A longtime Crawford County school board member is facing a challenge from a political newcomer.
Chairman Raymond Dickey, who has served on the board since 1993, is facing Bill Patton in the May 20 nonpartisan election for the District 1 post.
Patton is the Crawford County water superintendent. He said he had been thinking of running for the school board for several years.
“I work with the kids at church, and I see and hear what they come in talking about at school, and I just think there’s got to be a better way,” he said. “We just spend more money on the same problems.”
Dickey is a mechanical technician at Weyerhaeuser in Oglethorpe. His only other previous political experience, he said, is that in 1980 he ran for the Crawford County Commission.
“I lost by 10 votes,” he said. “Then I found out 12 of my family members didn’t vote.”
If he is elected to another term, his primary focus is a fundamental one.
“I think the priority is student achievement and the money matters that go along with funding student achievement,” he said.
Patton cited a similar but more specific priority. He wants to focus on improving the graduation rate, which was 67 percent in a report issued by the state in December.
“We pay more property taxes to the school board, yet we are not getting the results,” he said.
He said he believes the school board needs to communicate more with teachers, parents and students.
“There is a disconnect between the board and everybody else,” he said. “They feel like they have no input.”
Dickey said the board is always willing to hear anyone’s concerns. At every meeting, he said, residents can get on the agenda and speak about almost any subject. The only exception, he said, is that the board does not discuss individual student or personnel matters in public.
“If anyone wants to come before the board, we encourage them to do that,” he said.
He added the board does ask people to try to resolve issues with the principal or superintendent first.
He said one of the biggest problems he sees in the school system is that too many students miss too many days of school. He said he would like to explore ways to give students more incentive to be in school.
Patton said he believes the schools devote too much time to enforcing issues such as the dress code, and he said those aren’t always handled with consistency.
“It seems to me that we put our teachers in a position that they spend too much time being police officers than being teachers,” he said.
The position pays $300 per month.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.