precaution to keep people safe. As I said, my own children will be in the buildings. 2) Parents will have an opportunity to give input as we formulate our plans. FCBOE has already sent out one survey.
I think I serve our community well by taking a balanced approach. I put students first and try and make decisions based on what is best for the long term, not what is politically expedient. Consistent and stable leadership is important in these uncertain times. With budget cuts on the horizon and a superintendent search underway, now is not the time to change direction.
It is an honor to be the current Chair of the Fayette County Board of Education and I ask for your vote again.
Chair, Fayette Board of Education