CONYERS -- The four candidates vying for the Post 5 school board seat want to make Rockdale County schools a better place for their families and other students to ensure they are successful in the future.
Cornell Brown, William "Tony" Dowdy, Rodney Fanner and Willie Washington are facing off for the Rockdale County Board of Education's nonpartisan Post 5 seat, which is currently held by Don McKinney, who isn't seeking re-election.
When asked by the Citizen about what is the biggest problem facing Rockdale County Public Schools, Brown said it's the overall value that society places on education.
"The tools are there," he said. "(Former RCPS Superintendent Samuel King and current Superintendent Rich Autry) set forth a plan."
However, he said even with successful programs like the Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology, education is at the top of the budget cuts.
He said being on the board would help him be one of the biggest promoters of learning and education.
"Presence alone can make a big difference," said Brown, a father of one student at the Magnet School and one at C.J. Hicks Elementary School. Brown's wife also is a teacher at C.J. Hicks.
Dowdy agreed that money was an issue -- he said the biggest problem was the ability of the system to continue to provide a high quality education to its students in hard economic times. He has six children who graduated from RCPS schools and three grandchildren.
Fanner also was concerned about students' futures.
"I think ensuring our students are prepared to successfully enter the work force or enter college is a major issue," said Fanner, who decided to run for office because he has a nephew in RCPS that allowed him to see a need to help better transition students. "The current industries want our students to understand highly technical concepts, and they may not necessarily be getting this level of training in our schools."
Washington feels that parent involvement needs to increase in the schools.
"It takes more than one or two people educating our children," said the father of a Magnet School student and a C.J. Hicks students, as well as a nearly 2-year-old child. "Collectively, I feel we can come up with an adequate way of making something happen, even though I know the budget is always a concern for everybody."
When asked by the Citizen for their ideas for balancing the budget without dipping into reserve funds, as the current school board has done for the past couple of years, Washington said he would want to look at the history of cuts and the items included and decide what would benefit the children most. Washington is retired from the Navy, where he was in law enforcement and now is a business owner but wouldn't say what type of business.
Fanner said that public-private partnerships are the key to helping the budget more and aiding the students at the same time.
"Doing so enables the school system to possibly reduce some of the budgetary items, get consistent feedback on the class material and the students become interested in potential careers," said Fanner, who is an engineer for the federal government and served in the Navy.
Dowdy said he would like to analyze current expenditures to determine what is necessary to achieve "the most efficient operations."
"I am willing to make the tough decisions," said Dowdy, who has been a sales representative for Ernst Concrete for 23 years.
Brown said he would like to come up with "more creative ways" to better balance the budget and look at eliminating "non-value added services."
"Generating revenue is always a challenge," said Brown, a contract negotiator for the state.