Crawford school board races: Challengers question Crawford school board’s openness

Two Crawford County school board members are facing opposition in the July 31 nonpartisan election.

In District 2, incumbent Eddie Harris Jr. is being challenged by Brad Cody.

Sherry Thompson and Richard Jacobs are trying to unseat first-term District 3 board member Tim Johnson.

The three challengers are all making their first run at political office.

District 2

Cody is an electrical engineer at Robins Air Force Base in the intelligence and surveillance section that does work on the U-2 spy plane.

He has lived in Crawford County all of his life and has two children in the elementary school, where he has served as president of the school council for the past two years.

He said the school board has not done enough to keep the staff and community informed.

“The big thing right now is communication,” he said. “There’s tough decisions being made, and when that happens morale is low so it takes communication over the top to keep everybody on board.”

Harris did not return phone calls to be interviewed for this story.

District 3

Johnson’s challengers also questioned the openness of the school board. Johnson said that was a major concern when he was elected, but he believes the board has been open during his term.

“There are no secrets,” he said. “We’ve put everything out there.”

He served six years in the Marines, which he said is the only time he has lived away from Crawford County. He worked for BellSouth and AT&T for nine years, and for the past two years he has been an F-15 mechanic at Robins Air Force Base.

Johnson said he believes the school system has made progress under the current board while taxes have been kept down during a difficult economy.

Jacobs and Thompson both said one of their top priorities is to improve openness by the school board.

Thompson, a homemaker, said she started going to board meetings regularly a few years after seeing what she said were “inconsistencies” in school board actions. She does not believe board members are as involved with the system as they ought to be.

“I have two grandchildren still in school,” she said. “I go to most of the programs they put on. I have never once seen a school board member at anything other than football games.”

She also said the board too often goes along with the recommendations of the superintendent without raising questions.

“I don’t think that’s what you were elected to do,” she said.

She said too many students are sent to in-school suspension for dress code violations, when she believes in many cases the violations are because the students are poor and don’t have anything better to wear. She previously served 10 years as a school bus driver.

Jacobs is a support coordinator and also owns a tax and insurance business in Roberta. He has one child in the school system and another who will be.

He said he first thought about running for the school board when he noticed on his tax bill that the school system portion was higher than the county’s. While he said he understands why that would be, it made him start questioning whether the taxpayers were getting value for the money.

“The main thing is I believe there needs to be some changes,” he said, noting only 42 percent of students are graduating on time. “I want to be able to work with the students and teachers to make things better.”

He also shares Thompson’s concern about the board’s openness.

“The Board of Education and the school system are so insular in the way they think,” Jacobs said. “They forget they are answerable to the taxpayers.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.