Superintendent Woods heads to GOP primary win as Searcy leads Democrats

Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods was headed for a win in the Republican primary as he sought reelection on May 24, 2022. (Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Gray

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Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods was headed for a win in the Republican primary as he sought reelection on May 24, 2022. (Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Gray

Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods appeared set to win his Republican primary Tuesday night, with a huge margin over John Barge, who came out of retirement to run after holding the office eight years ago.

Democrats were winnowing a field of four to pick a challenger to Woods in November. Alisha Thomas Searcy had enough votes to avoid a runoff as of 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, with about 94% of precincts reporting.

Searcy, a former Democratic state representative from Austell in Cobb County, went on to run a small charter school network and is now an educational consultant. If her total slips below 50%, she would face the next leading Democrat in a June 21 runoff election.

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The other three Democrats were separated by a fraction of the vote, with Clayton County teacher James Morrow Jr. slightly ahead of Cobb County school board member and dentist Jaha Howard, and Atlanta lawyer Currey Hitchens.

The state school superintendent leads the Georgia Department of Education, and is responsible for monitoring schools and distributing state and federal funding to them while also ensuring that they follow state law and policy. The superintendent serves as the executive to a policymaking board appointed by governors.

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Woods, a former teacher and school administrator from rural Georgia, has said he wants to recruit more teachers and increase graduation rates by giving students more options than a purely academic path, for instance by offering more “career pathway” programs that allow a focus on job-related skills.

Searcy has long been a proponent of school choice, supporting charter schools and policies that make it easier to switch between schools in the same district and backing tax credit-funded private school scholarships.