Oconee County voters who ask for the Republican ballot when early voting for the May 24 primary starts on Monday–or at the voting both on May 24–will get a chance to vote on the only local contest in the election.
Ryan Hammock, Julie Mauck, and Elliott Rogers are seeking the Republican Party nomination for Post 3 on the Oconee County Board of Education.
Those voters selecting the Democratic ballot will be deciding only state and federal contests. State and federal contests will be on the Republican ballot as well.
Voters selecting either of the party ballots, as well as those not wishing to participate in the party primaries, also will be voting on a series of nonpartisan judicial races. Only one of those–at the state level–is being contested.
The Republican ballot gives voters a chance to express an opinion on 13 questions from the party, and the Democratic ballot contains 11 questions written by the Democratic Party, but the answers to none of these is binding on anyone.
In the only joint meeting of Hammock, Mauck, and Rogers–before the Oconee County Republican Party last month–the three mostly agreed on what they would do on the School Board, with all expressing strong approval of Oconee County Schools.
The three differed more noticeably in style and on what they chose to tell those present about themselves and their backgrounds.
Early voting is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until May 20 at the Office of Elections and Registration, 10 Court Street, across from the Courthouse in downtown Watkinsville.
Saturday voting will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 7 and 14.
Transcription Of March 28 Meeting
The Oconee County Republican Party does not allow video recording of its meeting, so only those who were present at the March 28 meeting in which Hammock, Mauck, and Rogers spoke had a chance to see and hear their self-introductions and responses to six questions posed by the audience.
|Announcement of April 28, 2022, Meeting|
The Oconee Enterprise did provide a summary of the meeting on Page A8 of its March 31 edition.
Two people who attended the meeting provided me with an audio recording, and I used those to produce a transcription of the introductory comments of each of the candidates as well as of their responses to two of the questions asked.
I have provided that transcription below.
Both of the audio files have gaps, but, with the two of them, I was able to produce a complete record.
Oconee County Party Chair Kathy Hurley gave each of the candidates an opportunity for an introduction before the audience was offered a chance to ask questions.
Amy Parrish, incumbent Post 2 School Board member, also was invited to speak, although she has no opposition in the Republican Primary.
Two individuals, Ryan Repetske and Melissa Eagling, have qualified to run as Independents on Nov. 8, pending submission of completed petitions from 1,425 Oconee County voters requesting the inclusion of their names on the ballot.
A group is working with Repetske and Eagling at present to get signatures on petitions. The deadline for submission is July 12.
Support For Schools
Parrish told the gathering that the Board has managed COVID, managed growth, kept the millage rate low, engaged in strategic planning, and “We have, I think, encouraged community participation.”
Hammock said he was impressed with what community leaders had done in the past to create the culture that exists in the county and in the schools and that he felt Oconee County Schools had created a safe environment for its students.
“I feel like we have a good School Board,” Mauck said. “They made some great decisions through this COVID time that I can’t fault that at all.”
“I’m not looking to burn down the School Board or Oconee County Schools,” she said.
“Couldn’t be more pleased with the schools,” Rogers said.
Parrish spoke for just more than five minutes in her introduction. Her comments are below.
I know a lot of you but those that don’t know, I am the incumbent for Post 2 and for those who don’t know we are countywide elections. You all know that. You are very engaged. Everybody can vote for Post 2 and Post 3. And I do not have a Republican challenger but I do have an Independent that’s running against me. So it is important that everybody get out there and vote.
I just wanted to tell you a little bit about how I got here. I grew up with parents that were very, very involved and dedicated to public education. My mom was a teacher. My dad was right there beside her and was really heavily engaged in education. She was fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom for awhile but she never really stayed at home because she was involved with the PTA and different things. She became the state PTA president for North Carolina, where I grew up in Charlotte. By the time I got to high school--my sister, she was always involved with her schools. By the time I went through school and was in junior high and high school, my mom had moved on and was at the state level, advocating for kids. But she always told us, she traveled quite frequently, she always said, you are what is most important. It is very important that we advocate for every kid out there and especially those who have no one advocating for them. So that was just instilled in me as I had my kids came along.
I have a ninth grader at Oconee County High School. My daughter is a freshman at Georgia College now. And as they were coming up I just wanted to be involved. So I got involved at the school level, through the PTO. Then I was on the Oconee County Middle School Parent Advisory Board. And then I found out that Mark Thomas was stepping down from the School Board to run for County Commission. And I never had really considered School Board before but that opportunity presented itself, and I decided to go ahead and apply for that Post. Because it was an open seat then. We had to apply to the Board. So myself and another person applied. And I was the fortunate one that was chosen to fill his seat. And then I had to run for–that was for two years–I ran for election. Passed that. Was elected to the Board. And now I’m up for re-election again. And it’s been a phenomenal experience.
There’s a lot of training that Board members have to go through statewide. And every conference we go to I come back knowing what I know to be true. We are so blessed in Oconee County. With the community that we have. With the engagement that we have. This truly is a very unique place. And it is important to us to keep it that way. So some of things that I think that we’ve done well in the past is managing growth. We all know that’s coming and that is something that is very difficult for a school system to do. But we are really committed to that. We’ve been able while I’ve been on the Board, the whole Board has been able to reduce the millage rate. We’ve kept it low. We are very fiscally responsible.
We have, I think, encouraged community participation. We created a VILLA program, which is a Volunteer Instructional Leadership Learning Academy, and now this just this past week, we had our fourth class graduate from that. So an opportunity for us to get two parents from each school to kind of peek behind, peek behind the scenes, to see how the school system operates and become an advocate. We’ve done redistricting with the building of Dove Creek Elementary School. We had a great strategic planning session and we have got another one that is going to come up soon. That strategic plans ends in 2024. And the great things about that is that we have good community input. We had four hundred people come to the Civic Center to provide input to our Strategic Plan for the schools. The people that led it for us were blown away by the kind of response. That was really important. We took that large input and then narrowed it down and had some other key stakeholders involved and the final plan. And several of you that are here were also involved in that.
COVID was an interesting time to be on the School Board. It was more challenging with that, but I think one thing we all learned is how important local leadership is. Sometimes, and I’m guilty of this, you think, and this is something I mentioned earlier, big ticket makes the top. Let’s just focus on that. With COVID we found, no, who’s at the bottom really matters. Who’s at the top matters in that they still allow us to have local control and make local decisions. So I think that’s vitally important. I encourage you all to vote, encourage everyone you know to vote, and just know, and I think most of you that know me, can say this about me, that I actually care about listening and what’s important to you. We may have to separate disagreeing. But I hope you always know that you were heard. That I cared about your perspective. And I really want to listen to what you have to say and what your concerns are.
Hammock spoke for six and a half minutes. His comments follow.
I want to thank you all for coming out. I’m Ryan Hammock and I’m running for Post 3 for the Board of Education. I believe, and my wife and I both believe, this is the most important election that you will find on the ballot. It gets back to local control that Amy was talking about a moment ago. It gets back to the culture of Oconee County. And that is something that our kids will become. That is something that we have to protect as we look forward over time.
Before we dive into several points I think it is important that you understand who I am and where I come from. I was born over in Hall County, was raised and worked on our family poultry and cattle farm. Did that all the way through college. Went to the University of North Georgia. It was North Georgia College and State University at the time, though it will always be that to me. So finished up there. Moved to Athens. I decided not to get into farming and decided to get into banking instead. That is something that I was passionate about in listening to my family as they would negotiate things on the farm. I believe it was that entrepreneurship that I saw growing up that led me to a career in banking. I’m proud to have been here in our area since 2004. My wife and I built our house in 2014. Moved in December that year. And now we have six year old boy, a four year old boy and a 21-month-old son. So we are very invested in the long-term health of Oconee County. Something I talked about just a moment ago was culture. When I think about Oconee County I think about what we are.
There are three things I’m very passionate about with our school system. One of those is going to be safe. What I mean by that is I believe our children are safe physically in our schools today. Also I believe our children are safe in what they are being taught in our schools in Oconee County. That’s not something I can say about all of the school systems in the country and it’s not something I can say even about some of our neighboring counties. When I also think about safety it gets into ensuring our children are safe in the future. Our children have to be taught how to critically think. They have to be taught to think for themselves. They should not be taught what to think. They have to be taught how to think. And that will keep our kids safe in the future.
Also it gets into communication. Parents deserve the right to understand what their kids are being taught in the school. They deserve the right to understand the curriculum. They understand the right to have a clear communication. When I say that, it is not on our teachers to teach our parents the ins and outs of work that goes on in the classroom. As I talk to teachers in our community what I’ve heard is hey, whenever that is asked, it is going to get pushed down to the teacher level and we’re just gonna have more to do. Everything that our teachers do on a day-to-day basis has to be focused on educating our children on the critical thinking and to prepare for the world especially then they are adults. It also is important that, and you’ll find this from me having a career in banking, is parents when it comes to fiscal decisions is important. Every single fiscal decision that is made has to drill down to how does this help our children again become independent critical thinkers. If it doesn’t pass that test, the question shall always be asked, why are we spending on it.
I’m going to talk lastly about culture. And I think this is what is of upmost importance. Oconee County--I know there are several people here who served on the School Board previously. They had a large impact on the culture of Oconee County. They had a large impact on encouraging family involvement in their kids’ education. That’s why we have multi-generational families in Oconee County. That’s why we have multi-generational Georgians like myself who are running again for what I believe is the most important election on your ballot. It also gets into the culture of our county. We have outside forces. You heard Rivian. It is something that was brought up earlier today. That is going to bring upwards of 7,500 people to our community. It is not Oconee County but it is still to our area. That’s going to impact roads. That’s going to impact school size, and again will impact culture.
Thinking about school size, I want to be very clear, I believe in protecting our culture, protecting our school size, protecting our class size. I do not want us to become Gwinnett County where we have 3,000, 4,000, 4,500 student high schools. I am not for that. It was also brought up earlier about our strategic plan. That document is something that helps to govern our School Board, and it also helps govern our administration.
Earlier it was brought up that this is a job interview. And it definitely is. When it comes to our School Board, the voters in Oconee County are the ultimate decision makers. You make a decision on who serves on your behalf on the School Board. When I am on the School Board I will help create policy. We also have one employee that reports to the School Board. And that is the superintendent. It is on the School Board to be able to have oversight on the superintendent and on action within the school system.
One last thing I want to touch on again when it gets to culture and some of you may say I’m broken record on this. But it gets to family involvement. Everything, when it comes to our children’s education boils down to our family. Your family is there to help your child form their opinion and become the adult that you hope they become. Thank you very much.
Julie Mauck spoke for a little more than 10 minutes. Here comments follow.
Public speaking isn’t my favorite, so I never know whether to write a speech or just jot down notes. Sometimes I just like to be as surprised as you are about what comes out of my mouth. So that’s what we’re going with tonight. I am running for Post 3 on the Board of Education, and I chose that Post because it was coming open. Wayne Bagley was leaving that seat. I feel like we have a good School Board. They made some great decisions through this COVID time that I can’t fault that at all. And I hope that Amy [Parrish] and Kim [Argo]–and I think saw Michael [Ransom] over there somewhere–would say that when I speak with them I that I am not an angry mom. I’m a momma bear, but I am not a domestic terrorist. And I try to have decent interactions with them. I think they do a good job.
My husband, Dave, and I moved here from Williamson County, Tennessee, which is just south of Nashville. We’ve moved around quite a bit. We have four kids. And we’ve had to advocate for them regularly over, through the last 25 years. Our oldest is 25. Her name is Cara. Right now she is at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, training to be a combat medic for the army. She has a degree from the University of South Florida St. Pete in microbiology. But she chose to serve. Our sons Will and Liam are 20 years old now. They are–we are helping them adult. We adopted them from Bulgaria when they were two years old. They do have varying disabilities and so we’re trying to work that into our adult lines but it required a lot of application on their behalf from the very beginning. Our baby Lilli was our foster baby, and we adopted her at about a year and a half. She’s the only one left in schools. She’s in ninth grade now. And she is our baby. She brings us a lot of joy. We’re just having a lot of fun with her.
This has been a complicated road at this point. All of that is to say that a lot of you know me from Oconee County Conservatives. I started that group when we first moved here. Last year I started Moms for Liberty in Oconee County. I also started the Oconee County 411, which some people love, some people hate, and that’s ok. But when I moved here from Williamson County I was on a mission. I consider myself–I’ve moved around about every three years of my life growing up. My dad worked with the federal government. So they moved us around. I lived in England, several different states, and did middle school in Puerto Rico. But I claim Nashville as my home. After my husband and I got married, we moved to–I left a career with–I was with Caterpillar at the time, actually Cat Financial, I was a credit analyst in the dealer division. Prior to that I worked for Ford as a credit analyst and a paralegal as well.
But Dave and I moved to Knoxville after we got married, and for 15 years after that I nagged him to move back to Nashville. I missed Nashville. But while we were in Knoxville we adopted the boys and that began my process of getting much more involved in the schools and school policy than I really ever wanted to be. Our older daughter, Cara, was the easy kid. She would come from school and I would say Cara come and watch the show with me and she would say, Mom, I’ve got to do my homework and then we can talk. She was just one of those strange kids. But when we adopted the boys, and we realized pretty early one that there were some learning and development issues. And they were denied special ed services when they started preschool. And that kind of began my journey. We took them to mediation. We were in Knox County at the time. We had to go to mediation with Knox County and fight to get them special ed services. We were finally approved and got some additional things because of their poor decision-making in the beginning. So after that we moved to Florida. Our boys have fetal alcohol syndrome. One of them has reactive attachment disorder, which was a failure to bond, which also resulted in some mental health issues in adulthood. So it has been very complicated. But they have always had an individualized education plan at the schools that they attended. And then when we moved to Florida, it was about 2010 when Common Core came out. And they started aligning the individual education plans that was my kids priority to Common Core. My 20-year-old son does math at a first grade level still but they wanted him to do geometry. That was then in line with the standard. So I started my battle then in politics and education and fought hard. I spoke to the Florida Department of Education and created a group there where we lived in Palm Beach County to fight Common Core. You know, eventually, it has morphed into something different, thank goodness. But, you know, it was a battle worth fighting.
We then moved back to, I finally got to move back to my beloved Williamson County. And so much had changed in 15 years. I could not believe it. It just wasn’t the same county. They had moved. You know, we were talking about Rivian, a few people had mentioned Rivian. You know, I’m not in favor of it. I watched Honda North America move into Williamson County [See note below.] They turned over the School Board. They turned over the Board of Commission. They changed the face of that entire county. Instead of having discussions on the School Board about education and curriculum, our discussions turned into white privilege training for the teachers. And how dress codes are offensive to women. And so we shouldn’t have dress codes. And it completely changed the dynamic of that entire county. And so when I moved here I told my husband, you know, that’s not going to happen under my watch again. That’s not what we want for our children. Not what we want for our country.
So I formed Oconee County 411. I found some people. That morphed into a separate Oconee County Conservatives group. Some people know. I met with them. I was in town a month and I found the conservatives and I said let’s meet. I want to stay here. I don’t want to go anywhere. But all of that is to say, we have some great financial people on the School Board. We have some great academics on the School Board. People looking out for the teachers. But parents, parents like me who have had to fight very hard over the years for our children and their education. It is fine to listen, but sometimes you need feedback. You want to be part of the process. And that’s where I am now. I only have one left in school. I have the time to do it. I am a realtor but I will put that on hold to do the best I can for this county.
Abraham Lincoln said the philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. So politics in schools is nothing new. This isn’t novel. You know, it has been around forever. In 1962 the Warren Commission took God out of our schools. [See note below.] And conservative Christians just kind of walked away. And that’s what’s going on in our schools now. We’ve got to take them back. We’ve got to participate. We’ve got to have a voice as Christian conservatives. That’s what I want to do. That’s how I want to help. And I think I can. We need to ask questions. We need to look at the curriculum that’s coming from. I’m not a fan of Chromebooks. They are collecting all kinds of data on our kids. I’m not a fan of SEL. [SEL stands for Social Emotional Learning.] I knew early on. I said no on SEL because I studied it for a while. So there are things that I’m not in love with. But I’m not looking to burn down the school board or Oconee County Schools. I want to be a help. I want to be a part of the process. I want to help parents get the answers that they need and be a part of the process.
I hope you’ll vote for me on May 24. I have signs back there if anybody would like one please check me out on Facebook. I communicate regularly on there. I get my behind handed to me by liberals occasionally so you can too. But if you have any questions please reach out to me. But I’d appreciate your vote.
[I asked Mauck in an email exchange this week to provide the spelling of her children’s names and clarify several comments she made. Mauck said her reference should have been to Nissan North America, not Honda North America. Nissan North America moved its corporate headquarters to Franklin, county seat of Williamson County, in 2008. I also confirmed that she meant Warren Court rather than Warren Commission.]
Rogers spoke for nearly eight minutes. His comments follow.
Most of you here have no idea who I am, and that is awesome. The best way to figure out who somebody is and what they are going to do in the future is look at what they did in the past. At least, that is what I’ve done. Yes, people change, and sometimes things changes, but a lot of times things don’t change. And those behaviors that were in the past are going to follow them forward.
I have a wonderful wife who is very supportive. I’ve prayed about getting involved for years. And I said, Lord, when it’s my time to get involved, I need you to let her know. She can let me know. You can convince her about the crazy ideas that I have. She has talked me out of a bunch because she’s got this little gland that goes crazy when I come up with nutty ideas. And she came to me and said you need to run for School Board. I said like this time right now? Well, because like Julie, I’m a real estate agent, and it is nuts out there right now. But you know what, when the Lord answers a prayer and my wife speaks, you do, and so it has been actually incredible for this process.
But I am, I have a wonderful wife, Julie, almost 19 years. Father of four. I have a kindergartener, I have a fourth grader, a seventh grader, and a ninth grader. So three boys and a girl. We have been residents of Oconee County for almost eight years. A phenomenal eight years here. Couldn’t be more pleased with the schools. I have, it has just been an incredible time for us. I was a former teacher. I taught special education for 12 years. I loved, loved, loved what I did. I loved the kids. I loved the parents. I wrote IEPs. [Individual Educational Plans.] Man alive, that nearly did me in. When I got to write a real estate contract, they said, this is it, a page and a half, and that is it. I was spending hours writing IEPs for these kids. But I loved it. And so I did miss that, but there came a time when I realized that things needed to happen on another level, and this discontentment kicked in. And I felt like I was being led somewhere else. Well it is hard to do anything from a classroom when you are stuck in a room all day long. Which is what I did. I signed on for that.
But in order to move forward with what I felt like I was being called to do I had to develop a business. I loved to hear Bruce speak. [Bruce Thompson, a candidate for Labor Commissioner, spoke earlier in the evening.] I don’t know Bruce, but I’m a Bulldog, right? And the problem is I just didn’t know I was a Bulldog. Right? Because I would just see something I wanted and I would go for it. And then I found that these guys are called an entrepreneur. My dad never told me about that. I didn’t have a clue what it was. I just knew I’d seen something I wanted, I went and got it. That was just how I operated. Sometimes I let those skills related to construction behind me but, you know, as I’ve gotten older I’ve figured out not to do that.
Currently, as I said, currently I’m in real estate. I definitely think those skills translate over into figuring out how to work with people. I have closed deals in spite of the other agent, meaning I did all of the work. Meaning they blocked me along the way but we still got the deal to the table because my broker said we’re in the business of closing deals. We’re not in the business of killing deals. And so you have to be able to work with other people. You have to be able to find common ground. It is a very challenging, challenging thing to do with some people. But you know, it is interesting, some of the work, some of the hardest transactions I’ve started off with, we got to the table and a lady, my client, looked at myself and said well gee that was the easiest transaction ever and I just smiled and looked at the other agent and we about just died laughing because it was anything but. Not all exits are created equal.
And so those skills that I have learned through that time, I do believe, working with other people. I’ve worked in full-time ministry. My dad was a pastor. I worked in full-time ministry for three years. If you can lead volunteers at a church, you can do just about anything that you want to. They work for free. And you have to convince them why they need to show up and do what you want them to do for free. And sometimes for many hours. I’ve been able to, been blessed the last six years or so to lead All Pro Dad chapters at elementary schools. So a guy named Pat Carnes and I facilitated times for dads for their kids into the schools. All Pro Dad is a program that was spearheaded by Tony Dungy and others. We created an environment for kids to come in and spend time with dad. And it is fantastic. It has had so much positive feedback on that.
As far as the School Board goes, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from teachers. Being a former teacher, you know, I get those questions. Hey, I see you’re a former teacher. What’s your agenda? And I really felt like I needed an agenda. But I didn’t have one. Because we love it here. It is why we moved here for the school district. We moved here for the culture. I’m very happy with the way things are. So I mentioned I’ve been in ministry. I’ve worked a couple of different places. I’ve seen things that are really, really good. And then people broke them and tore them apart. Why, I’ve still questioned to this day. But it doesn’t matter why. The reality is they did it and I saw how they did it. And I’m not, it was so frustrating. Again, it led me to where I’m at today. You see things that happen. Sometimes the best things I’ve learned from watching people do it the wrong way. I’ve done things the wrong way. But you learn from that. But what I don’t want to do is come in with an agenda and try to blow something up.
I’ve learned from a lot of people you don’t even know what you don’t know until you get in there and figure it out. And I learned that with real estate. There is this whole other world out there until you get into it you have no idea. And I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the teachers. Thank you for not having an agenda. We don’t need people on the School Board with agendas. Honestly I was relieved and shocked and happy all at the same time because again I felt like I should have an agenda and I just didn’t have one. I want to take something that is good or be part of something that’s good and keep it moving forward. There is no such thing as standing still. Standing still is backwards. You have to be moving forward at all times with business, with anything, there is no such thing as sitting still.
I’ll close with this. Oliver Wendell Holmes, was a Supreme Court Justice. He came from a very wealthy family. He fought in the Civil War. He could have very easily get someone to fight for him because of his status in life. He didn’t. He went and fought. So that’s where I’m at. I don’t want to send someone else to go fight something that I can do as a teacher. I’ve been in the trenches. When we have good leadership we have good teachers. When we have good teachers we have good students. We have good students, we get good teachers. And then the circle keeps going. So it is not a one person fits all. We’ve got to have them all in place. If we don’t have good teachers we won’t have good kids. And when you cross that circle threshold of students that we would call high level students, when they’re gone, I don’t know that there is any coming back from that. And we’re here. My business is here. We have bought a building, a commercial building to run my business out of. So we are committed to Oconee County. We’re not going anywhere.
Thank you for having me tonight. I appreciate it.
Short Questions, Short Answers
The four candidates were asked about remote learning. None of them was in favor of it.
The three candidates for Post 3 were asked what the School Board is not doing well now.
Mauck said it is not vetting curriculum. Hammock said the Board should communicate more about curriculum. Rogers said he would wait until he was on the Board to see what needed to be improved.
In response to a question on teachers, all three said teachers need to feel supported.
All three said they were not using the School Board as a stepping stone to another elected position.
Adversarial Relationship Between Two Boards
Two members of the audience asked about the relationship between the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners.
The first questioner said:
“I felt like in the past that sometimes the Board of Education, it felt like they were the big elephant in the room and the Board of Commissioners didn’t have the voice there. The Board of Commissioners have a lot of things that they have to do. So I would like to have the candidates to address that because we don’t need that adversarial relationship. It needs to have a good relationship between the Board of Commissioners and sometimes the Board of Education needs to realize that the Board of Commissioners really sometimes really sets what needs to be done for the whole community, the whole county.”
“Can I add onto that?” Margaret Hale said.
“I was on the Board of Commissioners for 14 years. And it was a struggle with the Board of Education. And we looked at ways to improve and cost saving measures. They were always kind of shot down by the Board of Education when I was on the Board. So I kind of want to piggyback on yours that you know, are you committed to being more communicative with the Board of Commissioners on where schools are going, what things are going to need to be done? Is there gas sharing that we can do? Can we say to the Board of Commissioners, save the Board of Education with gas and so forth? Because it’s still there. And it was when I was elected back in 2000. They just don’t work together. And they should to help citizens and cost savings. It could be a great conversation.”
I’ve transcribed below the entire responses, in the order given.
I’ve actually already sat down with John Daniell and reached out to Chuck Horton about that. I agree. This is the first place I’ve ever lived where the Board of Commission and the Board of Education seem to have an adversarial relationship. And I do think it is a problem. And I do want to improve this communication. So I’m not sure we can decide where a schools going to go if we don’t know what the future, you know, progress looks like in the county and things like that. And for the $12.9 million dollar Board of Education Building. [The current estimate is $12.7 million.] I agree they need to move, a new place to go. Do they need a $13 million place to go? I don’t know. What is going to happen to the old library over there? Are there other offices? What’s going to happen to space the Board of Commission is leaving? Could the Board of Education fill that and save the taxpayers some money. So I agree with that and I intend to hopefully bring the two together such as I can.
Yea, I agree, that’s a great question. Something I’ve heard a lot of as I’ve been out talking with people. Will the Commissioners and the Board of Education agree on every decision? No. They won’t. That’s where we are. What I think we all can agree on though is we want what’s best for our kids and we want what’s best for our county. At the end of the day, everyone in here hopefully is a citizen of Oconee County, which means that your tax dollars are going to the Commission and also going to the Board of Education. There is a certain level of collaboration that has to happen. Because if we are able to do some things jointly, together, it can save dollars for us all. But again, it does get down to what’s best for our county.
I’ve heard rumors. I haven’t sat down and talked with anybody. I can’t solve. Nobody has hired me to be a mediator between the two. But one of my favorite books is How to Win Friends And Influence People. Like I said, when you are an agent and deal with other agents in the world, just ask them, or their property is the best property they’ve ever seen. I’m a grown adult. Sure, I’ve got crazy family members I’ve got to have Thanksgiving dinners with. So you’ve got to figure it out. I’ll leave it at that.
It is a perception. I hate that it is a perception. It is very unfortunate. We have had some disagreements in the past, but I consider every member of the Commission a friend and somebody that I feel very comfortable talking to and sharing with. I think all of the Board of Education members feel that way. We are two separate governing bodies. So we do control different functions in the county. So we really want to work together. We respect the history that the commissioners have, half being past Board [of Education] members. So tell us how we can eliminate this perception, because we are not adversarial. We do not take anything away from them. We applaud them. We appreciate all the work that they do for our county and are very grateful to have the leaders that we do.
Oconee County As Island
The final question was on perceived threats to Oconee County’s culture.
“I see Oconee County as an island of sanity in an often crazy world. That to me is a statement about where we live and also a comment about the world. My concern is about the creeping woke culture in schools, critical race theory, gender issues, things of this sort. Is that an issue we’re not talking about? Is that something we need to protect against? And I would just be curious about the School Board candidates’ positions on that. Where are we now, and what do we need to watch for, and what will you do to watch out for?”
I agree. I think we are an island. And I’m glad that I’m in this island, especially when I go statewide for work or personal awards. We see that that’s the case. That is a great question. That’s happening in other school board. Its leaving the board in great turmoil. [One sentence is not audible.] Currently they are not teaching here. CRT is not being taught here. I thinks these are things that obviously we need to be aware of. We are living in an island. We are not an island. We have to go out, and our kids have to go out and interact with everybody else in the world. I think we need to definitely have to be aware of what’s happening outside of our community. [Another sentence is not audible.] It goes back to what we’re doing here is what our community wants. That’s what we did during COVID. We listened to what a majority of our community wanted, and that’s what we want to implement for our students. We can take our experiences and go out into the state. Our leaders are sought after for opinions and advice and questions about best practices.
I’ll just say that it is less here than in other places that I’ve lived. It depends on the teacher. Do we push it? Is the School Board pushing it? No. Social and Emotional Learning definitely creates the seque way for those types of things coming into our classrooms. I will tell you in the time that I’ve been here about changes in the type of questions being asked of my children. It is a question that sometimes can change from: What is the time line for World War II prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. How do you feel the Japanese were treated after the Harbor was bombed? When I see that I contacted the teacher several times and said that’s not an appropriate question for my child. It is none of your business how they feel about how the Japanese were treated. Sorry, please come up with another assignment for my child. So it really depends on the teacher. But I agree. We’ve got to keep the woke pedigree out of our classrooms. It is hazardous, and has to stay out of our classrooms. I think we do a good job. SEL. That is in the details. Cromebooks. The devil is in the details.
I agree. I do not support Critical Race Theory. I believe in our nuclear family. I believe in the culture in Oconee County. And I believe that everything we do in the schools goes with that. We are the island you’re talking about. We need to expand that island. But we also take care of that’s where we are. We have to continue to encourage our school system and we have to hold each other accountable to ensure that we teach our kids how to think and not what to think.
Oconee is where it is because of high educational achievement. When we were in school, we taught academics. Reading, writing, math. If you are teaching those things, you shouldn’t have time for other stuff. When you focus on these other woke ideas, you’re going to fall of the wagon on academically. You focus on academics like we’ve been doing, you keep high, high standards, high achieving students. You don’t have time for that. CRT is not being taught in Oconee from what Ms. Parrish said. Parents keep a close eye on the curriculum. Look at the work that comes home. Where does the curriculum come from? And how are the questions worded? What does that question say? Is it a word problem about math? Well what does that word problem say? I encourage parents. You have to be involved. The Board members are the leaders and they take responsibility for things but parents also, like Julie mentioned, you’ve got to look at that. Is that right for your kid? But I think the school is meant for academic teaching and learning. If we’re not focused on academic teaching and learning. If those things aren’t increasing academic achievement in students. Then why are we doing them? You’ve got to ask the question.
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