Accountability, tailored approach needed

Since I announced my candidacy last September, I have been traveling across the state focused on speaking with as many people in as many places as possible. I have driven over 46,000 miles and have visited counties from Rabun to Lowndes and almost every county in between. Unless I already had another commitment, I agreed to attend every event, conference, forum, and meeting that I was invited to. I daresay that I have embarked on one of Georgia’s longest listening tours regarding education issues.

As Georgia’s next state school superintendent, I will continue to ensure that the people of Georgia have this level of accessibility by making sure to listen to the concerns and ideas of students, parents, and educators from all parts of the state.

Throughout this campaign, I have used my 22 years of experience in public education as a teacher and school administrator coupled with the input/feedback I have received from Georgians on the campaign trail to articulate a solutions-based plan that supports our students and teachers.

The policies I have promoted will help ensure that literacy is a priority for all students, and that a fourth grader in Hancock County could count on beginning the school year reading on grade level. We must be focused on ensuring that our elementary school students have a firm foundation of the fundamentals on which to build future academic achievement. Teachers must have time during this critical stage of educational development to remediate or accelerate instruction to meet the individual needs of their students. Implementing a diagnostic testing model would identify barriers to learning early on and would empower students, increase parental involvement, and guide teacher instruction.

Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, we must seek an approach that tailors instruction to each individual student. A high school freshman in Ringgold needs to have access to a flexible curriculum that complements their strengths and interests. For example, counting an Accounting course as a Math credit or a Journalism course as an English credit would provide more options and opportunities for our students, while increasing our state’s graduation rate. Providing additional diploma options such as a STEM or Humanities diploma would allow students to major in areas of interest and help set them up for the college/university experience and process. Strengthening our partnerships with higher education and local businesses is critical in ensuring that our students become well-rounded and productive citizens.

Four years from now, I hope to have set a tone of communication, collaboration, and determination. I hope to be known for my strong communication with Georgians – going beyond the traditional photo-ops of previous superintendents and having real conversations with education stakeholders. I hope to be leading a department that is known for supporting our local school districts, listening to our teachers, and engaging our parents on a level that has never been done before. I hope to be known for my integrity, honesty, and commitment to providing the best education possible for all of our children. Most importantly, I hope to be known for promoting and implementing policies that set up our students and teachers for success, for rebuilding the public’s trust and support of our education system, and increasing opportunities and achievement for our students.

As a veteran teacher and school administrator with pre-k through 12th grade experience, I understand firsthand the impact that policies have at the classroom level. I am committed to ensuring that the voices of our teachers and our parents are heard as we make education better for every child in this state.