Four former teachers and one Chatham County assistant principal are running to fill three board seats and the chairman’s spot on the Liberty County Board of Education.
Only one of the four races is contested. The primary is set for May 20.
BoE Chairwoman Lily Baker is running unopposed, as is District 4 board member Marcia Anderson and newcomer Sampie Smith, who will fill the District 6 seat next year. Smith, a former county commissioner, also ran for mayor of Hinesville in 2007.
Becky Carter, who currently represents District 6, did not qualify for re-election. Carter has served 16 years on the school board.
Lillie Readie Kelly and Marcus Scott IV are vying for the District 5 seat on the board, a position currently held by Harold Woods, who — like Carter — did not qualify for the 2014 election. Woods and Anderson also logged 16 years each on the board. Baker has served for eight years.
School-board candidates spoke with the Courier about their goals for the system.
“My goals for the upcoming term are to continue increasing student achievement, while working to decrease the student drop-out rate, decrease teacher turnover and to continue increasing teacher morale,” Baker said. “Increasing student achievement is the driving force that I work on daily, along with continuing to provide a safe and secure environment for our students and staff.”
The chairwoman stressed that the board is responsible for being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. She said the school system has to keep up with technology and changes in state-mandated curriculum and teacher requirements.
Baker attended Fort Valley State College, earning a B.S. in health and physical education. She earned her master’s in education at Cambridge College. Baker taught at Hinesville Middle School from 1977-91.
“During these years, I was department head, dance coach and a lead teacher,” she said. “In 1991, I moved to Liberty County High School where I taught health, physical education and anatomy and physiology. I coached track for nine years, the dance team for five years and the girls softball team for five years, and served as athletic director for four years.”
Anderson said her goals for her next term are to continue improving students’ academic performance and increasing graduation rates, and to expand professional-training opportunities for educators. She said the board will continue its practice of “living within its means” by staying debt-free and fiscally sound.
“The improvement that I am most proud of over the last few years is our Liberty County College and Career Academy,” Anderson said. “This is the opportunity for students that may not be college bound, to graduate high school career-ready for their chosen field. This saves the students and their parents time and money. It is a very successful program for many students.”
Anderson attended Brenau College and graduated from North Central Georgia Police Academy. She was a certified police officer in Cobb County before moving to Liberty County and starting her family. She was a Savannah Technical College instructor for 10 years.
“I taught at-risk students enrolled in the Georgia National Guard Youth Challenge Program at Fort Stewart,” she said.
Smith could not be reached for comment by press time.
According to previous Courier reports, Smith taught American government at Bradwell Institute for 27 years before retiring in 2000, when he was a county commissioner.
He graduated from Georgia Southern in 1969 with a Bachelor of Arts in History and a minor in political science.
Smith received a law degree through night classes at John Marshall Law School and taught law and society, business law, criminal law and American government for Saint Leo University and Brewton-Parker College. Smith served as a magistrate judge from 1990 until 1994.
Kelly, another long-time LCSS educator, said experience matters.
“I’m of a concern with the students, also with the teachers and getting the community involved in the functions and activities dealing with the school,” Kelly said. “I think there should be a better relationship between the community and the school (system).”
The former coach said she would like to increase teacher morale and salary supplements and decrease student drop-out rates. She also wants to increase parent accountability and enforce board policies.
Kelly retired from coaching at Bradwell in 2012. She coached girls track, softball, ninth-grade basketball and volleyball for 18 years. She is credited with establishing the high school’s volleyball program in 1996.
Kelly earned her Bachelor of Science at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. Kelly earned a master’s degree at Cambridge College in Boston, Mass. She moved to Hinesville in the mid-1980s.
Scott, a product of local schools, said he was on the Bradwell coaching staff with Kelly and respects her.
“But, I believe I am, without a doubt, the most qualified candidate to help lead the Liberty County School System to a successful future focused on our youth,” he said.
Scott said his “leadership, youth and passion for helping kids” are his key strengths. He is currently an assistant principal at Jenkins High School in Chatham County.
If elected, Scott plans to address providing more educational opportunities for economically disadvantaged students and students who struggle academically, such as through summer educational and tutorial programs. He also wants to ensure that all students are college- or career-ready, and increase the academic achievement of all students.
Scott received his elementary- and middle-school education in Liberty County and graduated from Long County High School in 1996.
In 2002, he received a Bachelor of Science in middle-school education from Armstrong Atlantic State University. Scott then obtained a master’s degree and an education specialist’s degree in school administration from Cambridge College.
Scott hosts a radio show, “The Educational Hotline,” at 6 p.m. Wednesdays on WGML 990 AM. He also is the president of Scott’s All*Stars, a youth program.