No good choice in GOP school board primary contest



Last week I gave a general overview of the coming elections for our Fayette County School Board. While we have time to discuss the November general elections, there is a Republican primary between Anne Menaldo and incumbent FCBOE Chairman Scott Hollowell on Tuesday, May 21 with early voting ongoing.

While we are familiar with Mr. Hollowell, I reached out to Ms. Menaldo to find out what she offers to bring to our FCBOE. At this writing she has not responded. In good faith, I searched the internet and social media for any information I could find.

In a broad name search I found a Menaldo vote information card on someone else’s Facebook post. She is a retired teacher from Santa Ana, California who promotes four campaign goals.

• Uphold and promote traditional family values

• Improve community input to the Board of Education

• Enhance transparency of current curriculum and material that is being considered and adopted

• Elevate recognition of outstanding students, teachers, and programs in our Schools

Mr. Hollowell put out a Facebook post announcing his desire for reelection.

He says his focus will remain on student achievement and graduating productive citizens. He points to some system achievements during his tenure which include:

• SAT scores which are 2nd highest mean score in the state among systems of 600 test takers

• All five high schools named to the state AP honor roll

• Innovation of the “Food Forrest” a fully organic quarter acre working garden.

While I recommend each voter research the candidates and form their own opinion. I am honestly nonplussed by either.

While Fayette County Public Schools is a school system with a record of high achievement, we are a system with a large array of talents, different demographics, needs, and differing performance among approximately 20,000 students. While our schools have recorded great results, they face challenges which neither candidate addresses whether out of choice or ignorance.

It would be easy to vote against the incumbent after seventy of the seventy-three staff reduction the FCBOE recently announced. With costs rising with inflation, it is not yet clear, if we will have a second-round next year. Thinking the voters will reverse the three percent property tax restriction seems wishful at best now that the Georgia legislature has passed the same bill across the entire state.

I wrote last week that I ran against Mr. Hollowell in 2020. I did not run against him because I craved power or did not like him (he is a good man), but rather because of his decision to take the over forty million dollars to build a new Booth Middle from the ESPLOST III while not sharing his intentions with the public before the ESPLOST vote.

Reasonable people will say the vote by the public to limit the growth if FCBOE funds with the new homestead exemption is a result of the Booth decision. I know that’s why I voted for it.

I want to say that given the great results of our wonderful Fayette County Public Schools, that we should vote for all our incumbents. However, I can’t.

The decision to reduce 70 school-based positions while preserving the central office after several months of analyzing the problem, reflects poorly. I think each voter needs to answer their own questions. Only two districts, Hollowell (parts of Peachtree City) and Hough (north Peachtree City and Tyrone) will get to vote on two seats.

The third seat is Brian Anderson who serves the whole county and has served well. The entire county will get a chance to decide on Anderson.

However, the fact that Ms. Menaldo does not have apparent familiarity with our excellent Fayette County Public Schools, and I cannot readily find a trail or trace of her attempts to present her candidacy to the public at large which gives me great pause and does not offer any more transparency then we already have.

As a refugee of Clayton County, I have seen what happens when people are voted to the school board because they are not the incumbent.

Therefore, the best I can do is offer no recommendation or endorsement because my own decision is likely going to be made at the last second as I continue to pray for guidance.

[Neil Sullivan is a finance/accounting executive and CPA. He has lived in Peachtree City over 20 years with his wife Jennifer, a Fayette County History teacher and son Jackson, a students at Erskine College. He has been active in public school related issues in Fayette County, leading three E-SPLOST initiatives as chairman of Fayette Citizens for Children. He has appeared previously on these pages in letters to the editor.]


  1. I have been to a couple events where Mrs Menaldo has spoken. I am impressed with her teaching background and her work since moving here as a substitute teacher. Coming from CA she has seen what happens when parents are related to unwelcome advisors rather than integral and essential to the education process and her desire seems to be to ensure the national trends against parents do not creep in here. With men like Randy Hough I know we have ah good sentinel on the wall but I think Mrs Menaldo represents a much stronger position than Mr Howell.

    She is very focused on educational excellence and concerned about all the extraneous requirements being required in the teaching day crowding for education.

    I was impressed and will be voting for her.

  2. Mr. Sullivan – what makes for a good school board candidate? Asking because I feel like the school board is often overlooked from the “important” roles in serving….but in reality controls a large part of the county’s tax intake. What all does the school board do – what decisions do they make vs. what decisions does the administration make. Who’s been some of the best / not best (trying to be nice) members recently, and why? It feels like more people need to take an interest in the FCBOE but not sure many know much about it – me included.

    • Hi Wing t

      Thanks for the idea for the next article. I will focus on what I found best about some past and present. In my opinion, the school board is like any good meal where the right ingredients in the right proportions make the best boards. Too much of one or the other and we have problems.

      My goal with these articles is too pass along what I have learned. 15 years worth.

  3. Neil – thanks for the update on the Fayette Board candidates in the current primary. I too have not been able to track down much information on the candidates.

    Neither candidate has completed a survey on Hollowell links to the Facebook page you mentioned (worthless to those who don’t do Facebook), but Menaldo hasn’t even gone that far.

    I am also suspicious of the Board’s decision to retain highly-paid central staff at the expense of teachers and support without a clear explanation for taxpayers. Hollowell should be explaining the rationale, or some voters will just vote to boot the incumbent (him) without knowing much about the challenger.

    Hopefully both will see your letter and write one of their own to give us some insight into their backgrounds and agenda for our schools. Voters deserve to be informed.