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November 27, 2014
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Posted: Tuesday, May 20th 2014 at 7:00pm

ELECTION 2014: GET TO KNOW THE CANDIDATES

By Ken Stanford Staff
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Join AccessNorthGa.com and WDUN AM-550 and FM 102.9 for complete coverage of Tuesday’s primary elections in Georgia. Coverage on WDUN begins at 7 p.m. Anchors Joel Williams and Mitch Clarke will provide election results and analysis for all the key races, and you can get complete updates throughout the day and night from our news team on AccessNorthGa.com.

Polls are open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Go out and make your voice heard. Then turn to AccessNorthGa.com and WDUN for all the results.

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This year's General Election primaries are now just hours away - and here's your chance to get to know the candidates running for the 9th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and the contested Hall County races.

Below you will find information on the congressional candidates as well as candidates for the Hall County Board of Commissioners and Hall County Board of Education.

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*****U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 9TH DISTRICT

*NAME: Doug Collins

POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION: Republican

MOST RECENT/CURRENT EMPLOYMENT: Current U.S. Representative for the 9th District of Georgia

1) Why are you running for this office?

I am running for re-election because I believe Washington needs the commonsense values of northeast Georgia to protect our constitutional liberties, reduce the size and scope of the federal government, and lead us out of this economic rut.

2) Is the first time you have run for political office? (If "no," please explain.)

No, I successfully ran for this office two years ago, as well as three terms in the Georgia House of Representatives.

3) What qualifications for the office do you bring to the campaign?

I now have eight years of experience translating my constituents’ concerns into legislative action. As a former small business owner, I understand the economic concerns facing our state and nation. I am committed to our national security as well as our servicemen and women as a current chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. More than anything, as father to Jordan, Copelan, and Cameron, I join with all Georgians who are concerned about the kind of America we will pass on to the next generation.

4) What do you see as the biggest concern/issue facing the country?

I am deeply troubled by the Administration’s failure to meaningfully respond to Americans’ legitimate concerns. Whether the issue is the economy, the IRS scandal, or Benghazi, President Obama and his allies in Congress have demonstrated a blatant disregard for the very people they swore to serve. We need to get back to a federal government that is truly of, by, and for the people – not one that flagrantly abuses its power to advance an ideological agenda.

5) What do you see as the biggest concern/issue facing the 9th District?

The most significant issue facing the District is Obamacare's impact on families and businesses. I have heard from far too many Georgians who have lost their health insurance as a result of this misguided law. Job creators have been hamstrung by the costs, mandates and red tape that have come with Obamacare. That's why I will continue working to repeal it.

6) How far would you be willing to go in putting politics aside and compromising, for the good of the country, with the opposition party?

We could go a long way in solving this nation’s problems if members of both parties were willing to plan ahead a little more. Deadlines for budgets and appropriations bills are routinely ignored in Washington, and bipartisan discussions only occur when there is a real crisis. That could be avoided if we did our work before the eleventh hour.

On the state level, you have to have a balanced budget by a certain date. State legislators generally take that seriously, and even though there is always a rush at the last minute, most folks had been working to lay groundwork so there would be something agreeable.

More importantly, we need constructive dialogue between the parties in Congress. As I said, they only seem to come together in a crisis, which is not the best time for anyone to dialogue about the big issues facing our country or see the other person's point of view.

7) What more - if anything - do you think the federal government should do to help end the dispute over water involving Georgia, Alabama, and Florida?

I do not believe the federal government should involve itself in the water dispute between the states. Georgia and the other parties in the suit should abide by the Court's decision.

8) Are you satisfied with the U.S. approach to the continuing crisis in the Ukraine? And, please explain your answer.

As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I am extremely concerned by Russia's continued aggression toward Ukraine and other American allies in the region. I don't believe this Administration is taking Putin seriously, and in doing so, is putting other democracies in Eastern Europe at risk. America must make a strong statement that efforts to reestablish the Soviet Union will not be tolerated.


*NAME: Bernard (Bernie) Fontaine

POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION: I am running in the Republican Primary

MOST RECENT/CURRENT EMPLOYMENT: I am a retired military officer working with the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) at the state and national level

1) Why are you running for this office?

The Congress is inert and the country is in a downward spiral. I feel that I have the background, experience and ability needed to make a difference

2) Is the first time you have run for political office? (If "no," please explain.)

No, I ran for county commissioner one time.

3) What qualifications for the office do you bring to the campaign?

I have had 30 years of military experience, most of it managing relatively large federal and state operations. I have worked successfully with federal, state and local governments. I have a BS in Business, a Masters of Public Administration and am a Doctoral Candidate. I have 15 years experience in teaching Political Science as an Adjunct Professor while running two small businesses.

4) What do you see as the biggest concern/issue facing the country?

The combination of a bad economy with a run-away national debt, this being further exasperated by detrimental regulatory law and the erosion of personal freedoms.

5) What do you see as the biggest concern/issue facing the 9th District?

The economy - specifically, the need to bring industry back to the district to furnish jobs instead of entitlements.

6) How far would you be willing to go in putting politics aside and compromising, for the good of the country, with the opposition party?

I am not a politician. I am interested in getting things turned around and the economy moving. To that end I feel that reasonable Americans should be able to reach an agreement that is good for the country. The current petty squabbling is getting us nowhere.

7) What more - if anything - do you think the federal government should do to help end the dispute over water involving Georgia, Alabama, and Florida?

The federal government can only act as an honest broker in an attempt to settle the dispute out of federal court.

8) Are you satisfied with the U.S. approach to the continuing crisis in the Ukraine? And, please explain your answer.

The making of meaningless statements such as "drawing a line" with no intent or ability to enforce such proclamations has made our country appear weak and helpless. The people of the Crimea were once part of Russia, are overwhelmingly Russian and want to be a part of Russia. It would seem that Vladamir Putin's military antics were unnecessary and he should have been told as much. The Eastern Ukraine is a bit more complicated. All of the so-called European allies have done nothing to assist. Our sending rations seems a bit insulting and irrelevant It would appear that a statement supporting peaceful self-determination is about all that we can do in the current circumstance.


*NAME: David Vogel

POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION: Democrat

MOST RECENT/CURRENT EMPLOYMENT: Retired from teaching in medical schools and public high schools.

1) Why are you running for this office?

Political discussion in America has declined into a slogan fight that has left us polarized and paralyzed. I care about getting as close to the truth as possible. Slogans, deceptions, and outright lies make me angry enough to want to do something. That is why I started NoSlogans.org three years ago, and why I am running for Congress, now. I make no claim to knowing the absolute truth, but I understand evidence, and how it can be used to produce better policy. I want voters to hear the difference between policy based on someone's “good idea” and evidence-based policy.

2) Is the first time you have run for political office? (If "no," please explain.)

In 2012, I ran for the Georgia House of Representatives against an incumbent of many years. I lost as expected, but knocking on doors, I found enough voters who understood my concerns about the economy to exceed my expected share of the vote by a large margin.

3) What qualifications for the office do you bring to the campaign?

I'm a scientist and I know the difference between evidence and a “good idea.” I've had the word “intellectual” tossed at me as an insult; but my wife, who is an American from rural Brazil, refers to me as a “simple” man because I can feel at home in an adobe house with a dirt floor, and I share her desire to fix the problems of the people around me. I have taught ethics as well as science, and will strongly advocate Congressional standards that are plain and do not worry much about the comfort or convenience of legislators. I will listen to everyone, but I will not accept so much as a soda cracker from anyone who wants to influence my vote.

4) What do you see as the biggest concern/issue facing the country?

I am deeply concerned about the rate at which wealth is flowing, not only from the middle class but from most of the richest 1%, to the richest 0.01% of Americans. If current policies are not changed, the richest 0.01% (11,500 families) will own everything that matters, including your house and your car, within a few decades. Power follows wealth, which goes a long way toward explaining why most American families have less income today than they had in 1970, while the 0.01% have eight times the income they had in 1970, and have had their tax rate reduced by 75%. A full discussion of this problem, including the original data sources, can be found at VoteVogel.org.

5) What do you see as the biggest concern/issue facing the 9th District?

Poverty, and all that goes with it. There is something terribly wrong when we have a class of people called “the working poor.” The evidence is clear that getting people out of poverty is not just a matter of cutting off their welfare and telling them to go get a job. Reducing poverty involves changes in both the workplace and welfare.

In the workplace we need to end Walmart-style jobs that will continue to spread rapidly from one industry to the next, and which cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars per employee in welfare benefits. At the least, we need to pass legislation that would end the incentive to replace full-time jobs with part-time jobs by requiring companies that hire more than 10% of their workforce part-time to pay part-time benefits.

In the realm of welfare, we need evidence-based policy. For example, we now know the old AFDC program that allowed people to maintain eligibility for the program by being in school was better at getting people out of poverty than the current TANF program – so much better that it saved the taxpayers a lot of money in the long run. What is most disturbing is that government does not fund trial programs that would tell us what works. Politicians would rather go on shouting slogans than take a chance on actually finding out they're wrong.

6) How far would you be willing to go in putting politics aside and compromising, for the good of the country, with the opposition party?

Perhaps I'm naive, but I believe that if legislators would sit at the table with their evidence instead of their slogans, it would be possible to reach compromise if not consensus. Even though I am a Democrat, I have received frequent invitations to speak to Tea Party groups because many of their members think I am worth listening to. We respect one another enough to be able to talk about policies we could both live with.

7) What more - if anything - do you think the federal government should do to help end the dispute over water involving Georgia, Alabama, and Florida?

There is no win-win solution to the Tri-State Water dispute. It is a dispute that forces us to realize that there are limits to growth. The courts have already decided that federal law adequately defines how water in the Chattahoochee River may be used. Unless we want Atlanta to become another Los Angeles and the Chattahoochee to become another Colorado River, Georgians must accept what federal law allows. (The Colorado River no longer flows into the ocean, it ends as a sewer in the dessert.) Developers aside, there is little benefit to most Georgians in endless growth of Atlanta. It is possible to work on quality of life rather than mere quantity.

8) Are you satisfied with the U.S. approach to the continuing crisis in the Ukraine? And, please explain your answer.

Hopefully, the Ukraine will no longer be a burning issue by the election. European states knew they were stepping on Russian toes when they began inviting closer ties between the Ukraine and the European Union. Russia needs access to Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea. There is reason to hope that Putin's actions in the Ukraine are chiefly aimed at making clear how determined Russia is to prevent realignment of the Ukraine. If that is the case, there is a middle ground that can be achieved diplomatically, which is a federalized Ukraine with sufficient regional autonomy to derail attempts to integrate the Ukraine with the EU and NATO. Such a deal amounts to an agreement by the West to keep out of Russia's backyard in exchange for Ukrainian sovereignty. It might not be what we would like for the Ukraine, but in this we are well advised by Reinhold Niebuhr: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

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*****HALL COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS POST 1

*NAME: Ken Cochran

POLITICAL PARTY AFFLIATION: Republican

MOST RECENT/CURRENT EMPLOYMENT: Owner Cochrans Marine Service

1) Why are you running for this office?

Several months ago I received some phone calls from taxpayers of South Hall asking me if I would run for this position. What better reason could you have than taxpayers asking you to help them?

2) Is this the first time you have run for political office?

No, I ran for the same office in 1997.

3) What qualifications for the office do you bring to the campaign?

Qualifications as follows.

A. Owner of a family-run marine business, celebrating 57 years.
B. Past Committee Chair Boy Scout Troop 228.
C. Past President of the Hall County Historical Society.
D. Member of the Gainesville/Hall MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) for
ten years.
E. Member of the Northest Georgia Boy Scouts of America Eagle Board.
F. Will bring Business knowledge, leadership and common sense to the commission.

4) What do you see the biggest concern/issue facing Hall County?

Directing growth in the right direction thought strategic planning.

5) Do you favor consolidation of Gainesville and Hall County governments or the
merger of certain departments or neither?

There are aid agreements in place now with some services. With consolidation we would have less government.

6)Are there any specific changes you would like to undertake if elected?

The way social media is today, I would like to address better ways to communicate with the taxpayers. Possibly changing some of the current ways of communication.

7) How should the county approach its improving revenue situation with the full knowledge of what happened several years ago when revenues declined and it faced a budget deficit which resulted in unpaid furloughs for county employees and some layoffs?

If the county does anything they must address the current issues with county employees. We are loosing well-trained employees. They are taking jobs in other counties for better pay and better retirement especially in the public safety areas.


*NAME: Kathy Cooper

POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION: Republican

MOST RECENT/CURRENT EMPLOYMENT: President, Cooper Family Enterprises (a diversified family farm in Chestnut Mountain)

1) Why are you running for this office?

I’m running for office because Hall County has been good to me and I want to give back to my community. This county has a bright future, but it also needs good leadership to ensure that it remains a wonderful place to live for the next generation.

The political process discourages a lot of decent people from running a campaign. But that’s the price of service. I would not run if I didn’t feel that I could bring valuable leadership and skills to the Board of Commissioners and that voters deserve a choice at the polls.

2) Is the first time you have run for political office? (If "no," please explain.)

I ran for the same post in 2006. Unfortunately, I came up just a little short, but I’m very proud of the way I ran. We had a very small team made up of family and a few friends. Our campaign was full of integrity and respect. We didn’t attack our opponent, and we worked hard to engage issues openly and honestly.

3) What qualifications for the office do you bring to the campaign?

Professionally, I have more than twenty years of experience as a business owner. Over my career I’ve been involved in an array of fields from banking to healthcare to the poultry industry, which are cornerstones of the county’s economy. Personally, I have a strong and clear voice that is guided by my conscience and my faith. At the same time I listen. A lot of distrust has crept into government as politics seems to have become more about agendas than people. But if you can’t listen to one another, you can’t serve the people who elected you. And you can’t represent them unless you listen to their needs.

4) What do you see as the biggest concern/issue facing Hall County?

We’re blessed in Hall County since our biggest concerns are the results of our prosperity. There’s really not much more you could ask for in terms of good transportation, recreational activities, healthcare and access to quality education. As the economy rebounds, Hall County is in a prime position to resume its growth. The key will be guiding it with a sensible hand. We can’t fall trap to clogged roadways and over-development like areas to our south. But we also have to continue developing high-paying, skilled jobs here and keeping our brightest minds in the county. We can do that by building around our outstanding healthcare and educational resources.

5) Do you favor consolidation of Gainesville and Hall County governments or the merger of certain departments or neither? And, please explain your answer.

If the citizens of Hall County voted for consolidation, then I would be in favor of it provided an independent study showed it delivered cost savings and more effective services. Until then, I think we need to focus on bringing a spirit of cooperation back to the relationship between the Gainesville and Hall County governments. Collectively, we moved to the forefront of the state of Georgia over the past 200 years. We need to see how far a renewed willingness to communicate and work together can take us.

6) Are there any specific changes you would like to undertake if you are elected? And, please explain your answer.

I’m for any change that leads to better governance and well-being for the citizens of Hall County. I will work to make sure that the county has a fair and responsive Board of Commissioners that earns its citizens’ trust and respect. But I don’t want to make any proclamations that are unrealistic, and I think voters have learned to be wary of candidates promising change.

7) How should the county approach its improving revenue situation with the full knowledge of what happened several years ago when revenues declined and it faced a budget deficit which resulted in unpaid furloughs for county employees and some layoffs?

We should act like we learned our lesson. County management should be guided by the principles of fiscal responsibility and limited government. We need to maintain a reserve and to proceed conservatively as business begins to pick back up. I think we’ll soon start to see the kind of commercial activity that restores the county’s accounts. This time we’ll have a solid rainy day fund and make sure the county is prepared for future downshifts in the economy.

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*****HALL COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, AT-LARGE POST

*NAME: Paul Godfrey

POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION: Republican

MOST RECENT/CURRENT EMPLOYMENT: Most recently, general education instructor (mathematics) at Lanier Technical College. Currently, member and volunteer in various Veterans Organization (seewww.GoGodfrey.org)

1) Why are you running for this office?

My father taught me that caring for others is more important than caring for oneself. After coming home from his service in World War II, he epitomized that view. From running a small loan service that specialized in helping the poorest among us to laying down the money to pay for his church’s building when they were on the verge of default. I have tried to emulate those good qualities through my service. Now, I seek a chance to offer this to the people of my home, Hall County.

​I am running to bring a fresh approach to the county educational system. Change is a necessary part of life. Change can be painful, exhilarating, challenging or expected, but it is the only way we grow and improve. I am excited to think about the changes we could make to transform a good school system to a great one.

2) Is the first time you have run for political office? (If "no," please explain.)

In keeping with that desire to give back, I ran for the County Commission Post 1 in 2010, Georgia House Seat 25 in 2011, and Post 2 of the Board of Education in 2012.

3) What qualifications for the office do you bring to the campaign?

I bring executive management skills and extensive knowledge and experience in successful education systems. I served 23 years in the military and 17 years in the University and Technical College Systems of Georgia.

​As a field grade officer I commanded four units ranging from less than a hundred people to several thousand. I also directed implementation and operation of tactical nuclear weapon command and control, war planning prior to Desert Storm, and program management of the Defense Data Network, the forerunner of the Internet. Each of these units and activities was recognized as outstanding units and organizations under my watch. I'm pretty sure that testifies to my ability to successfully plan, manage, and lead.

​As a teacher I devised training regimens in microcomputer systems operation and repair, data network systems, and practical mathematics that made learning fun for my students while preparing then for high tech jobs and a good life. I was a prime participant in creating the curriculum for the Computer Information System training program of the Technical College System of Georgia as well as helping design the practical applied mathematics curricula for the System. I led the Lanier Technical College committee that prepared that school for first time accreditation at the same level as University System colleges. That seems to me to give assurances that I know a bit about teaching, technology, and curriculum.

I have a lifetime of successful experience behind me ranging from managing multi-million dollar systems in the United States Air Force to teaching people a career while in the Technical College System of Georgia. I have five college degrees to lend academic bonafides to that experience and success: a B.S., three M.S.'s, and a Doctorate from the University of Georgia Department of Workforce Education, Leadership, and Social Foundations. But more importantly, I have a passion to serve. That is what I bring to the job.

4) What do you see as the biggest concern/issue facing the Hall County School System?

Funding and inertia are always the weak spots for government organizations. The board of education is no different. There are many competing interests that require funding, however, the overarching interest should, and for me will be, what is in the best interest of the children. We must provide them the education that prepares them for the practical aspects of life and work.

For the inertia issue, I note a positive characteristic of the Hall County school system is a recognition that change is necessary and a willingness to adapt to that change.

As the state school system undergoes the sea change from the restrictive, narrowly focused process unfortunately innate in the No Child Left behind system to the College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) model that can more finely focus resources to the most critical areas needing improvement, the system will have to adapt. It will take an academic knowledge base and experience in rapidly moving, large scale management in the school board to both nudge the inertial elements that may hold us back from providing the world class education our children deserve and guiding the implementation of that system.

The greatest fear is that what we have achieved in this area will evaporate by the implementation of the centrally derived and directed Common Core Curricula.

For the funding issue, there is, for me, an absolute imperative to avoid increasing taxes. With $27 million less in funds available than there were several years ago, yet more students to serve, the fact that adequate services are provided is remarkable. Those same cost conscious efforts that privatized for economies and reduced costs elsewhere must needs be continued. However, the reduction in people resources brought about by deferment of hires, lay-offs, the mini-layoff we call furloughs, and increased class sizes will soon extract a heavy toll on performance.

Grants, bonds, SPLOSTs, and other such methods of secondary financing will have to be sought and continued. In addition, the economies learned through the charter school experiments will have to be adopted and adapted to the remainder of the public school system where feasible.

The shortfalls in state funding have put an extra burden on the citizens of Hall County through increased millage rates. At the same time, the school district has begun to get in the habit of "economize where wise." I would like to see that continue and those skills honed. Therefore, I believe we need to use the majority of "rebound windfall" to first reduce the tax burden on the citizens. Using the rest will require a well thought out prioritization after a cogent strategic plan is developed.

​I believe a clear vision and a cogent strategic plan that leads to that vision are lacking. I know some may disagree with that, but if you’ve never done it, how can you know? I have done it in organizations big and small and seen them succeed beyond their aspirations. We can achieve that high degree of successful plan in our system. These need to be the product of the Board, the staff, the faculty, the parents, and, yes, the students. They must also be readily visible to all of these stakeholders at all times, frequently revisited, and used as a basis for planning and decision making throughout the system

5) What is your position on the Common Core Standards? And, please explain your answer.

Quite frankly, I have little faith in the many so-called educational reforms we see today. In my opinion, most are ill-conceived, poorly researched, and blindly applied. Take, for example, the autocratic system embodied in the Common Core Curricula. The two issues with Common Core are control and content. On the content side, there are some aspects that are good. This is the “sugar” that is intended to help the bad “medicine” of big business backing and centralized control “go down.”

There are many who oppose Common Core because it represents federal intrusion on an area constitutionally reserved to the state, or the people. Valid grounds, I grant you. For that alone I suspect I would oppose it's implementation. We already have a curriculum, developed in Georgia, that attempts to address the needs of our state.

We are good in Georgia for creating and changing curriculaat need. Why I was told at a state Board of Education training session a couple of years ago that the 2012 graduating class had experienced a curriculum change each of the twelve years they were in school. Why do we want some centralized “politburo” to dictate a curriculum to us?

But my objection goes beyond that control issue. To date, the Mathematics and English portions of the curriculum have been “passed down.” I have been following a discussion group on the math for almost a year. At first there seemed to be a lot of excitement and support for this “new and marvelous” curriculum, and the lesson plans that went with.

My impression, as a long time mathematics instructor and, might I say, academically qualified “expert,” is that the emphasis in this curriculum is process and thinking about process, not results. Getting the right answer doesn’t seem to be important. As for me, when I get change, I am more concerned about getting the right amount than some “process” the clerk went through to arrive at the wrong amount.

Back to the blog, more recently the trend has been moving the other way as more and more math teachers see the problems in this curricula. They, as I, know that standardized tests will follow this curricula and that they, as teachers, will be forced to teach students “processes” and not how to do math.

What we need is to learn how to teach our children to learn. Just like learning to read is essential in today’s world, learning to learn is essential in our future world. Now that reform I would support.

6) Do you favor expanding the charter school concept in the county school system? And, please explain your answer.

​First, and foremost, charter schools are a way to unshackle a school from onerous, nonsensical bureaucratic requirements of state and federal agencies with their "experts" and central planning bents. That is one of the principal reasons I favor charter schools, including, programs of choice. We should be finding out the lessons learned by public charter schools in how to provide a quality education while minimizing costs. I favor implementing these throughout our school system.

In communications with the state Board of Education two years ago I was assured that they were indeed compiling best practices from charter schools. It never happened. That list must produced and made available to all local boards so that we can implement the ones which work for us. This would allow our children to receive the benefit of these experimental schools without the experimental risks. Charter schools are supposed to promote competition, innovation, and creativity. I favor removing the roadblocks from our current public system to allow traditional schools to do the same.

We need a path to the future that ensures our children have choices to receive a top notch education so they can compete favorably with the rest of the nation and the world. Where a charter school is the best way to give that choice, I am in favor. According to a February 2012 article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the state Board of Education had a report comparing the annual yearly progress (AYP) of charter public schools and non-charter public schools showing little difference in outcomes. Using different measures (CCRPI), the same result was reported just last year.

The College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) essentially replaces the previous AYP measure for meeting Georgia Performance Standards (GPS), now the CCRPI, which was diddled with this past year to give us results that are absolutely meaningless to any sane statistician, is being swapped out for yet another measure. The negative implications of this measure are clear. On the other hand, the Georgia Charter School Association reported outstanding success by some charter schools, but by what measure?

Some critics have said charter schools are only a front for government subsidized private schools for those that can afford them. Where that is the case, I oppose them. However, the Center for Education Reform, a Washington- based advocacy group, reported in 2010 that “fifty-six percent of Georgia charter school students qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program (compared to 50 percent of those in conventional public schools). Minorities make up 61 percent of charter school students in Georgia.” In the last three years, the statistics about disadvantaged students have only increased. So, from this, it does not appear that Georgia’s charter schools cater to the rich or any particular ethnic or racial group.

​I am an advocate of school choice. In fact, I am an advocate of a pure voucher system. Until that can be brought about, each new charter school must be judged by the merits or demerits of its specific value to the citizens of Hall County.

A quick search of the internet will point out there have been charter school successes and failures. We can learn from both and use that understanding to make all public schools more successful for the student. With this plethora of indicators, we need people on our school board who are qualified to make the right educational choices for our County. But the Golden Rule should be, when in doubt, go charter, including the entire system.

7) Are there any specific changes you would like to undertake if you are elected? And, please explain your answer.

There are three areas which I believe we need to address shortcomings. The first is in the curriculum, the second is in teaching, and the third is in planning.

We need to teach what kids need to live a good life, not just what they need to get by. Our curriculum must fit the needs of our community and not be a big business backed cookie cutter affair dictated by bureaucrats. My educational experience will add to making this happen. We must design our teaching approach to help students learn to learn. We need a curriculum that meets their needs for not only future employability or advanced education, but also that recognizes life is much greater than just work and academics and broadens the students' horizons. It would be great if we could make school fun for EVERYONE!

​I know that teachers really can make learning fun. We have great teachers with the capacity to shape and breathe life into our curricula. We need to teach kids how to learn for life. To do this,we must find the best teachers and techniques. AND we must not only reward them, but let them help other teachers to excel as well. Successful techniques used by stellar teachers that get students to want to learn must be captured and given to all faculty. However, excess administrative burdens on our teachers keep them from their primary mission, teaching our children. We must ease the office burdens on teachers whenever possible. As a teacher myself, I know this must be done.

Third, we must plot a course, define a path to the future. Just testing and tallying statistics won't tell you where you are going and how to get there. Vision, direction, and strategic planning are much more than piecemeal policies and objectives that have little relationship to direction. This needs to be systematically addressed and changed. If you don't know where you are going, moving in any direction is as good as moving in another.

Our system needs that clear guidance in a direction that focuses on the needs of the Hall community. It can only be that if we include the parents, teachers, and yes, the students in this process, not just administrative staff. And that strategic plan must be readily visible to all the people in the county. Heck, put it on the Web site. We should have nothing to hide. And with a clear plan that all stakeholders have agreed to, we can hold ourselves, our central administrators, and our Principals accountable for clearly using and supporting that plan.

If we do that, I know the heart and soul of our system, our faculty, will do so also. I know because I know how to trust people. My planning, management, and leadership experience will help get us there. I want to make the Hall County School System's motto: "We're the Best" not "We're Just as Good as Anybody Else"

8) The school board recently approved the hiring of additional teachers next year following a surge in enrollment this year and more money from the state. What else should it being doing to position itself for any continued increase in student population as residential construction picks up and people are again moving into the county?

In a word, technology. Our children use technologies, such lap tops, iPods, iPads, smart phones, video games, etc. ,outside the classroom for fun. I believe we can use them in the educational process to learn, and we can do this wisely while minimizing costs. I'd like to explore more effective use of technology in education.

Electronic learning has been a success at several schools and technical colleges in Georgia, not only helping the students learn, but also saving money and reducing manpower needs. Of course, technology integration will require thoughtful planning and training in how to use technology to best benefit the students in Hall County. Just buying computers and Smartboards isn’t the whole answer to electronic learning.

With proper integration into the curricula and preparation for our teachers and administrators, this economic learning methodology can succeed. In fact, the majority of research studies on electronic learning, including my own for my doctoral degree, show that student success is not in jeopardy and can be enhanced by employing technology in the educational process if done properly.

However, it can also be a failure and a financial drain if not wisely used. Without the proper preparation and training for its use, it is just another wasted expense. We need to provide a path that employs interconnected, integrated technologies as an addition to our proven, more classical education techniques. We need knowledgeable school board members who know and understand these systems and are able to judge how they can be effectively used.

9) What more, if anything, should the school system be doing to enhance security at its schools?

​We all wish there was an easy answer to that question. No system is full proof. One of the most safety conscious programs our nation has ever implemented was our space program. But look to the challenger disaster to see that human efforts fail.

OK, here go the fireworks. I would like to see an armed security specialist at each school, every day. Our sheriff and his people have been stalwart in helping with this issue. I would like to see at least two school personnel trained in security and the use of firearms, and kept current in that training. Even when serving in primarily administrative capacity in the military, I had to maintain my training and marksmanship...and I did.

Now, that's the wall around the school. We would really like our security to stand that wall and say to our children "nothing's going to harm you, not on my watch." Is that the entire answer? No. As a matter of fact, I don't think anyone has the entire answer. Come up with a way to absolute security and I am certain someone can find holes in it. That is why we need to involve our entire faculty and staff in brainstorming ways to make our children even more secure and safe than with armed protection alone. Let's ask them.

But I would suggest we go a step further. We must empower our students, our children, to come forward when they sense something is afoot. When you see something, say something is not just an "adult" adage, it is everyone's adage. I don't have all the answers as to what and how this could or should happen, but I guarantee you our children have an idea. Let's ask them too. Why not?


*NAME:Bill Thompson

POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION: Republican Party

MOST RECENT/CURRENT EMPLOYMENT: Daniels Charters

1) Why are you running for this office?

I feel that after 33 years in the Hall County School System, I might be able to contribute to the BOE.

2) Is the first time you have run for political office? (If "no," please explain.)

I am running for re-election.

3) What qualifications for the office do you bring to the campaign?

33 years of service at all levels - teacher, Assistant Principal, and elementary and high school principal

4) What do you see as the biggest concern/issue facing the Hall County School System?​

As always the budget. Although with help from the state it is a little bit more promising than in the past.

5) What is your position on the Common Core Standards? And, please explain your answer.

I feel there are positives and negatives. I feel that narrowing the scope of the curriculum and adding more depth to current issues is helpful. The negative would be the overburdening tasks of evaluations for the administration and teachers. Too many evaluations are not productive for anyone.

6) Do you favor expanding the charter school concept in the county school system? And, please explain your answer.

I am in favor of expanding the Charter School Schools of Choice concept to insure everyone can attend the school that best fills their needs for future careers.

7) Are there any specific changes you would like to undertake if you are elected? And, please explain your answer.

I hope the biggest change we undertake is to restore the benefits that have been taken away - the number of school days and pay increases.

8) The school board recently approved the hiring of additional teachers next year following a surge in enrollment this year and more money from the state. What else should it being doing to position itself for any continued increase in student population as residential construction picks up and people are again moving into the county?

I feel that we have to take the growth year by year make adjustments as we go. If we knew the money from the state would remain in the positive we could prepare for growth much easier.

9) What more, if anything, should the school system be doing to enhance security at its schools?

We have made several great improvements in security. We have or will have new camera systems, safer entry ways into the offices, a commander of the schools resource officers, and severe weather notification systems. There is no perfect system but we will continue to try.

................................................................................

*****HALL COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION - Post 2

*NAME: Dr. Traci Lawson McBride

POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION: Republican

MOST RECENT/CURRENT EMPLOYMENT: Adjunct English Professor

1) Why are you running for this office?

I am running for this office to give the voters of Hall County the choice of a viable, qualified candidate for the school board.

2) Is the first time you have run for political office? (If "no," please explain.)

Yes, this is my first run for a political office. I’m first and foremost an educator.

3) What qualifications for the office do you bring to the campaign?

I am a Hall County native, honor graduate of Johnson High School, retired Hall County Schools English teacher and Assistant Principal (curriculum/instruction) with 30+ years in education and five college degrees, including English education, educational leadership, and curriculum/instruction. I have worked with the Hall County Schools’ leadership, superintendent, and board members for many years and know/understand the policies/procedures of the school district.

My unique perspective as both a teacher and administrator in Hall County will provide awareness of cost-saving measures/strategies that can be utilized within the schools themselves.

Additionally, as a Hall County property owner since 1990, I am directly impacted by the fluctuations in the tax digest, property taxes, and millage rate. As a conservative, I believe that we must live within our means and scale back on the expansion of programs, not teachers.

4) What do you see as the biggest concern/issue facing the Hall County School System?

Currently, finances come to the forefront as the biggest concern/issue facing our school district. As the district has struggled with state austerity cuts, declining property values, and the shrinking of the tax digest, the millage rate has gone up dramatically from 15.75 (FY 08) to the current 19.25 (FY14), which is only .75 away from the legislature’s cap of 20 mills. In order to avoid petitioning the legislature to go beyond this millage rate cap, fiscal responsibility/accountability is essential in ensuring that funds are not only allocated properly to each school but also that expenditures are necessary and justified.

5) What is your position on the Common Core Standards? And, please explain your answer.

I am opposed to the Common Core Standards since they were developed in a top-down method with little to no oversight that permits the subtle encroachment of government into our local classrooms. As the only candidate in the race who has had professional training on the Common Core Standards as a school administrator and the only candidate to actively inform our community on the problems and controversy surrounding them through numerous public forums, I am opposed to these standards because they were never field-tested or means tested.

The process which all teachers and educators follow when implementing a new concept, strategy, or test was not followed in the adoption of the Common Core Standards. No public forum was held; teachers weren’t invited to give input, nor was the legislature even asked to take a vote on the state’s adoption of CCS. The standards that now impact every student, teacher, and school district in our state were ushered in through the signatures of TWO people: Governor Sonny Perdue and State School Superintendent Kathy Cox.

Certainly, standards, objectives, or goals are necessary in education. The standards themselves aren’t inherently the problem; however, having researched the background of CCS, I know that these standards, while touted to be more rigorous than the Georgia Performance Standards and to ensure that students will be college and career ready, do not live up to the accolades given them.

Based upon data comparing the CCS to the GPS, the GPS are, in fact, more rigorous. Unfortunately, the CCS provides big business more money through new common-core aligned textbooks, technology, and testing than an assurance that our children will truly be more educated and successful.

6) Do you favor expanding the charter school concept in the county school system? And, please explain your answer.

Yes, I believe the charter school concept has been good for our school system. Through charter schools, local schools gain more autonomy and flexibility in order to offer programs deemed appropriate for the students of a specific school.

Charter schools have afforded our system the flexibility to offer rigorous programs that appeal to the students of specific schools, allowing more stakeholder participation and fostering competition and continuous improvement among the schools. In many ways, allowing for the expansion of charter schools is similar to promoting the free market system; parents and local school communities have a vested interest in providing the best education possible for their children.

Once the local school community, its parents, and other stakeholders regain rightful authority for the education of their children, the education that is offered will be better with greater student success.

7) Are there any specific changes you would like to undertake if you are elected? And, please explain your answer.

*Common Core Standards: As a curriculum/instruction expert, I am concerned with the Common Core Standards (CCS) from content to implementation.

As a board member, I would meet with instructional leaders within the schools to determine if the correct scope/sequence has been established, if benchmark assessments are adequate for determining student growth, if resources are readily available and effective for teachers’ use, and ways to dismantle areas of CCS that do not work. I want to restore the idea that our teachers are truly professionals and their input is the most valuable information we can have on these standards since they are not evidence-based.

We must take information from our teachers in order to change either content or strategies to make a positive impact on the education of our students. The board needs to be involved in this process in order to move to make the necessary changes or corrections with CCS to ensure that all stakeholders have confidence in the standards and the curriculum for students to show mastery.

*Transparency: The board should offer greater means of communication and transparency for the citizens of Hall County. The website should reflect board minutes/discussions in a timely manner through documentation and archived videos of meetings. The process of determining the school budget should be communicated via town hall meetings, school meetings, and board meetings archived via video on the website.

*Fostering school/businesses’ partnerships: Stronger bonds between the school board and businesses should be fostered in order to truly partner for the success of students within the schools and their potential for skills, training, internships, and employment once they are graduates.

*Implementation of Innovative Technology: I would request that United Classrooms, the database management system that I developed several years ago, be piloted within the district to allow teachers to share successful interventions from classroom to classroom in “real time.” Not only would this database be simple for teachers to use, it would provide more immediate feedback to teachers that could drive their instruction with greater ease and potentially more effectiveness than the State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS). United Classrooms could streamline teachers’ valuable time, making them more efficient.

8) The school board recently approved the hiring of additional teachers next year following a surge in enrollment this year and more money from the state. What else should it be doing to position itself for any continued increase in student population as residential construction picks up and people are again moving into the county?

In addition to the hiring of new teachers, the school board needs to ensure that teachers’ step increases are restored and the 2.4% cut they have endured for the past 5 years be added back to the local supplement. Teacher morale has been at an all-time low; re-establishing true salaries would go a long way in restoring morale.

As more families move into the county causing the possible need for more schools, I would advocate for expansion of existing facilities in order to save funds on teacher salaries. Rather than building a new school to house 1,000-1,200 students, an expansion could allow a school to house 1,500-2,000 students without having to hire an entire new staff for a new school. More funds could be saved in this process through the school district without the heavy reliance on SPLOST funds that may or may not be passed in the future.

9) What more, if anything, should the school system be doing to enhance security at its schools?

I applaud Hall County Schools for its partnership with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and implementation of School Resource Officers in our middle/high schools. I appreciate this partnership and always felt extremely safe as a teacher and administrator knowing that the SRO was there in the building.

Research shows that schools that increase security measures through more visible means, such as metal detectors and other types of security equipment only cause students and staff to feel more anxious and less safe.

To truly enhance security, schools need to become more like families in that schools must exhibit healthy, nurturing relationships among both teachers and students. Establishing programs such as Positive Behavior Support will go a long way in eliminating undesirable behaviors that can be replaced with trust and respect. School culture and school climate truly matter when it comes to school security. Developing positive, healthy relationships among students and staff will deter school violence and enhance security measures.

Additionally, School Resource Officers should feel unencumbered when doing their jobs at the schools. SROs who are utilized in administrative tasks cannot give their full attention to security. Likewise, asking teachers to provide security is just as wrong. A teacher cannot give his/her all to teaching if also expected to be on security detail. When both professionals are free to do his/her job, each gains greater respect for the other, and school safety is enhanced.


*NAME: Mark Pettitt

POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION: Republican

MOST RECENT/CURRENT EMPLOYMENT: Small business owner (Chestnut Mountain Strategies, LLC)

1) Why are you running for this office?

I believe it is time for a fresh set of eyes and a strong advocate for our students, teachers and parents on the board of education. We need someone who will work daily to make our great school system the greatest school system.

2) Is the first time you have run for political office? (If "no," please explain.) Yes.

3) What qualifications for the office do you bring to the campaign?

I am proud to say that I have dedicated my life in service to others for the betterment of our community. I have served as a substitute teacher and volunteer youth football coach as well as a member of the Hall County Library Board, Hall County Environmental Management and Solid Waste Advisory Committee, Georgia Republican Party State Committee and the executive committees of the state, district and county Republican parties. I am also proud to be a lifelong resident of Hall County and a graduate of Johnson High School.

4) What do you see as the biggest concern/issue facing the Hall County School System?

Our very high tax rate is the biggest concern for me. At 19.25, it's one of the highest in the state and is within one point of the state constitutional limit. The tax rate has been raised four separate times in recent years and even Fulton County Schools have a lower tax rate. I'm concerned that if the next SPLOST fails there will be no other way except massive bond debt to fund facility expansions that already needed (according to system officials) in the southern end of the county.

5) What is your position on the Common Core Standards? And, please explain your answer.

I oppose Common Core. I voted against Common Core last Summer as a member of the Georgia Republican Party State Committee and I believe that anytime the federal government is involved, it is a recipe for disaster.

6) Do you favor expanding the charter school concept in the county school system? And, please explain your answer.

Yes. There is no doubt that we have seen great successes from charter academies and programs of choice. It is a fact that children learn best when learning in an environment that enriches their individual interests. Hall County has many charter academies that enrich learning and I will work to make these academies available to all students who exhibit interest in attending.

7) Are there any specific changes you would like to undertake if you are elected? And, please explain your answer.

I would like to implement fair hiring and promotion policies so that the best person is hired for the job. I would also like to see board meetings streamed online and aired on TV18 so that all citizens can take part in their school system governance.

8) The school board recently approved the hiring of additional teachers next year following a surge in enrollment this year and more money from the state. What else should it being doing to position itself for any continued increase in student population as residential construction picks up and people are again moving into the county?

We should be working to lower our tax rate that is nearly at it's maximum allowed rate per the State Constitution. School system officials tell us that there is already a need for a new school in southern Hall County. I am concerned that with citizens trusting government less and less, the upcoming school SPLOST may fail, and we will be left with no other way to fund new facilities. This is why I think having one of the highest tax rates in the state is bad for Hall County. I will work to streamline support services and maximize savings to reduce our tax rate.​

9) What more, if anything, should the school system be doing to enhance security at its schools?

The children of Hall County are without a doubt our greatest blessings. Hall County Schools has taken bold steps in working to provide a safe environment to learn and grow for the children of our communities. By working with the Sheriff's office to create a visible law enforcement presence and enhancing security features in each building, we were able to win a national award for school safety. I will always put the well-being of our students and staff first so that everyone can enjoy a brighter future.


*NAME:Brian Sloan

POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION: REPUBLICAN

MOST RECENT/CURRENT EMPLOYMENT: Employed on Ministerial staff at Chestnut Mountain Church

1) Why are you running for this office?

I am running for this office because we have had a very successful run in the last 7-8 years going from no school choice to now 23 Charter Schools or Programs of Choice. We are in the middle of other exiting and innovative things and I think this board should stay intact for a couple of more years to see these things through.

2) Is the first time you have run for political office? (If "no," please explain.)

No. I have run for the Hall County Board of Education in 2006 and 2010 and won both elections.

3) What qualifications for the office do you bring to the campaign?

I have a Bachelor's degree in Education, K-12, and now almost 7 and 1/2 years learning to govern. I have had some time in the classroom and I admire the teachers. It is not easy at all. It's an awesome skill set to have. Governing the school district is just a different skill set.

4) What do you see as the biggest concern/issue facing the Hall County School System?​

The biggest concern facing the district is still the economic problems. Many of our secondary issues could be solved with and infusion of cash.

5) What is your position on the Common Core Standards? And, please explain your answer.

I am against the Common Core Standards. I am against Big government Federal intervention. And I think that Common Core is bad for our children in the long term.

6) Do you favor expanding the charter school concept in the county school system? And, please explain your answer.

I do favor expanding the Charter School programs in our district. It gives families so many options and can better target a student's skill set, as can our Programs of Choice.

7) Are there any specific changes you would like to undertake if you are elected? And, please explain your answer.

Changes I intend to make are to get more money into teachers paychecks, and more money back in the classrooms since we hope to have a bit more money to work with this year. I also want to continue to firm up our school safety program which is a big item on my agenda.

8) The school board recently approved the hiring of additional teachers next year following a surge in enrollment this year and more money from the state. What else should it being doing to position itself for any continued increase in student population as residential construction picks up and people are again moving into the county?

In terms of growth, we obviously are beginning to talk seriously about how we will fund facilities for new growth. We have some options for now, but our team continues to develop long term plans and strategies for the growth that is coming.

9) What more, if anything, should the school system be doing to enhance security at its schools?

In terms of safety, we have a lot more of our entrances more secure, have installed the Raptor Check-in System which is an incredible method of making sure no one gets on our campuses that shouldn't be. We will continue to train and train our faculty and students for emergency situations.

Associated Categories: Politics, Hall County Elections

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