Stephens Co. BOE Interviews Candidates For Vacant Seat

The Stephens County Board of Education hears from the three candidates for the board seat vacated last month by Jerry Steele.

School board members interviewed Jimmy Howard, Inger Neal, and Steve Tilley during a work session Thursday.

A fourth candidate, Rodney Moore, had removed his name from consideration prior to the meeting.

The Board of Education asked each of the three candidates the same questions one at a time.

Neal spoke with the board first via Skype and says the biggest problem facing education today is that of funding.

She said fixing it requires the Board of Education to look closely at everything in the budget.

“The suggestions I have include just finding where can we cut, what can we cut, what is most important, developing priorities, what is facing us right now, what can wait,” said Neal.

Neal also said she would work to improve diversity in the school system.

She also cited her work with the school system in a number of areas as a strength, while saying she wanted to serve to be an active part of a proactive board.

Howard also pointed to economics as the biggest problem facing education.

He said while cuts sometimes must occur, school systems must use caution when making them.

“It comes to a point that you have to look and see because the main responsibility is for the student, meeting their needs,” said Howard. “You have to look at are we hurting the student by what we are cutting?”

Howard said he wants to serve because he feels like he has something to offer, pointing to his past work in the education system while noting that he has been retired for a few years now and been outside the system.

As for Tilley, he said he wants to work to help the school system because he believes a strong school system can benefit a community economically.

“I hear, over and over, people talking about how good the people here are from people who come in the Welcome Center,” said Tilley. “But our most important asset is our young people and I try to convince people that anything we can do to enhance the learning environment can enhance economic development.”

Tilley also pointed to his experience serving on a number of other boards in the Toccoa area as one of his strengths.

The Board of Education thanked all three candidates for attending, saying that they are fortunate to have such strong candidates applying for the seat.

School board members are expected to make a selection from the three candidates at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

Whoever the board selects will serve the remainder of Steele’s unexpired term, which runs through the end of 2014.