Cherokee County Board of Education Vice Chair Janet Read, 52, and Canton businessman Danny Dukes, 51, are on the ballot to fill the newly created position.
Read has served on the board for the last eight years representing Post 4. She was redistricted out of her post and into a new district with an incumbent when legislators redrew the school board post lines during the 2012 session of the General Assembly.
During the reapportionment process, legislators also created the school board chair post.
Read, who lives in Woodstock and has two sons who attended Cherokee County public schools, said she has been a countywide elected member of the school board since 2005 and has served as both chair and vice chair for two years, making her the best qualified for the job.
“I am knowledgeable in all aspects of the Cherokee County School District and have developed relationships with the superintendent, staff, teachers, legislators and taxpayers,” Read said. “I would not require a learning curve for this newly created position, since I have been a chairperson. I have a proven track record as a team player and a consensus builder.”
Dukes, who lives with his wife in the Woodmont community and has one son who attended Cherokee County public schools, says his 30 years of financial experience would bring a set of skills to the school board that it currently does not have.
“I can put budgets together and financials, as well as analyze them. My company, Danny F. Dukes and Associates, specializes in regulatory, compliance and management organization/reorganization. I have done this for all size companies, including Fannie Mae, the nation’s largest secondary lender, which just returned to profitability. Many companies have also found my negotiation skills beneficial,” Dukes said.
Dukes, who sits on the governing council for Cherokee Charter Academy and is a member of the Georgia Charter Educational Foundation’s governing board that manages the charter school, said that for him local control is about parents having options.
“Local control is parents having learning options and choices in education for their students. The traditional school does not serve all parents and students,” Dukes said.
For Read, local control means that as many decisions as possible are made in Cherokee County, not in Atlanta.
“Every time a bill is passed in Atlanta that pertains to education, we are adding more government. For example, when the local funds are reduced, many districts decide to implement mandatory furlough days in order to save on expenses,” Read said. “A bill was passed in this session that dictates to the districts when those furlough days can be taken. That should not be decided under the Gold Dome, but rather by the local district.”
Dukes said the House Resolution 1162, which allows for the state to approve charter schools, will only impact the local school system if the school board refuses to listen to the demands of parents for more school/learning options for students.
“If we embrace innovative learning options, we as a school board can help craft the future. The choice is ours. The time is now,” Dukes said.
Read said House Resolution 1162 is a redundant measure since the state already has the authority to authorize special charter schools.
“I have stated repeatedly that I am not opposed to charter schools. My concern has always been relative to the funding aspect of our public schools,” Read said. “If the public schools continue to be underfunded, I am not in favor of more schools that would reduce the funds further. If a charter school is not approved at the local level, then the taxpayers have no expectation of fiscal or operational transparency, even though they would bear the tax burden of any state approved charter school.”
Read said the most pressing problem facing the school system is the continued reduction in state and local funding for an increasing student population.
“Our school district is operating at 2006 tax digest levels; although we have 5,000 more students than we did six years ago. I would continue to research and suggest ways to cut additional funds from the $121 million cut previously,” she said.
Dukes pointed to the graduation rate as the most pressing problem.
“I view the graduation rate at only 74.8 percent, ranked 73rd in the state, as the most pressing problem for our students,” Dukes said. “Without a diploma, the odds are heavily against our young adults. More than one of four students is not getting a diploma. The district has more inefficiencies compared to other districts. We need to find a way to solve these, remove furlough days and invest more in the classroom.”
The two will meet on Monday night at the last debate sponsored by the Republican Party at GOP headquarters in Woodstock. The debate starts at 7 p.m.