The last of the free public school board president candidate forums is over; all five candidates have shown up for at least two and the general public has had the opportunity to hear what each was passionate about.
Candidates Chester Ellis, George Seaborough, Sadie Brown, David Simons and Jolene Byrne have answered questions about academic growth and debated issues about equity and fiscal responsibility.
For weeks their positions on these critical education issues have been overshadowed by Simons’ decision to skip debates and focus on his Republican base while his detractors circulated critical campaign posters and paraded in chicken suits.
But Wednesday during the PTA/Southernmamas.com forum at the Jewish Educational Alliance, the public was able to focus on what each candidate has to offer the public education system with little distraction.
Ellis and Brown stressed their experience as educators, Simons and Seaborough stressed their business skills, and Byrne talked about the advantages of being a parent and teacher.
Why it’s important
With the huge impact the public school system has on the community, the race for school board president has captivated the attention of everyone from parents and teachers to business and government officials.
The district enrolls 38,000 students, it is the largest employer in Chatham County and each year it spends hundreds of millions of dollars to operate and build schools.
The next school board president will help create budgets and policies that impact the academic growth of students from vastly diverse economic, racial and academic backgrounds. That person will help steer the district through a $350 million sales tax funded building and improvement campaign. They’ll help determine how the district will deal with tight budgets and rising academic expectations.
And just as the academic program has begun to take a turn for the better, they might have to replace a retiring superintendent.
“This should be all about the children because giving them the best education we can is essential for the growth of our community,” said Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson. “We’re all in this boat together. The public schools must have a leader who is a consensus builder with the vision to ensure that all of our schools are successful.”