When Twiggs County voters cast their ballots Tuesday, they will be choosing a Board of Education chairman and a board member for District 1.
In the chairman’s race, Houston County elementary school teacher Joanie Rainey is challenging incumbent Terralon W. Chaney.
Chaney, a 44-year-old Democrat, is seeking a second term while Rainey, a 47-year-old Republican, is a political newcomer.
Chaney is a Twiggs County native. Rainey attended Houston County schools growing up, but her children have attended Twiggs County schools.
Both women hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fields relating to children and education.
Rainey, who worked as a teacher for 13 years in Twiggs County, said she felt she had to leave her home school system due to a lack of leadership.
“I just didn’t feel pushed to grow. I had to go to grow, so to speak,” she said.
She said she knows of other teachers who live in Twiggs but work in other school systems because of a lack of “necessary resources” and support from the school system.
The county’s population has declined in recent years, Rainey said.
“Lack of a quality school is the principle cause,” she said.
If elected, Rainey said she will examine what support the school system is providing teachers and how they’re using available funds.
Despite the school system having some of the lowest testing and achievement scores in the state, Twiggs students receive one of the largest per-capita student allotments of public funds, she said.
“Those things don’t balance for me,” said Rainey, a teacher of 25 years.
Chaney said she taught eight years at Twiggs County High School and five at Progressive Christian Academy before being hired by Fort Valley State University as a family and consumer services agent based in Twiggs County. She conducts parenting workshops, food demonstrations, hosts healthy living workshops and provides other life-skills oriented services for area residents.
She said she first sought the chairman’s seat in 2010 after becoming tired of hearing people talking negatively about Twiggs County students.
Under her leadership, the school system has erased an $800,000 deficit and has made strides to increase student achievement. The system received a $2.7 million food improvement grant last year and has passed an education special purpose local option sales tax that’s funding a new elementary school gym and heating and air-conditioning improvements, Chaney said.
Technology also has improved, and all high school students have Chromebook computers, she said.
If elected to a second term, Chaney said she wants to continue work to improve graduation rates and technology. Twiggs County High’s graduation rate was 42.2 percent in 2014.
“I am dedicated and loyal to the citizens of Twiggs and believe that our children deserve better,” she said.
Two political newcomers are vying for the District 1 seat currently held by Yolanda Thomas. Thomas chose not to run for re-election.
Robins Air Force Base retiree and Realtor Isiah Rouse, 57, is running as a Democrat against Georgia Juvenile Justice Department disciplinary hearing Sgt. Rhonda Faye Height, 41, who is an independent candidate.
Rouse faced another Democrat, Javarez T. Bryant, in the May primary and won 60 percent of the vote.
In his 37 years inspecting aircraft component parts at Robins, Rouse said he learned how to work with a team. He said he also became effective at solving problems.
If elected, he said, he wants to inspire students to be successful and to improve academic achievement.
“We need to prepare the students for the global world market,” Rouse said. “I think we need more involvement from parents and the children with the teachers and the school officials. ... We have strengths and challenges. We have to work together to overcome those.”
Rouse graduated from Twiggs County High and completed technical school automotive and technology courses. He’s attended some college classes but doesn’t hold a college degree.
If elected, Height said she wants to continue a strong governance team with the school superintendent and other board members.
“I want to build a solid foundation for learning for all children,” she said.
From her job working at the Department of Juvenile Justice’s Macon Youth Development Campus, she’s seen children who have gone astray.
“I’ve been working directly with the children for 15 years. I am dedicated to helping our youth see the light,” she said. “I feel like I can make a difference.”
Height, also a Twiggs County High graduate, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Paine College.
If elected, Height said she also wants to improve high school graduation rates by ensuring teachers are “highly educated” and providing “hands-on” experiences.
“I want to make sure no child is left behind,” she said.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.