In District 1, which covers parts of Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Chamblee and Doraville, Stan Jester ran unopposed in the May primary and gained the seat, while in District 5, which covers parts of Decatur and Lithonia, Vickie Turner earned about 60 percent of the votes compared to her opponent, Thad Mayfield in last month’s runoff.
Both Jester and Turner said their own experiences in the county’s school system motivated them to run.
“I know firsthand the condition of our schools and the challenges of our parents and teachers,” said Jester, who has three children who attend DeKalb schools. “I ran for the DeKalb board of education to improve the educational lives of our county’s children and provide prudent oversight for the taxpayers because like the majority of parents and taxpayers in DeKalb, I believe that we need competent leadership with a decentralized approach to governance, personnel and financial decisions.”
Jester’s wife Nancy previously held the seat, but resigned in March 2013 after being one of six board members suspended by Gov. Nathan Deal.
Turner, who has worked for more than 20 years in the county as a teacher and administrator, said her own personal observations and experiences will help her represent students, teachers and parents.
“I believe that having raised three adult children, I know what parents want for their children and having taught school, I certainly understand the desires of teachers and administrators,” she said. “I hope to bring a spirit of collaboration and teamwork that will serve the board in a positive manner and I hope that my strength as a communicator and negotiator will complement the team that has been assembled.”
Jester said he plans to work to give schools more autonomy and control over their personnel and financial resources and focus on improving structural problems within the system.
“I feel that despite some superficial improvements, DeKalb has not fundamentally changed course to enable long term success,” he said. “Centralized bureaucracy, large class sizes, low teacher morale, ineffective hiring practices and poor financial oversight are some of the real problems in our school system and I will work to cooperatively address these issues.”
Turner said seeking to regain full accreditation and engaging parents are some of the issues she would like to address.
“Teachers and parents must foster a collaborative dialogue focusing on the same goals and expectations for our students,” she said. “I hope to engage our parents in a positive partnership with our schools and community leaders as we endeavor to make a significant difference in the lives of our students and make improvements such as decreasing the number of students not graduating from high schools.”
Both newly elected board members said improving and expanding technology throughout the county’s schools and increasing teacher training and professional development were also important points on which to focus.
“Decentralization focused on pushing resources to the classroom rather than the bureaucracy, maximizing the amount of money going to the classrooms and minimizing what we spend on central office are changes that I advocate,” Jester said.
The school board holds a business meeting and work session on the first Monday of each month at the Robert R. Freeman administrative and instructional complex at 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard in Stone Mountain.
For more information, visit www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/board-of-education.