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Charlie Johnson, District 3
What he had to say to reader's questions
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1 - What is the biggest issue you see facing Bryan County schools? How might you address that issue?

Supporting the tremendous growth our county is experiencing. We need to take a proactive approach by planning for growth instead of reacting to it. I’m not sure that now is the time to be constructing ‘replacement schools,’ but rather investing in new schools to accommodate the increasing student population. I also believe that the breakdown in communications between the parents, teachers and administrators and school board members is a major issue that needs to be addressed immediately. The elected school board members must communicate with the constituents that they represent, and do just that: Represent the desires of people that put themselves in office and make every decision with the best interest of the children as the guiding factor.

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?

My role as a school board member will be to use the input from the people in District 3 to develop the policies and procedures that they want instituted in their school system. If there are problems with the implementation of policies and procedures then we should revisit them and adjust them as necessary to foster a smooth, acceptable implementation process.

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 works when the information on it is updated, and needs to be done weekly. As a school board representative, I will work to open the lines of communication and make myself available to meet with parents who want to discuss the issues, policies and procedures that board members are able to discuss. I will endeavor to hold these ‘town meetings’ once per month in a public forum. I would also be interested in hearing about any ‘implementation issues’ that are having a less than positive impact on the students, parents and teachers so that I could re-examine the policies associated with the ‘implementation issue’ to see if the policy needed to be better explained, etc. I will strongly encourage school administrators to adopt a more transparent way of doing business that encourages and accepts an open dialogue between the parents and administrators.

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?

Absolutely. I’m so tired of ‘that’s how we’ve always done it’ mentality. I would certainly be willing to review the research, but most importantly, I would want to hear what the constituents of District 3 had to say about it. The bottom line is what the parents want and what’s best of the children; that’s what I’m there to do, represent the children and the parents.

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?

I think we have a very good school system in Bryan County and that is the result of teamwork on several fronts. The overwhelming majority of the parents and teachers that I have spoken with, and that would be electing me, feel that a change is long overdue and do not want her contract renewed. Teachers have described the superintendent’s management style to me as one of fear and intimidation with the underlying threat of their job security. There are many that have lost trust in the administration and view the Parent Advisory Committees as hand picked groups to provide superintendent support rather than real parent representation. I personally feel that she has let our students down with her demonstrated position on out of state travel and lack of support for extracurricular activities. I am not in favor of renewing her contract.

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?

The first thing that jumped out at me wasn’t even the actual question but the lack of trust alluded to in the question of our school system regarding the objectivity of the survey and the results obtained from that survey. When parents don’t trust what they are being told by the administration, we have a bigger problem than uniforms. I promise as the representative for District 3 that I will work hard to renew the trust of parents; this is the only way to succeed. Not only would I consider school uniforms, I would champion the idea if it is what the people in District 3 want.

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?

I am not familiar with the inequalities that exist in the services that we are offering to the schools in North and South Bryan County. This is something I would research. One thing I would like to point out is that differences don’t necessarily translate into inequalities.

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?

I believe that this is something that should be looked into for all the reasons mentioned. I think we need to involve Mr. Cox from the Transportation Department to discuss the financial impact, if any, as well as the police departments that are responsible for traffic management, in the pre-decisional meetings. This is also an issue that needs to be discussed with our constituents to get a good understanding of the impacts that this would have on children and parents.

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