Candidates vie for Twiggs BOE seat

acastillo@macon.comOctober 16, 2012 

An insurance sales agent and a retired educator are battling it out for the Twiggs County District 2 Board of Education seat that will be decided by voters in November.

Republican Sharon Radebaugh, 61, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Teresa Blackshear, 47, already knows what issue is priority for her if she takes office.

“First and foremost, hire a superintendent,” said Radebaugh, a retired educator who teaches early childhood education courses part-time at Oconee Fall Line Technical College.

Benjamin Roundtree is currently serving as interim superintendent in Twiggs County after Valya Lee stepped down as the system’s leader after the end of the 2011-12 school year.

The new superintendent should have “good leadership skills, absolutely, (and) experience in working with counties that are struggling,” Radebaugh said. Radebaugh served as Twiggs’ board chair in late 2010, filling the unexpired term of David Sanders. The same year, she ran unsuccessfully for the chair position.

The Twiggs County school board will seek community involvement for the new superintendent search, although there is not yet a time line for that process, said Blackshear, an insurance sales agent with Geico who is finishing her first term on the Twiggs County school board.

When that process does begin, Blackshear would like to find a quality candidate who has a love for the local community.

“We’ll work together as a team to help improve our school system,” she said.

Beyond finding Twiggs’ next leader, both candidates identified other issues in the system, including the district’s dropout rate and test scores.

Blackshear is a Twiggs County native whose daughter graduated from the school system in 2007. Her son is an eighth grader at Twiggs County Middle School.

“I have strong roots in Twiggs and a heart for what is best for all children,” said Blackshear, who is finishing up her first term on the school board.

During her time on the board, Twiggs County has maintained its accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, improved its science and social studies scores on standardized tests and implemented mobile computer labs in schools, among other things. If elected, Blackshear said she would maintain a focus on improving test scores, having high-quality teachers and building parent involvement.

“These years ... have been some of the most challenging and rewarding times in my life, to ensure every decision made in my years were very beneficial to every student,” she said.

Radebaugh said her experience teaching in Houston and Twiggs counties, as well as in Indiana, would bring a valuable perspective to the board.

“I know what schools need to have in place in order to be successful,” said Radebaugh. “Right at this time, we don’t have experienced educators on the board.”

In Radebaugh’s view, Twiggs County struggles with a high dropout rate. She also said families with the means to do so leave the system, in part because of discipline issues.

She wants to make sure all schools in the system can offer art, music and physical education, as well as adequate planning time for teachers.

In order to improve the system, school leaders also need to gain the confidence of parents in Twiggs County.

“That’s not going to happen overnight,” she said. “We have got to get the children motivated to learn. We have got to get parents motivated to make sure (students) get what they need to come to school ready to learn.”

To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.

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