Four candidates vying for two Bibb BOE seats

jmink@macon.comApril 30, 2014 

  • Bibb BOE Post 7 at-large and Post 8

    Post 7

    James Bumpus
    Age: 49
    Occupation: Clergy educator and former philosophy and ethics professor at Fort Valley State University
    Political experience: Served on the Bibb County school board as a special appointee in 2008

    Daryl Morton
    Age: 52
    Occupation: Attorney
    Political experience: First run for elected office; serving as chairman of the Bibb County Democratic Party

    Post 8

    Darren Latch
    Age: 46
    Occupation: Insurance agent
    Political experience: First run for elected office; serves as community activist for education issues

    Wanda West
    Age: 61
    Occupation: Retired superintendent of Twiggs County schools and retired from several education positions in Bibb County, part-time site manager for Central Georgia Technical College’s Adult Education Program, adjunct professor at Albany State University
    Political experience: Incumbent Bibb school board member for more than three years

The candidates for two Bibb County school board posts come from various backgrounds, but they all say they want to improve the school system and the board that governs it.

The candidates -- an attorney, incumbent board member, insurance businessman and a philosophy professor -- are vying to be part of a school board that has significant tasks ahead, including working alongside a new superintendent. The current school board is reviewing applications for a new superintendent, as interim Superintendent Steve Smith’s contract is scheduled to end June 30.

Post 7 and Post 8 school board positions pay an annual salary of $7,200.

‘Knowledge is power’

The race for the Post 7 at-large seat, which is being vacated by school board member Lynn Farmer, pits clergy educator James Bumpus and Macon attorney Daryl J. Morton against each other.

Bumpus, 49, decided to run for the position because he believes every student deserves the opportunity to get ahead, and he wants to help give children that opportunity, he said.

“Knowledge is power, and it’s important that education works for all,” he said. “I look forward to sharing my skill set as a board member and to work with those who are part of the board, as well as those who are part of the community, to build confidence and trust.”

Bumpus, a former philosophy and ethics professor at Fort Valley State University, said his main goals include rebuilding confidence between the community and the board, as well as encouraging teamwork among board members.

As a former school board appointee and recently named head of the Macon-Bibb Small Business Affairs Office, Bumpus touted his experience of building trust within the community and collaborating with people and agencies within Macon.

“James Bumpus has experience. James Bumpus has integrity, and James Bumpus has a heart for children,” he said.

‘Not afraid to voice my opinion’

Morton, who has volunteered in the school system, says it feels like the right time to step up and serve on the board, particularly as the school board and school district combat various issues.

“I’m somebody who is well known in the system as someone who supports (the board) when they’re doing right, but I’m not afraid to voice my opinion when they’re not doing the right thing,” he said.

Additionally, Morton, 52, recently welcomed his first grandchild, who will one day attend Bibb County public schools. He said he wants to help improve the school system for his grandchild and all children.

His goals include restoring public trust, bringing in a quality superintendent and helping the board establish effective governance over the superintendent and the school system, he said.

“I have a mixed skill set ... and I understand the bottom line,” Morton said. “I also understand what the role of the board is. I’m not going to be afraid to answer the hard questions, even if it makes people uncomfortable.”

‘Bring education back to where it should be’

The race for the Post 8 seat has incumbent board member Wanda West facing candidate Darren Latch.

Latch, a community activist, says he wants to continue the school board watchdog work he has been performing and hold the school board accountable to the public.

“I want to bring education back to where it should be,” said Latch, an insurance agent. Latch, 46, says he has been “immersed” in school board happenings for years and has worked on the community’s behalf to bring certain issues to light. His goals include focusing on school board ethics and public accountability, and he also plans to work to re-establish public confidence in the school board. He said he plans to use social media and other methods to create more public interest in school board meetings and to reach out to stakeholders.

Latch pledged to work toward an improved board of education and improved graduation rates, among other goals.

“I’ve proven my commitment at my own cost over the past few years, and I will continue that work,” he said. “If people search my name, they will see exactly how far I’ve gone into the board of education.”

‘It’s my passion’

Incumbent Wanda West has been a school board member for more than three years, and she is vying to return so she can continue her passion of educating students and improving school systems, she said.

“It’s my passion to share, to see what we can do to improve the quality of work the board does,” she said. “There is no more of a critical issue than the quality of education in Macon, and I know that.”

Her goals include a push to establish well-defined, organized protocols and procedures, and to communicate them to stakeholders. Those steps are important as the board works to establish an effective relationship between the school board and the superintendent as well as the school board and the community. West, 61, recently suggested the school board meet to develop specific goals as it looks to hire a new chief, she said. She also discussed focusing on facilities, as well as focusing on teamwork on the board as it strives to improve public confidence.

“I bring a passion for the work, and I have a proven experience. I have carried a school system from the bottom to the top,” she said.

She also has been involved in Bibb schools since she was a student, she said.

“I have served on every level from being in that (classroom) chair to the board chair.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331.

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