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Jeff Morton, Vice Chair
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?

Accountability – We need to have a school board and Superintendent that represent the people of Bryan County. We have a very good school system, but it can be better. We have to listen to the concerns of teachers and parents and look for ways to include them in the decision making process. The exchange of new ideas keeps us from becoming stagnant, and input from parents and the community can be a good source of ideas.

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 believe the school system they are referring to is Chatham County. Our main jobs as school board members are to approve, create and develop policies; approve and set the budget; and hire the superintendent. I understand these concepts completely and have never tried to micromanage our school system. If a parent calls me with a problem concerning their child, I refer them to the appropriate chain of command, which is the teacher, then principal and then the superintendent. This is why it is so important to have administrators who look out for what’s best for all children. The biggest temptation by a board member to jump in comes when the chain of command is followed by a poor decision by someone somewhere and no one will discuss it.

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?

I think Parent Connect is a great system as long as parents use it. It is great to be able to keep up with children’s grades, absences, and tardiness and future assignments. I know with my kids, they’d be the first to tell me if they got a 90 on a test, but they somehow might forget to tell me about the other test they got a 60 on.

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?

Yes, if a majority of parents want a later start date, I’m all for it. I think this is an issue that there are pros and cons to when you start. What is best for our children’s education must be the deciding factor. It’s not important what I think, it’s what the people I represent think.

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 was elected to represent the people of District 3. Based on conversations with my constituents, I did not feel it was appropriate to vote to extend the superintendent’s contract, last year or this year. I voted no both times.

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?

School uniforms were easily the most controversial issue I’ve ever had to deal with. I have seen the ‘official’ results of the latest school survey, for 2007-2008. Uniforms came in as the 14th most important issue out of 18 with 593 votes in favor of uniforms. The number one issue was to invest local supplements for teachers, which had 1,048 votes. It is important to note that the questions in the survey come from the Parent Advisory Committee. Personally, I did not like the idea of listing your top 10 choices on a survey with a total of 18 items; I would have recommended you pick three or five so you are listing items that are important to you and not picking answers by default.

The top 10 items on this survey are reviewed by the board. In May 2007 when the board was voting on this, I received 224 emails and 81 were in favor (36 percent) and 143 were against (64 percent). Would I consider implementing uniforms? Of course, if a majority of parents wanted them.

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?

Bryan County is the only school district that is totally bisected. This situation presents many challenges. The result is a duplication of many facilities and services. As far as teachers and administrators are concerned, these positions are established based on the number of students. As far as facilities, the board tries to be as fair as possible in allocating resources. One example is the girls’ softball fields. It was brought to my attention some time ago that middle school girls’ softball games were being called due to darkness. The school board approved putting lights on the softball fields at both RHMS and BCMS. If there is a specific issue that needs to be resolved, please let the proper person know – teacher, coach, principal – and anyone is welcome to address the school board at every meeting; or a school board member if they are not getting a resolution to their issue through the chain of command.

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 would be happy to look into staggering school start times. Any idea that is an improvement makes our school system better. With any idea, we need to look at the pros and cons to make sure it is what is best for the children. If we added a 30 minute increased in the span of time between schools, the bus drivers would drive an extra route, thus cutting down on the number of drivers and busses needed.

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