Fiscal responsibility, school safety and support for teachers and students were among the top priorities school board candidate David Sharpe listed at a community forum Wednesday.
Sharpe, a Republican candidate for the District 2 seat on the Glynn County Board of Education, hosted the town hall at the Sea Palms Conference Center on St. Simons Island.
He shared with the nearly 50 attendees some of the shortcomings he’s seen in the current operation of Glynn County Schools and the plans he has to fix perceived problems.
“I’m focused on our students and our teachers, and all of you who pay taxes,” he said. “You’re paying for an A, and you’re getting a C.”
Sharpe addressed Glynn County Schools’ current financial efficacy star rating of 2 and a half stars out of five, as measured by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. The school system annually spends more than $10,000 per student, he said, yet many students graduate unprepared for college.
“The four year graduation rate is 90.9 percent for the district, but 67.1 percent of our graduates are college ready,” he said. “So if you’re looking at it as I am, as a business owner, these numbers should match.”
Sharpe said he hopes to help bring more mental health services into schools, possibly by hiring more staff to relieve the heavy workloads of school counselors.
“Each counselor at the high school has an average of 250 students, per counselor,” he said. “That’s overwhelming, I can tell you that.”
Sharpe, a Glynn County native, is an Air Force veteran and local business owner. He said he’d bring prior work experience to the role when addressing school safety issues.
He described a potential program through which parents volunteer to help patrol schools alongside school resource officers.
“When you have adults patrolling outside the school campus, and the active shooter is thinking about approaching that campus and they see a lot of adults, they don’t do it,” Sharpe said. “They turn around, and they walk away.”
Sharpe will face Republican candidate Eaddy Sams, assistant treasurer for the Georgia Theatre Company, on July 24 in a run-off race. The winner of that race will face Democratic candidate Sharon Robinson in the November election.
As a school board member, Sams said Thursday, her role would not be to micromanage school operations. The board’s role is to set policies, provide vision and oversee processes like budget approval and superintendent selection.
“My guiding principal is to educate the whole child so that they will grow to become a responsible and contributing member of the community,” she said. “We need to look at these children in more than an academic way and look at them for their own talents and uniqueness, yet guide them to become members of their own community and live up to their potential.”
A primary role of the board, she said, is to demonstrate financial stewardship.
“That means seeking value in the tax dollar spending,” she said. “… These are taxpayer dollars, and we are charged with making sure they’re spent wisely.”
She said she’d like to see more school board follow-up on budget spending throughout the year, and she’d hope to review the budget deficits and current school reserves.
To address student behavior issues, Sams said the school board needs to do a more detailed review of policies and regulations and ensure that clear guidelines for behavior are established in all schools.
She also would like to see more mental health support offered in schools, which she said is a proactive solution to improving school safety, alongside having proper school equipment and protocols.
“We need to take a look at what it’s going to take to get us to the support system that will truly help these children,” she said.
Both Sharpe and Sams have emphasized supporting students and teachers in their campaigns for the school board seat.
“When we serve on these boards and leadership roles, it’s not our job to know everything, and I don’t know everything,” Sharpe said Wednesday. “It’s our job to execute the solutions that our students and our educators, paraprofessionals and staff tell us.”