BYRON -- Ben Hoots has faith in the Peach County school system, but he recognizes there is room for improvement.
That’s why Hoots, who is beginning his first term as a school board member, chose to live in Peach County and run for the board seat previously held by Donald Williams.
“I grew up in a public school system; I want my kids to grow up in a public school system. I think it’s very reflective of what our nation is and what our community is. You deal with all types of people in the public school system,” he said. “To make sure that we have the best possible school system that we can have here in Peach County is only a positive for my children to get a better education.”
Hoots has two children at Byron Elementary -- his daughter, Catherine Ann, is in the second grade, and his son, Win, is in the first grade. Hoots, a 1992 graduate of White County High School, went to Peach County High until the ninth grade, which gives him even more personal ties to the community.
“I want to make sure we have the best school system possible, not only for my kids, but the kids that are here in Peach County,” he said.
Those ties to the county give Hoots a special “role” on the board, said Jamie Johnson, chairman of the most recent school board.
“I think for anybody that is invested in the community, they want the best,” he said.
Hoots doesn’t have a background in education besides his own days in high school and at the University of Georgia. Instead, he’s relying on his knowledge from being a part owner of BCI Insulation in Byron.
In addition to a preparedness for the business aspects of board decisions, Hoots said that experience has given him an understanding of Peach County as a whole.
“Just from a standpoint of knowing this area, knowing the makeup of this area and knowing how to run things from a business standpoint ... I think translates well into a school system from a board aspect,” he said.
On top of that, Hoots and his counterpart B.J. Walker add another element to the board simply because they’re entering their first term of public office. Johnson said a board full of incumbents that are familiar with their surroundings can tend to fall into a routine.
“I think one thing that will continue to keep us on our toes is, when you have new board members, they bring fresh ideas,” Johnson said.
Before he can do that, Hoots said he has some learning to do. Hoots said he will have to get a better grasp on the scores and numbers on which schools are judged.
Chief among those scores is the College and Career Ready Performance Index. Peach County saw a huge improvement between 2012 and 2013 but dropped in this year’s scores.
Hoots pointed to the success of some county schools and said he was ready to help dissect the results to find out where the county can best improve.
“We’ve got a lot of positive things in Peach County,” he said. “You’ve got to concentrate on the areas (where) you can get improvement right off the bat.”
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.