A transcript of the Board of Education candidates at the South Rockdale Civic Association forum on Sept. 21 at Union United Methodist Church. Candidates drew questions at random.
Jim Mcbrayer: "Hello, my name is Jim Mcbrayer and I'm running for the post 1 position for the board of education. I am a life-long educator. I just retired from teaching after 39 and a half years of teaching school, God bless me. During that time, I spent the last 22 years in Rockdale County, where I was a social studies teacher, a coach, and athletic director. And I tell you what, I didn't plan on quitting serving this community when I retired from teaching. I was going to run for the board of education because I think my experience, and my expertise can be an added addition to the board. I look forward to having an opportunity some day. I also feel like I have a vested in athletics in the community. I have a vested interest fine arts programs. I was an athletic director and coach. I have 3 kids that reaped the benefits of the fine arts programs. I also to be a full-time member of the board of education; I am retired. Most board members have to juggle their jobs in their board responsibilities. I would be able to devote 100% of my time to the board. I am committed to this community. I served this community for 22 years, and I would like the opportunity to do so more. Thank you."
Jimmy Norfleet: "Hello. Good evening everyone, my name is Jimmy Norfleet, and I'm asking for your vote; I'm running for Rockdale County school board post 1 at large. A little bit about myself: I've been a member here, a citizen here in Rockdale County since 2000 with a family, my wife and two children who are both in the school system, one is in elementary school and the other one is a freshman in high school. And I primarily have a background in technology. I, after graduating high school, which I'm originally from Waterbury, Connecticut, I entered into the military, the US army. My first military occupation was a avionics special equipment, repair, with the skill of identifier. Basically I repaired countermeasures equipment. On second enlistment, I was also a recruiter as well as switching from aviation maintenance down to ground maintenance. And I actually was an assistant motor sergeant. I have started a business here since 2004, which is a technology consulting firm, and I've been very active in the community. Many of the face out here I've seen from time to time. One of the most recent things that I've really enjoyed doing was, last year, the 2009/2010 PTA; I was on the board, which I first was the first class president as well as ending up as the president of the PTA. I thank you, and I've asking for your vote. Thank you."
Theresa Schroeder-Langley: "Hi, my name is Theresa...um, and why am running for the board? I guess what everybody keeps saying is that parents need to get involved. I am the parent of 4 children. I have 2 high schoolers, a junior and senior at heritage. I have a new middle schooler at Edwards, and I have 4th grader at Sims Elementary. So, I do, I care, obviously about my children as well as your children. I wasn't born here in Rockdale, I had the choice of where to move, and the school system did make a big difference for me. I was worried, I'd heard about Georgia and the school systems. I'm from Connecticut, it's one of the best school systems in the country. So yes, I did have that fear. But once I got here, the school system here is phenomenal. I couldn't be more pleased. My children are getting a great education. Each one of them learns differently, trust me. We hear about the test scores. You have to look at other things besides that. It's the individual student, and the graduation rate. Dr King's done a great job. I want to be involved. I came to Rockdale not knowing a soul, except one person. And I jumped in. Leadership Rockdale, I volunteered in the school system, I'm doing [pace mentoring?]. I'm a Rotarian. I love this community. I love my kids. I love them dearly, and giving them the education and the experience of being involved in the community I what I truly want to do. On the business side, I understand construction. I worked for one of the number one construction firms in the country. I understand facilities, I understand what it takes to build a school. We built the first green school in the state of Georgia. So I know what it does to test scores and teacher retention. I have teachers and educators in my family, so I understand their needs and concerns. Furlough days, parents not understanding education, so I get it. And I hopefully want to make a difference. And that's why I'm running."
Sandra Sanford: "Hi. My name is Sandra Jackson Sanford. I am a 1982 Heritage High School graduate. I graduated five children from the Rockdale County Public School system. I believe in our county, I believe in our school system. I do know that the key components to a great school district is great teachers, educators and parents working together. And background for myself: I have a general education degree from Georgia State university. I am a RN here at Rockdale medical center, which I do a lot of education, because we have to a holistic approach with educating the patient and everything and make sure they know what they need. And as a Rockdale County board member, I would take the holistic approach, make sure we get the parents, the teachers and the students all involved to make sure they're all successful. So I would like for your votes: Sandra Jackson Sanford for successful students; Rockdale County Board of Education, post 1."
Darrell Stephens: "Thank you. My name is Darrell Stephens, I'm running for Rockdale school board post 1. I currently have 3 children that are in the Rockdale schools and I'm looking for excellence in the future. One of the things I've heard the candidates talk about is the fact that where we rank at in terms of education and how low our students are supposedly are. One you don't understand is it's about hiring the right people. We have set and example here in Rockdale where our schools are ranked nationally and our kids are able to compete nationally because we have the right leader. We have the right leader. So, it's about hiring the right people. You can educate any child. I'm the product of an only-parent, five kids, and she had an 8th grade education. I have 5 degrees , so it's about having the right motivation, and the right person. And that's how you continue excellence, and we can do it here in Georgia, and we can continue to do it here in Rockdale. So, we are successful now, and I'm looking at continuing that success in the future because I know the decision I make not only will affect your child, but it will affect my children as they go continue to be in Rockdale schools ten years from now. I thank you, and I hope I get your vote on November 2nd.
Question: Will you aggressively pursue any and all illegal students in our local schools, such as those attending from other counties? Will you insure that this information will be posted semi-annually and any and all [of] those parents so called, and the results published in the newspaper for all to see and be forewarned not to try this in Rockdale County again?
Mcbrayer: "The answer to that would be no, and the reason I would say no to that is one, the main purpose of the board of education is policy-making and that would really fall under more of a legislative situation than policy-making. So, my answer would be no.
Question: Georgia is currently number 41 out of the 50 states in academic testing. What will it take to move Georgia's ranking into the top 10 (and this is with the cheating that's been going on, and we already spend more money than most states on education)?
Norfleet: "Well, this is a position for Rockdale County. One of the main things that I believe is that education is not just a dollar sign. It is something that is an investment. And I believe that it is a cooperative for everyone in the, throughout the whole entire community. Our leadership picked people that [inaudible] leaders. Our leaders as well as definitely as we know, research proves that parental involvement does increase our academic scores and so forth. I believe that as a member of the board, I would continually work with the great work that they have done, and impress has much as I can on partnering with all of our government leaders, our citizens, all of our stake holders, as well as the parents to, if you will, just push our standards. We are moving towards a standard-based education. I definitely have been around many different standards, from military, the 82nd airborne division, from even working around international standards organizations. And I believe that we have to just cooperatively look at education as a priority and that is one of the main ways that we are going to make sure that education will in Georgia, the state of Georgia and Rockdale and the nation and the world, that it will be, we will have children that will be competing on an international level because we are in a global society, we are in a global economy, we are global. Thank you.
Question: With 15626 students in Rockdale County schools and 8001 getting free lunch, that is 51% and 61 are getting the free lunch and breakfast, what would you do to turn this around and put the program back on track here in Rockdale County?
Schroeder-Langley: "I don't think you can put the program back on track for that. I think it speaks to the economy. Um, it's difficult, but children can't learn unless they're fed and if not getting well-rounded meals at home, then they can't learn. I don't know, it's tough, but I mean, I know in my household, I got 4 kids in the school system, none of them are getting free or reduced lunch. So, I understand the frustration and that it drains the budget, but it's just the necessary thing that has to be done. So, I don't think there's, at this point, the way we're working, that it's just a sign of the times.
Question: Are you aware of the national massive migration of student from other parts of the US to double-digit increases here in Georgia? What will you do to plan for this huge demographic shift on our local schools. From 2000-2009 we had a 20% increase in population in Georgia versus nationally, 9%. Persons under 18 equal 26.3%. Growth in the south is projected to be more than double any other region of the US, and more than the north and midwest combined.
Sanford: "I guess if we're aiming to be number 1, we going to expect other people to be coming our way. And we are going to have to allocate our budgets so we can make sure we can still educate our children to the fullest."
Question: Would you look into a four-day school week? One County has done so in Georgia and it seems to be working, both for the teachers and the students. What is your position?
Stephens: "My position is this: as a educator, former math teacher and current administrator in the school system, what works in one County doesn't necessarily work in another County. I assure you that many counties are looking at our success and trying to duplicate it. I know, I've worked with educators all the time across the state. So, we have a plan for excellence already in place. We are competing not only academically, but we are competing such that we're building social skills with our students. We have several initiatives in place that have our schools on the correct track. So, should we go to a four day work week, will that help us from a financial standpoint, in terms of the citizens in our County, that's something that has to be investigated before we can make a decision like that. However, if you have a plan in place and you already currently getting success, I say stick with that we already have in place.
Question: What will you do as a board member to reduce the expenses of the local board to give relief to homeowners? The current board has just upped the millage by two mills, and they did not even ask teachers to take any furlough days.
Norfleet: "As a board member, as a concerned parent, as a concerned citizen right here in Rockdale County, as a concerned stakeholder, overall, I believe it is important we make sure that we have efficiency, efficiency in our instructions, efficiency in our fiscal responsibilities, that we just must be efficient. So I think that point, the main thing, is that before we consider any type of change in the millage, that we know, that we know, that we know, that we are as lean as possible with our instructions and how we utilize the technology for the tools to help propel students and make sure that they are given a solid quality education. Thank you.
Question: According to the Morgan-Quitnel Press smartest states awards, Georgia is number 41, down from last year's rating of 40. What needs to be done be done to put Georgia into the top 10 rank?
Schroeder-Langley: "From my point of view, in order to look at it as a whole, like I said I came from a smaller state, so it was very different. I mean, there's areas of Georgia that are rural and they take these test scores and they ball them all into one and that's all they're looking at. I think if you look at the whole, and all the pieces that go into the puzzle, that's really and truly what we have to evaluate, I mean, each school system is different, they lump Georgia into one, and like I said, one of the fears that I had coming to Georgia was that oh, their school system's absolutely terrible, but when you boil it down and you look, it's actually there are several counties that have excellent school systems. And when we have a higher education system here that's fantastic. So I think, I just think we have to stop looking at the numbers and individually look at our County and the success that we're having here, our graduation rate, it continues to increase. Secondary education. And just that overall ranking, just, I'm, I'm sorry, I just not with it."