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Post 4 school board candidates concerned with finances

CONYERS -- Two candidates for the Rockdale County Board of Education feel that finances are surrounding some of the biggest problems facing the school system.

Sharon Pharr and Darrell Stephens are vying for the school board's Post 4 seat, which is currently held by Darlene Hotchkiss, who isn't seeking reelection.

When asked by the Citizen, Pharr said that the biggest problem in Rockdale County Public Schools is the increasing loss of local control, including dealing with funds, policies and vision.

"(It is) caused by growing governance at the state level and costly, tightly restricted compliance issues tied to federal programs," said Pharr, whose three children attended Rockdale County schools since she moved to the county 34 years ago. "This is the time to take stock of our budget, policies and direction."

Pharr suggested restructuring top administrators, keeping class sizes "manageable" and examining the cost of substitute teachers who are used when teachers go to trainings.

"Hopefully with our new superintendent will come some relief in the expensive upper administration costs," said Pharr, who has worked at Mayer Electric Supply Co. Inc. since 1998. "We can't afford to blindly continue the same direction and count on the local taxpayers or state and federal funds to make up our financial shortfalls. ... It's time to reassess where we're headed."

Stephens said the biggest problem facing RCPS is the negative impact that the current financial crisis has on teacher morale.

"Teacher behavior is the largest contributing factor to student achievement, and if teachers are not happy about their jobs, we could possibly lose a great deal of progress that has been made over the years," said Stephens, who is an assistant principal at Indian Creek Middle School in Covington. "They have had to contend with additional furlough days, increases in class sizes and insurance premiums ... not to mention the new curriculum that is being implemented. These things create the perfect storm that could lead to a toxic and unproductive culture in schools."

He suggested that to help better balance the budget, that the system could build coalitions with representatives in the county and state to ensure they are advocating major income sources like the Quality Basic Education Act funds and equalization grants.

"As a school board representative, working with our (state) House and Senate representatives will be a crucial first step in ensuring that Rockdale County Schools is getting its fair share of the budgetary pie from the state," said Stephens, who lost to Jim McBrayer in the 2010 election for the school board's Post 1 At Large seat. "I would also propose an Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which would be limited to a usage of two years ... to build up our general fund, fund capital projects and pay down debt."

He also suggested switching from hard copy textbooks to electronic textbooks.

Comments

buck 2 years, 2 months ago

Wow he wants another tax! I thought we had maxed out our SPLOST ability. Yet another name for mismanagement: Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax!

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VPublicola 2 years, 2 months ago

...and a further reliance on federal grants that come with strings attached. Then, when that money dries up the taxpayers are again tapped to "reconcile the budget shortfall."

Nor do I agree with his statement that, "Teacher behavior is the largest contributing factor to student achievement." Parental involvement is the largest contributing factor to student achievement. Parents who do not value education and are not involved in their child's education (at school and at home) set the example that their children are likely to follow. It seems to appear that this candidate may be, yet, another school administrator likely to blame the teachers. I, for one, am not comfortable putting a school administrator from Newton County on our Rockdale BOE.

I personally know that Ms. Pharr has been actively involved attending the Rockdale BOE meetings regularly and has a extensive knowledge of the issues facing the Rockdale BOE. She is, without a doubt, the more knowledgeable of these two candidates concerning the Rockdale Public School System and BOE. She has earned my vote and I encourage others to talk with her. Hopefully, Rockdale County voters will support on of their own for this position.

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Elmo 2 years, 2 months ago

Another tax...golly beav, that's just what we need! Yeah, more money for education...that's the ticket' (sarcasm intended). But seriously, millions and billions are spent on public schools in this country to fix the prior programs that didn't work. I find it hard to vote for someone to run the education system who isn't educated enough to know these facts. Little Johnny can't read his diploma, and we're supposed to feel sorry for the employment woes of the teachers? Sorry, if teaching is such a burdensome profession, maybe it's time for a new career...just sayin'. But, back to the tax thing...why is it that we pay through the nose to receive certain services, yet if we want it done right, we have to institute a special option tax? Is that the add-on warranty they try to sell us on new cars...100 percent profit!? When will it end? When will some politician have the bravado to step in and cut the fraud, waste and fat in government. There's not a system or program on the planet that can't be improved upon. Given enough taxpayer money, anyone can put on a dog and pony show - mainly around election time - and put up a new building, buy some fancy equipment, or come with a useless acronym for some new program. For once the taxpayers a.k.a. Voters, would like to hear, "Ya know, I'm going to take that department, re-vamp it, cut the waste, and make it better without raising taxes." But, it's always a "new program", "extra taxes", some sob story about being overworked and underpaid. Yet, school violence and the the drop- out rates increase. Do they think that we're not watching? My rule of thumb is, any candidate who even hints of higher, or new, taxes, will not get my vote...no matter which party. Isn't it enough that government has stolen our children's future, stolen our home equities, our retirement, our freedoms and our jobs?
It's a bottomless pit, but they are still trying to fill it...with our money. The idea of "vouchers" is becoming more and more attractive, along with "school choice". Poorly performing government schools might take a second look when people vote with their feet.

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Plaincitizen 2 years, 2 months ago

To Elmo: I'm stunned that this phrase was stated above: "Little Johnny can't read his diploma, and we're supposed to feel sorry for the employment woes of the teachers? Sorry, if teaching is such a burdensome profession, maybe it's time for a new career...just sayin" If you think that teachers don't have a burdened profession AND that they are the reason Little Johnny can't read, then everything else stated by you should be discredited. It means that you are not in touch with the reality of our education system. Yes, there are some bad seeds out there, but teachers are overworked and significantly underpaid. Despite their burdens they work very long hours, go above and beyond their duties, and do way more parenting than they should; yet see little recognition for their efforts. They are constantly criticized and the only reason good teachers remain in the profession is because it is their heart and soul, despite the venom spat at them by everyone. Having said that, I feel that someone needs to be on the board that actually understands that and it sounds to me like Mr. Stephens is that candidate. Vouchers are good in theory, but there isn't enough money to make them work. If all of the money the school system receives from the government was split up and given to each student it would probably total a few hundred dollars. That would never pay for an education. The system is flawed yes, but vouchers aren't the answer, though it is a shame that they aren't. Finally, if substitute teacher pay (for when teachers go to necessary trainings which are really rare these days) is an answer for financial struggles, then that's the best news I have heard in awhile. Ha! Please!

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Elmo 2 years, 2 months ago

Pay, pay, pay...money, money, money...your post made my case...thanks'

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Plaincitizen 2 years, 2 months ago

My post was not all about money. I agree that we can't throw money at the problem and expect it to go away. The purpose of my post was to address your negative statement about teachers. I just don't think that putting teachers (and the profession) down is productive. In addition, it is offensive.

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Rob 2 years, 2 months ago

Vouchers and school choice are the ONLY answer. Democrats don't like them because it takes power away from the government and under performing schools. The Feds should not have the power to dictate where our kids go to school. Parents and parents alone should have that power. How would you like someone dictating where you have to work, live or shop. It's the same scenario. The media has done an awful job explaining school choice and there's obviously a reason for that. the liberal media follows the democratic talking points. School Choice severely hurts the unions and government schools. Personally I have my daughter in a private school. Vouchers would make that an option for all. Since when is 'choice' such a terrible idea. I don't want the Feds teaching my kids ANYTHING!

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Elmo 2 years, 2 months ago

And think of the money we'd save getting all those buses off the road, cris-crossing paths to "equalize" the schools. That was the dumbest idea ever conceived by mankind...it has accomplished NOTHING!

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Frustrated 2 years, 2 months ago

It really sounds like we are heading toward a society where some people think throwing money at a problem is the sure fire fix. Enough with the special purpose taxes already. They want a SPLOST to fix roads locally, They want a TSPLOST to fix transportation state wide, and now we have a candidate that wants and EDUCATION SPLOST. Where is it going to end? Lets look for the REAL solutin to the problem and not just throw money at it.

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AWOL 2 years, 2 months ago

Stephens is right about teacher morale but he should study what really motivates people. What will help morale is effective and fair management which is sorely lacking in our system. Throwing money at the problem will not work. And we need another tax like we need a hole in the head. I like Pharr's ideas of limiting the amount of control that comes with federal funding and the restructuring at the county office. If you have netflix, look at a movie called "The Cartel". It is a documentary about what happens when you throw money at a schools.

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Rob 2 years, 2 months ago

It appears Miss. Pharr is the only one using her head in this debate. It has been proven time and time again that throwing money at the problem doesn't fix anything. The U.S. spends more money on education that any other country in the world. Yet we have some of the dumbest kids. Go figure. Another excellent point is all the strings that come along with government grants. It's so refreshing to hear somebody actually bring that up. Rockdale County simply loves all it's grant money. Yet they never mention all the bad that comes tied to these things. They also never mention that the grant money eventually runs out and then were forced to fund these programs on our own whether they work or not. Sending people like Miss Pharr to the BOE would be a step in the right direction for Rockdale County. I hope and pray she wins and can at least make an attempt to put and end to all this madness!

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VPublicola 2 years, 2 months ago

Further, Mr. Stephens is one among several Rockdale BOE candidates who is not in compliance with State Ethics Laws for candidates for elected offices. If you are an informed voter who expects candidates for political offices to abide by the laws then it should be an easy decision when a potential candidates fail to abide by the laws. All candidates are required to file several forms and periodic reports with the State Ethics Commission. The State Ethics Commission web-based data reflects that Mr. Stephens has not filed any of these reports. Thus, Mr. Stephens is noncompliant with State Ethics Laws and thereby subject to state ethics complaint filings and fines. On the other hand, Ms. Pharr is in full compliance. It appears there is really only one qualified candidate for this post - Ms. Sharon Pharr.

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AWOL 2 years, 2 months ago

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

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