Bibb school board endorsements

The Aug. 21 vote is both a Democratic primary and a runoff election between former state Rep. David Lucas and the woman who beat him for the state Senate District 26 seat, Miriam Paris.

Unfortunately, there is some confusion. The school board vote was not held during the July 31 primary because of a redistricting problem that had implication on the school board seats and the state Senate runoff.

First, some voters may believe they already voted for their school board choice -- and many did -- however, those votes didn’t count. It was too late to change the ballots after the court ruled that the new district maps had to be used instead of the old and candidates had to re-qualify. This could impact the Senate race positively or negatively depending on turnout for the school board races.

This effectively changed the lineup. Incumbent Tom Hudson in District 5 is now unopposed and candidate Thelma Dillard in District 2 drew two opponents where she had none. Also, a young 18-year-old student, Michael McKeever, decided to challenge incumbent Ella Carter and newcomer Brenda Sutton.

Carter, brings almost a half-century of education experience to the District 1 position. She wrote the original magnet program for the school system. She’s taught at all levels and last served as principal at Northeast High School.

By her own description, Carter is “old school” and anyone who knows her understands what that means when it comes to student discipline.

Carter is a supporter of year-round school and believes students should have a test taking skills course available to them. While there are some aspects of the “Macon Miracle” she believes need tweaking, she supports it.

Sutton, is a registered mediator and a youth leadership consultant and believes a S.T.A.R.T. Program should be implemented in Bibb County that would address some of the discipline problems with a military boot camp curriculum. She believes the administration is top-heavy and would not have voted for the budget that needed $8 million to balance the books.

While we applaud McKeever’s efforts, he’s not ready to assume one of the toughest elected positions in any county.

Our panel, while appreciating everything Carter has accomplished in the system feels it needs new blood and that Sutton’s mediation experience will help pull the board together after a rancorous year. We support Brenda Sutton for the Bibb County Board of Education District 1.

Candidates interviewed by: Charles Bass, Gigi Cabell, Mary Lou Ezell, Leroy Mack, Jon Merrill, Violet Poe, Mike Smallwood, George McCanless, Sherrie Marshall and Charles E. Richardson

The District 2 race features Dr. Thelma Dillard, attorney Alan Patrick Taylor and Angel Davis-Hopper. After confirming her appointment with the panel Davis-Hopper was unable to meet and, by our rules, we were unable to consider her for this endorsement.

Dillard says she is running because she loves this community. Her family history speaks to that love. She spent 44 years as an educator and was using differentiated learning before the term was coined. She also served two decades on City Council.

Dillard believes there needs to be a structured curriculum for in-house suspension and higher expectations set for students. She would employ retired teachers to mentor new teachers.

Taylor, a former 11-year English teacher and school council chair at Alexander II Elementary School, believes alternative schools should not be a dumping ground for the system’s worst teachers or students. He says the best professionals should be hired for alternative schools. He’s very familiar with the Macon Miracle plan and agrees with its objectives.

Taylor is a refreshing candidate. He says what he thinks. For example, he’s not against raising taxes to fund education.

He’s thoughtful. After first thinking teaching Chinese was “insane” he did his own research and now understands the superintendent’s long-term economic development plan. He displayed a type of pragmatism that would be useful on the board, and as one panelist said, he has a “dollop of optimism.”

Taylor also has skin in the game with two children in the system. And, most of all, he is the only candidate who could succinctly describe the role of a school board member. We endorse Alan Patrick Taylor.

Candidates interviewed by: Gigi Cabell, Amy Elton, Sarah Gordon, Ayani Good, Leroy Mack, Jon Merrill, Giles O’Neal, Violet Poe, Gene Strouss, George McCanless, Sherrie Marshall and Charles E. Richardson

The District 3 race features incumbent Susan Sipe, a first-term board member, and Merritt Johnson, a 1995 graduate of Southwest High School.

Johnson believes his leadership roles in his fraternity have provided the skills needed for the board of education. He’s concerned about classroom discipline and safety. He thinks teachers, administrators and the superintendent, need to be accountable. The Valdosta State graduate says he would bring fresh energy to the board.

Sipe thinks the board has very large issues to face. A communication problem between the superintendent and the media, the superintendent and the board and the superintendent and the community.

Sipe feels children are not always the board’s first priority because politics have been injected. She has concerns about the portfolio schools and is excited about the new common core curriculum.

While Sipe has been on the losing side of the 5-3 split on the board, she is known to ask good questions and does her homework. She’s managed to disagree without being disagreeable. She has skin in the game, too, with a granddaughter in the system.

While we endorse Susan Sipe for the seat, we sincerely hope Johnson will stay involved. While he’s not ready yet, he’s the kind of young man who can make a positive impact on this community. The winner will face Republican Angela P. Freeman in November.

Candidates interviewed by: Gigi Cabell, Amy Elton, Ayani Good, Leroy Mack, Don McGouirk, Jon Merrill, Giles O’Neal, Violet Poe, Gene Strouss George McCanless, Sherrie Marshall and Charles E. Richardson