Editor’s note: This is the first in a series on the upcoming elections, focusing on the candidates and what they’re saying at various candidate forums.
By Patty Leon and Jeff Whitten
If you like politics, Wednesday and Thursday should’ve been right up your alley.
Candidates for local, state and national office were all over Liberty County, starting Wednesday when those running for seats on the Liberty County Board of Education met Chamber members at the Liberty County Chamber’s Eggs and Issues breakfast in Hinesville.
Thursday morning, U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, made stops at both Angies Diner in Midway and Molly Maxine’s in Hinesville to talk about the importance of small businesses.
Thursday night, Carter’s potential opponents in November, Democrats Lisa Ring of Richmond Hill and Barbara Seidman of Waycross, were among a host of candidates to answer questions and give their pitches to voters at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center.
That event included state senate District 1 hopeful Sandra Workman, a Democrat, and Richard Keatley, a Democrat running for Georgia Labor Commissioner. It ran for nearly three hours and included all but two candidates for the Liberty County school board as they engaged in what was at times a lively discussion moderated by Daisy Jones and attorney Luke Moses.
The event was co-sponsored by the Liberty County NAACP, Coastal Courier, Hinesville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Liberty County Minority Chamber and Nu Rho Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
Up first, however, we focus on the Board of Education candidates who presented their platforms at the Liberty County Chamber breakfast held Wednesday morning.
Liberty BoE District 4
Karen Branson, Jim Johns and Annette Payne are the three candidates running in district four. All three said no matter the outcome they will support the winner.
Branson said she is the product of the East St. Louis School District 189. “It was a mediocre school system but it had excellent teachers and volunteers that cared,” she said adding that is something the Liberty County School System needs to improve. Branson said school days starts the minutes the kids are picked up at the school bus stops. And she said the LCSS currently has a deficiency in this area.
“We don’t have enough drivers, they are late and we may be supporting a system that is doomed to fail,” she said. “Every school bus should have a driver and have a monitor.”
She added that riding the bus is a privilege and that children who misbehave should be taken off the bus and their parents called. She also said the current pay scale is insufficient in retaining and recruiting educators and classified staff.
Johns said his business background will bring a unique perspective to the board that is currently made up of former educators.
“Every board needs diversification on it where every member brings something to it,” he said. He said his business background will be useful in making sure the board is being fiscally accountable and responsible.
He said he plans to be a team player if elected.
“Once you become a board member of any board you have a responsibility for the entire board’s responsibility,” he said adding once decisions are made the board stand unified.
Payne said parents are not moving into the county because of the current perception of the school system
“I want them to see what Liberty County Schools actually are, not what it looks like when they read the paper. It doesn’t look good and I would like that to change,” she said. “The perception of the public for the board needs to be a good perception.”
She added she wants to see discipline brought back to the classrooms as well.
Series continues Wednesday. Full story at www.coastalcourier.com
hante Baker Martin are running in District 5. Scott said the system needs to improve teachers’ salaries, invest in more technology and improve the transportation department to include better pay for drivers and better buses.
He said he will always do what he thinks is best for the students. He said he would like to see mentoring programs implemented system-wide.
Since joining the board Scott said he has voted for bi-weekly pay, videotaping board meetings for transparency, setting uniform criteria for the Valedictorians and Salutatorians from each school and ending furlough days. He wants to continue to see more accountability and transparency from the board and school system. He wants to improve discipline and safety in the schools.
Martin wants to focus on student achievement by investing in their learning and personal growth. She wants to reinforce a culture of quality and excellence and showcase alumni success. She said the board needs to work as a team to foster the system’s vision and goals.
“There is no I in board and there is no I in team. There is only we.” she said.
Dr. Yvette Keel had to miss the breakfast due to a family emergency. Running against Keel is Donita Strickland.
The former educator said she is worried about the number of qualified teachers that are leaving the system seeking employment elsewhere. She said the system pay wells and it makes no sense for teachers to be leaving.
“I want to know why they are leaving,” she said. “We need to work to make teachers love it here in Liberty County.”
She said the system needs to develop better emergency plans and added students need to be the main focal point. She added teachers need more support for the LCSS and discipline needs to be brought back under control.
Lily Baker, the incumbent, and challenger Scott Carrier are running for chairman.
Baker, a career educator, noted there is a big difference in being a teacher and being a board member. She said there is a lot to learn but her priority was to make sure concerns brought before the board were addressed.
“I am not a politician. I don’t make promises. I never did,” she said. “I listen to what constituents have to say and took that to the board. I am a leader and a leader produces. That’s what I do I produce.”
She said the board is diverse and people speak their thoughts but ultimately the board must work as a team.
“And I’m a team player. I’ve always been a team player. And I will continue to be a team player,” she said.
Baker said student achievement and safety were top priorities.
Carrier, a longtime administrator, agreed adding that in order to move student achievement forward the LCSS need to be more supportive of their teachers. He said the feedback he’s gotten is that teachers no longer feel supported in their classrooms when it comes to discipline.
‘If you can’t manage the class then you can’t effectively teach those children,” he said.
He said student achievement should not only be measured by numbers on a report and that he is glad there is a reduction in the amount of initiatives being placed on teachers.
“I often times said you can make me do a lot of things poorly or let me do a couple of things well,” he said. “We need to focus on doing a couple of things well. A couple of programs that will really have a positive impact on our kids and let’s stick to those programs long enough to see if they are going to work. Research shows that it typically takes 3-5 years to know if something is successful. We rarely give a program one year before we move on to something else.”
He said safety is a key component and that fiscal responsibility should also be a priority. He said his experience as an educator and former administrator will help unify a diverse board.
Carter’s bully pulpit?