Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Local School Board Candidates

There will be significant turnover on the Oconee County Board of Education in this year's election. Board Chair Chris Franklin is not running again, nor is David Williams. Tommy Malcom is running for state senate. Mack Guest, who was appointed when Tom Porter resigned due to a personal move, will be up for election. David Weeks will run for board chair and is probably the odds-on favorite. The board is also moving to staggered terms with this election.

One candidate I'm excited to see running is Chuck Toney, who is running for Post 4. Chuck is running for David Williams' seat, and would make an outstanding addition to the board. He has been involved in a variety of school initiatives through the years and has a broad perspective on a number of issues. He was interviewed by Tim Bryant on Tuesday (move to 14:00 into the segment) and had some interesting comments.

Our school system is a great asset for Oconee, and is one of the best in the state by nearly every measure (am excited that my daughter will be a Colham Ferry Mustang next year!). The education I received in Oconee was second to none.

My only fear about school systems in general is the potential for "leapfrogging" into agricultural areas with new school sites, speeding up development in rural areas and increasing pressures for subdivisions, since many parents like to send their kids to the "new school." This story from New Urban News offers a great look at how some systems have decided to plan their schools with the broader community in mind, and some of the potential benefits, including significant savings in terms of land acquisition, transportation, etc. It is a positive news that the School System is strongly considering maintaining its board offices in downtown Watkinsville, which is centrally located to most of the schools and offers a lot of convenience for those who office there as well.

My preference would be for new schools -- especially elementary and middle -- to be more community-focused rather than mega-sites that create traffic nightmares. The school system should focus on joint planning with the county, cities and private developers so that our schools are located in areas designated for growth on future land use plans and integrated into our community as it grows rather than being an engine for more subdivisions. While Oconee has done a pretty good job with this so far, as our system and county grow closer planning will be critical.

As for education itself, I'll leave that in the hands of the pros like my wife and my Mom, who have spent years taking care of the students of Oconee County and know a whole lot more about that than I do.

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