Long County Board of Education District 4 representative Janet Watford faces a challenge from former school board member Linda Sasser DeLoach.
This is a nonpartisan race. Because there are only two candidates, the May 24 general primary will effectively decide the winner.
The following profiles are based on email responses to questions sent by the Coastal Courier.
Linda Sasser DeLoach
DeLoach has been a Long County resident for 49 years. She and her husband, Clifton, have been married 47 years and they have three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The DeLoaches, their children and grandchildren completed school in Long County, and one great-grandchild is about to start attending the county schools.
Linda DeLoach owns and operates DeLoach Group Home, and has been the director for the last 12 years. She previously served on the Board of Education for 16 years and worked for the school system as a substitute teacher, paraprofessional and cafeteria worker.
“I have the greatest respect for every employee within our school system from teachers, secretaries, custodians, cafeteria employees, janitors, maintenance and anyone else I’ve missed,” she said.
DeLoach is a member of A New Beginning Church in Ludowici and is active in such activities as the church’s food giveaway, live Christmas Nativity scene and Easter cookouts.
She said she and her husband support and donate to many community causes, including donating blankets at Christmas to the Long County Senior Center, two large coolers and many cases of water to the high school band. She added that they sponsored a T-ball team for the Long County Recreation Department, helped sponsor a travel ball team and helped raise money for the American Diabetes Association, Long County Relay for Life and Long County CARES, among others.
“I feel if you’ve been blessed, then you always need to bless others,” DeLoach said.
She said that during her prior time on the school board, she is “proud of the fact that we were able to work within our budget while maintaining a safe, healthy learning environment for all children and staff.”
DeLoach added that her time on the board saw classroom space added to Smiley Elementary School and a new high school built to alleviate overcrowding at the old building “due to the influx of children/residents into Long County due to the quality of education children received here.”
She said she worked “as a team with other board members and staff.”
DeLoach said that if elected, she would have an “open-door policy,” in which she “will always be available to answer a call.”
She added, “I feel very strongly that students relationships (with teachers) should remain as such, ‘teacher and student,’ not ‘best buds’ or party friends. I have heard too many stories and seen too many pictures that I have found unacceptable and that have gone without enough course of action.”
DeLoach said she would like to expand the school system’s vocational technology program “because I realize every child is different and that each student learns in a different way.”
“I believe respect needs to be placed back into the school system, not only respect for our teachers but respect for the students as well. This rule applies to all,” she said. “I want to see qualified taxpaying citizens fill the positions in our school system first, before we look outside county.
“You can depend on me to do the best I can for your child and your community,” she continued. “I know I will make mistakes — I’m human — but they will not be made intentional. Thank you so much for your love and support.”
Janet M. Watford
Watford, 69, is a lifelong Ludowici resident. She has never been married and has no biological children.
“My students were my kids,” she said.
Watford graduated from Ludowici High School in 1965. She also received bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degrees in education from Georgia Southern University. She said her majors were in mathematics, school counseling, and leadership and supervision, and she is state-certified in all of those areas.
She spent all of her educational career in Long County. After retiring, she served 5-1/2 years as an adjunct instructor with Savannah Technical College.
Watford has been a high school math teacher, girls’ basketball coach and school counselor. She said she was the last elected superintendent in Long County, and the first appointed one. She was superintendent from 1992-1997.
She said she is an active member of the Georgia School Board Association and that the GSBA awarded the Long County Board of Education with Quality Board Status during her tenure on the board, which she said was a first for Long County.
Watford is a lifetime member of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and past member of the Georgia School Superintendent Association, Georgia Association of Educational Leaders and Georgia Association of Educators. She was first elected in 2012 as the BoE’s District 4 representative.
She is an active member of First Baptist Church of Ludowici, is chairwoman of the Long County Chamber of Commerce’s scholarship committee, serves on the Long County Family Connections Board and represents the county as an advocate for senior adults with the Coastal Regional Commission’s Area Agency on Aging.
Watford said her time as a school board member has been “exciting and rewarding.”
“We have experienced substantial growth while continuing to achieve significant progress in many areas,” she said.
She also described an extensive strategic planning process. State consultants led the process, which she said involved BoE members, district and school leadership teams, community members and students.
The result, she said, was the district focusing on parent engagement, curriculum and instructional delivery, and teacher and student morale, along with other critical areas.
“Implementation of block scheduling was a tremendous step forward in creating a less stressful environment for students and teachers at the high school,” Watford said. “Vocational and fine arts classes were expanded and participation in Move On When Ready (off-campus college and technical courses) increased. Technology was updated and enhanced to provide our students equitable access in a rural district.”
Watford also pointed to the school system’s implementation of Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports, a program designed to support students emotionally and behaviorally with the goal of improving their academic outcomes.
“All these improvements have been accomplished without an increase in the maintenance and operation millage rate,” she said.
She added that the strategic planning process is continuing. One area of focus is to expand the middle school curriculum when the new school for grades three through eight is completed. Ground was broken on that school Tuesday, and district officials hope it will be complete by August 2017.
“Your support is needed to complete our plans and our new school,” Watford said. “Please get involved in your child’s school and keep us in your prayers as we strive to provide the best education possible for Long County’s youth.”