Johnson, Miller seek Bibb school board’s District 4 seat

acastillo@macon.comOctober 25, 2012 

  • Candidates for Bibb school board, District 4

    Dominique Johnson
    Age: 37
    Party: Democrat
    Occupation: Coordinator of Mercer’s Upward Bound program, pastor of Kingdom Life Church
    Political Experience: None

    Lester Miller
    Age: 43
    Party: Republican
    Occupation: Attorney Political Experience: None

Dominique Johnson and Lester Miller are vying for the Bibb County school board’s District 4 seat being vacated by Susan Middleton.

Although they have their differences, Miller, a Republican, and Johnson, a Democrat, have some similarities as well. Both are graduates of the Bibb County school system -- Miller graduated from Southwest High in 1987 and Johnson from Northeast High in 1993.

Both have children in the school district, and both believe in the importance of reaching out to those with diverse perspectives, in the community and on the school board.

Building relationships with fellow board members would be on Miller’s agenda from day one, he said. For the most part, board members should be able to reach a consensus if they are voting in students’ best interests, he said.

“It shouldn’t be based on who voted for the Macon Miracle and who voted for (Superintendent Romain) Dallemand in the beginning,” said Miller, who has been an active schools volunteer. The Macon Miracle is the name given to Dallemand’s reform plan for the school system.

“Those votes keep coming that way, and I think it’s harmful for our community. I think it’s harmful to our children,” he said.

Johnson said he wants to be elected to the board so he can be a “servant” to the people in District 4 and bring stability to the board. He said his experience working in Mercer University’s Upward Bound program, which helps students get to college, equips him to help students succeed.

Miller considers safety and discipline the most important priorities for the school system. Maintaining classroom discipline, he said, is vital to ensure students can focus on learning and keep the system from losing students to private schools or homeschooling.

“I think it’s the No. 1 concern before you even look at the graduation rate,” he said. “You (have) got to protect teachers, and you (have) got to protect the students who want to learn in the school.”

Leaders in the system should focus on promoting a culture of high achievement among students, faculty and staff, said Johnson. They also need to make sure students are safe.

Community involvement from different groups also is important, Johnson said. The district could bring in retired teachers or male role models to work with students, for example.

“It does well for all of us to know we have a stake in the education of our students’ lives,” he said.

Miller said he has the business sense needed to help oversee the school system’s spending. While the majority of the families in his district do not have children in the Bibb County school system, he said most still are taxpayers who are affected by the decisions of the school board.

“We need someone that’s a good steward of the money,” Johnson said.

Miller criticized Johnson for not filing financial campaign disclosure forms. Miller acknowledged his initial forms arrived late, but he said he has been more diligent about submitting subsequent paperwork.

While Johnson did not have any filings posted with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission as of Thursday, he said he plans to file soon and doesn’t have anything to hide.

“It was a blatant rookie mistake,” he said.

Johnson said his campaign has just more than $800 in cash on hand and has been focusing on grassroots outreach through Facebook and canvassing neighborhoods.

Johnson said he hasn’t agreed with all of Dallemand’s decisions, but he noted the superintendent has “stuck to his guns” on matters such as offering Mandarin Chinese language classes to students, for example, which could provide them with future opportunities.

“It all depends on where you want to go,” Johnson said. “Sometimes leaders take us places where we should go, and it’s not comfortable.”

To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.

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