1 - What is the biggest issue you see facing Bryan County schools? How might you address that issue?
In my opinion, our biggest issue is growth - as school begins in August we will have approximately 800 children in each of 3 elementary schools 1200 in the middle school and almost 1500 in the high school. (as an example) I do not like the idea of 20+ 2nd grade or 3rd grade classrooms in 1 school. At some point, I believe it is difficult to uniformly focus on the curriculum. It is hard to keep so many teachers on the same task. We should be in the planning stages now for 2 more elementary schools - possibly a k-2 and 3-5 campus somewhere else in South Bryan County. I believe the County Planning and Zoning approved a 5000 home development earlier this week and even though it may seem like there are houses for sale everywhere, our new student enrollment has continued to rise on a steady basis for a long time. We must begin to address this issue now before it affects the real reason why we are all here, the education of our children.
2 - A nearby school system’s BoE was accused of crossing the line between governance and interference. Under the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools regulations, school boards are responsible for developing policy and procedure – but the implementation must be left up to the district administrators.
How do you view your role as a potential board member? How do you see that role fitting into the school system as a whole?
I have been a very active parent volunteer for the last six years in this school system. I have been out in the public meeting parents, listening to their concerns, their issues and also what they like about the Bryan County School System. As a school board member you must be able to work as a team to improve a school system in a positive and forward thinking manner. We must have a clear vision and clear goals which we are responsible for communicating to the superintendent and administrators. As a school board member you must have the available time and concern for the education of the student body. Setting all personal agendas aside, you have to be willing to research issues to make informed decisions with regard to what is best for the majority of the student body.
An effective school board should be able to give a superintendent a clear set of objectives each year and then monitor how the objectives are being obtained.
3 – The online school resource, Parent Connect, was designed to open the lines of communication between the schools and parents. One resident suggests it does – when teachers and parents both use it. But, there is still a problem with communication from the administrators and board with the parents.
How will you improve this particular area of communication?
Parent Connect is not being used to it’s full potential. There is no doubt about that. To begin with, each school uses it differently - which creates confusion. It seems as though each school has different ideas about how and why we have it and how it is supposed to be used. To begin with, we need a very clear cut policy regarding parent connect. Maybe we need it to be used one way for K-5 and a different way 6-12, but it needs to be spelled out once and for all - because every person you ask will tell you something different. Also - it can no longer be an option for the faculty. I know from my own experience, my middle schooler’s teachers’ rarely used the upcoming assignments section this year. To me, that section is very important for this particular age group. However, all I ever heard when I asked about it was - "the students have their agendas." I do believe the agendas serve a valid purpose. They teach the students good organizational skills, however, they should not be used in place of Parent Connect. I understand on an elementary level you get a "What’s Up sheet every week so you may not need the upcoming assignment section of Parent Connect, or it may not be as important. First of all, we need more and better training for the faculty. There are pieces to Parent Connect they do not know how to use. Agendas can be for students, Parent Connect should be for parents. We need to advertise it to parents again. We should also update all of the schools’ website’s with daily announcements and important information. We could also have one day of the week, maybe Friday for all pertinent announcements to be sent home, at all schools. We should also look into purchasing the telephone announcement/emergency system that goes along with our computer system. It is used in other counties for all sorts of announcements and surveying of information.
4 - State Superintendent Kathy Cox recently proposed all Georgia schools institute the same late August start date. This idea has been previously suggested to the board, but has never officially been considered as an option. One recurring complaint is the issue of hot weather at the start of August, since school starts on or around Aug. 8.
Would you, as a board member, be willing to review the research and make an informed decision about whether or not a later school start date would benefit students – why or why not?I am always open to looking at all relevant information on any given topic. I have already looked at a list of school start dates for the school year that just finished. The bulk of all school systems within our state started either the week before during or after the week we started. Chatham County was the only one that started after Labor day. To make an informed decision that would affect our end of course tests, I think it would be appropriate to get the opinion of our high school faculty and to take that into consideration as well. I have no problem at all moving start dates, changing faculty work dates, or looking at any information. Contrary to what some people of said about me, I happen to be open minded and I can think for myself.
5 – How would you rate the performance of Bryan County’s Superintendent, Dr. Sallie Brewer? And are you in favor of renewing her contract, why or why not?
To rate the performance of Dr. Brewer, I think we have to look at our System as a whole. When you ask most newer families the reason why they moved to Richmond Hill they often say it is because of the reputation of the Bryan County Schools. It is the reason we moved here. In the last 5 years our graduation rate has increased 17.7% to 81.8%. Our SAT scores will compete with anyone. Our CRCT among the highest in the state.
All of this while the state has taken away over 6 million dollars in state funding. If we are talking about what is most important here, the education of our children, I would say we are getting it done.
It is a school boards responsibility to set goals for a superintendent. You, as a school board member are then tasked with making sure those goals are met. If the school board is not clear about what it is they are expecting the superintendent to do, it is their role and responsibility to make sure they have provided that person with clear guidelines of what is expected. If all of that has taken place and the job is still not to the satisfaction of the entire board, then you should make a change. I would have no problem removing a superintendent that did not meet the goals that was set forth by a school board that I was a member of.
6 – Some of the reports have stated that a majority of parents were against school uniforms when parent surveys came out. One resident said they’ve never seen any "official" results of these surveys. Could the results be made available to the public and how can residents be assured that these surveys were conducted by an objective source? Every parent this resident has spoken to agrees that school uniforms need to be implemented. The results of the survey seem to be contradictory to what people are experiencing in everyday conversation throughout the community.
Why is the board opposed to uniforms? Would you consider it?
I have never seen or heard of any parent surveys that said the majority of parents were against school uniforms. The only parent surveys I know of where the ones conducted by the parent advisory group, of which I was a part of. There were 607 returned surveys asking for uniforms, which made the uniform rank in the top 10. It is my understanding, the board received something like 149 emails or phone calls against uniforms. They also surveyed the faculty and the outcome was over 70% for uniforms. One thing I always found interesting, as a parent advisory member was, we conducted a survey in 2004 and then the survey in 2006. The Board included in it’s objectives and implemented all of the items in the top ten in both surveys with the exception of the uniforms. Some of those items cost thousands and thousands of dollars, among them were purchasing Parent Connect, separating the buses into pre-k through 5 and 6-12, the additional para- pros in elementary - providing 1 for every 2 classes instead of 1 for 3. I just always found it interesting that the Board would take into consideration the number of votes and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for all of the other items that made the top ten on two surveys but they would not consider the 607 votes for the uniforms. So if you are asking if I would consider uniforms the answer is yes, I would take a look at all sides of the issue and put my personal feelings aside.
7 - A lot of people in Pembroke feel that there is not equal representation for the north Bryan County schools. One resident, originally from a huge metropolitan area, said she cannot fathom some of what she’s seen here. Her husband, originally from a tiny town in the Midwest, said he can’t believe how many people are willing to believe the cop out: "Well, it’s a small town."
If elected, what will you do to ensure more equality in services offered to schools in both ends of the county?
If you are asking about the number of school board members from the north end, that is something that is decided upon by the state. As far as the system itself goes, it is my understanding that money is spent on child by child basis. South Bryan County has a lot more students than the North end, however, the same services are provided for both ends of the County - unless there is a specific need. For instance - when the Richmond Hill High School needed new tennis courts, Bryan County High School received them too. When the office staff on this end was over-whelmed, and we asked for help then North end received it as well. We should always strive to maintain equality. However, there may be individual needs for one end of the county that the other may not have and I think we should be willing to spend our money wisely and not foolishly.
8 – Staggering the schools’ start times could help with:
- eliminating first and second loads of students, therefore eliminating the need for more bus drivers and buses;
- eliminating unreasonable bus schedules with children sitting at school for more than an hour before or after school, therefore more parents would be inclined to let their children use the buses;
- easing traffic problems, since everyone in the county wouldn’t be trying to leave at the same time; and
- cutting down on transportation costs in general, since fuel costs are so high right now.
What is your position on looking into this as an option for the school district?
Stagger starting the schools is something that I have asked about myself in the past. I know a lot of people are tired of their children getting on a bus at 6:30 in the morning and having to sit in that bus for faculty to arrive at a school for them to get off the bus. Others want their children home before 4:00 in the afternoon - not sitting at school watching a movie. Many other school districts near us stagger start their schools. There is also valid research that suggests middle and high schooler’s benefit educationally from a later school start time. I believe we should take a long hard look at all of the benefits that may occur if we implement a staggered start time.