CONYERS -- Three candidates will face off in the race for the school board's Post 2 seat, which is the only seat up for election this year with the incumbent seeking reelection.
Rockdale County Board of Education incumbent Brad Smith faces opposition from Kimberly Baker, director of Junior Achievement of Georgia, and marketing consultant Tim Williams.
Resident Patrick Coppock, a professor, originally qualified for the seat but later decided he would drop out of the race. He said that he has other responsibilities that wouldn't allow him to devote enough time to the position.
When asked by the Citizen about the biggest problem facing Rockdale County Public Schools, Baker said, "it's the ability to ensure students are getting quality education from the early childhood years to high school and that highly qualified, passionate teachers keep their jobs."
She said the economy has impacted all communities.
"As a school board member, I will help ensure our decisions and strategic plans are positively impacting the community and that financial decisions are made with the current and future generations in mind," she said.
Smith agreed that the climate has changed.
"Our biggest challenge in RCPS is maintaining the strength of our school system in the midst of shifting curricula, changing standards, dwindling state funding and, frankly, parental apathy, or at least an unfortunate lack of involvement from parents too over tasked to take an active role in their children's education," he said. "Continuing and increasing our standard of excellence has always been my focus. Since 2009, I have worked closely with the other members of our school board to develop a strategy that will support the quality of our schools and enhance our offerings to our students, providing a sound foundation on which to build their academic futures."
Williams said that discipline is an issue, as well as the relationship between teachers, administrators and the school board.
"We need clear communication," he said. "You have a breakdown in communication."
He said that there needs to be more discipline in the classroom, and better communication would help prevent it from taking learning away from other students, he said.
When asked by the Citizen about ideas for balancing the budget without dipping into reserve funds, Smith said the current board has "made monumental efforts" to do so as little as possible.
"We have spent the past several years making every attempt possible to balance the budget without diminishing the quality of education we provide our students," she said. "We have left no stones unturned and have evaluated every program and item in the budget. ... If there were a magic bullet to balance the budget, I think we would have considered it. From here, we will have to make some very tough decisions, and it is important that we have people in place to make informed, clearly considered decisions to balance the budget and still preserve the excellence of our schools and the opportunities for our children, free from the influence of any political agenda."
Williams suggested earning advertising revenues from companies to advertise at schools, on the RCPS website and other locations.
Baker said the balancing of the school budget must be a team effort from all of the board members.
"The decision impacts all Rockdale constituents and cannot be biased to one's opinion," she said.