In anticipation of the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 2, The McDuffie Mirror has been running stories of candidates running for office. In today's edition, we feature the only contested race on the McDuffie County Board of Education -- Single District 7. The two candidates who have qualified for that seat are incumbent Rick McCorkle and Kelly Evans. Next week, we will feature Beatrice Hart-Moss and Ella Mae Samuels, who are running unopposed for seats District 1 and District 3 respectively.
Board of Education Single District 7
Why are you running for a seat on the McDuffie County Board of Education? "I think I can help. I've been thinking about it for several years. Most parents I know, because of their job or their family situation, can't make the commitment. I don't know a parent who's not tired or stressed. And for years, I've been saying 'Somebody with children in the school system needs to be on that board.' How many years can I keep on saying that without being a hypocrite?
Plus, I have the background. I understand government budgets and federal regulations."
If elected, what are your goals for the school board? "First, to understand how the money is being spent. I will do that whether I'm ever on the board or not. As a taxpayer of McDuffie County, I need to understand. I have asked for, and just received (this past week), a detailed, line-by-line copy of the budget of the school system. If I am elected and somebody walks up to me at WalMart and asks about money, I want to give them a common sense, knowledgeable answer.
Second, to be an advocate for our children. Ultimately, that's all I care about. I want a stable school system for teachers, staff and students. They do not deserve to go to bed at night wondering where the money is coming from to pay for essential items. I have no doubt I can bring stability to that board."
What do you think should be done about the Brickyard? "Until I see a balanced, audited SPLOST budget, I can't tell you where there's money to do anything anywhere. Do I believe in the sports program? Absolutely. I think it's a way to reach out to a specific population of students. Through recreation like softball, baseball, football, soccer, golf, tennis, we do a lot for our kids. But, we are here to educate our children, too. The history of the Brickyard is wonderful. And, I believe that government-owned facilities should be kept clean, neat and in good repair -- period. It doesn't matter what facility we're talking about. Whether it's the portable classrooms at Maxwell Elementary, the play equipment at Thomson Elementary, or the fire systems at Norris Elementary, they're all our facilities; so, pick one. That includes the Brickyard. But, it's a moot point until we know the capital assessment versus how much we have in SPLOST. Right now, it's all just sitting over there at the new middle school. It just is. There are touch decisions ahead. But, I know this community is wonderful about making priority-based decisions and moving forward."
Why should voters vote for you? "I have the education and experience in government. I understand what it takes to move situations forward. I have kids in the school system. Ultimately, I think that is the biggest thing. I live and breathe that school system all week long. I am a public servant. I work on the public service side of government with my job. I can't run for a partisan side of government. I graduated from a school system that allowed me to go to Georgia Tech and get an education. McDuffie County helped pay for that through the school system. The people here have invested a lot in me, and I want my kids to have the same opportunities I had through a stable school system. I owe it to the citizens of McDuffie County. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the people who are on the board. I'd love to see us move forward."
Personal info, education, family, community involvement, work experience: "I was born and raised in McDuffie County. My parents are Mary Ruth and Jimmy Spence. I graduated from Thomson High School in 1991. I was a member of the last class that graduated from the old high school. In fact, I attended school in every school building in the county, except Dearing Elementary. That includes the Pine Street School. I graduated from Georgia Tech in '97 with a degree in government. I have been married to Butch for 15 years. He's from here, too. We have two children, Mary Lynn, 9, who attends Norris Elementary, and David, 7, who goes to Maxwell Elementary. I have children who have special needs. David is in Quest, but he's also in speech. Both of them have epilepsy. Mary Lynn has a heart condition. She has a 9 mm hole in her heart, and she's on a heart monitor. So, for parents who are struggling with No Child Left Behind with their kids who have special needs, I've been there.
After graduation, I worked in the private sector at Club Car and at Ben Barmore CPA. Then, I was IT Director for Thomson-McDuffie County seven years. Now, I'm the executive director of the Thomson, Harlem, Warrenton and Crawfordville Housing Authorities. I'm a certified housing manager.
I've been a member of the Thomson Rotary Club for three years, and a member of First United Methodist Church of Thomson for 13 years. I served on the Maxwell, Thomson and Norris Elementary school councils, and I chaired the Maxwell and Thomson councils. I'm on the executive committee for Cub Scout Pack 125."
RICK MCCORKLE, INCUMBENT
Why are you running for a seat on the McDuffie County Board of Education? "I've got a special place in my heart for young people. I feel that God put me here to see that young people are successful. I have worked with young people so much at the grocery store, and have seen both sides -- those successful and those that didn't flourish. So, I know how it is for them. It makes me feel special that the voters put me in this position. I'm proud that the graduation level has grown every year for the past six years, and test scores have increased. Of course, that's not what I've done, that's the educators. The board is just a supportive staff for the teachers. It's not a prestigious position. It's for those who want to serve. I want to be a part of a board that makes a difference. We need to continue to provide them (teachers) with a quality of work life. I thought as my kids were coming through, and I was so involved in PTO and school councils, I thought I knew what they were going through. But, being on the board, I have grown to appreciate what they go through every day.
I enjoy watching the city and county and the school system work together for the benefit of our kids. That's vital in the next few years with the condition of our state. With all the cuts, I think it's going to fall back on the individual community to pay for educating the kids. So, I think it's vital right now to continue to partner with the business community and the city and local governments. Not everybody goes to get a secondary education. So, it's important that they can work and not be a burden on the community. They're our future as we grow older. We have resources such as DCT training and the apprenticeship program at the high school to get them ready for the world. That's the reason I run for a seat on the board."
If elected, what are your goals for the school board? "I'd still like to see the school board, city, county, all come together. People want to become involved. We need to ask them to work closer to support our children. I'd like to see children be successful. It bothers me when an 18 or 19-year-old comes to me for a job and they hadn't graduated from high school. They are already starting out at a disadvantage. I've been accused in the past of being the 'sports guy,' and that was the reason I was on the board. And, I'm all for the athletes. But, if they haven't got the reading, writing and communication skills, then sports is not going to get them where they need to go."
What do you think should be done about the Brickyard? "There's so much history there. If it was up to me, and if the children's education didn't have to take a back seat, I'd love to spend the six million dollars on it. I've played there, so it's special to me. But, the economy has gone bad, so I don't see it happening soon. There's been discussion on it. I think it's going to happen in stages, rather than being a turn-key job. It's the centerpiece of town, our community deserves it. They voted for it. So, that's going to be one of my challenges if I get on the board again. But, it is a challenge because the economy keeps jumping in there. That's got to be one of my goals as a board member if I'm re-elected."
Why should voters vote for you? "I've lived here all my life. I'm an old school guy. I feel like it takes the whole village to raise our kids. It seems like we're getting away from that. I would like to think people think I'm approachable. They can trust me to get their answers in the board room. I care about the well-being of their children. "
Personal info, education, family, community involvement, work experience: "I graduated from Thomson High School in 1977. I married my childhood sweetheart, Cindy, in '78, and am still married to her. We had two great boys together. Aaron is in his fourth year at Georgia State and College in Milledgeville, with a major in economics and a minor in math. I've worked at Bi-Lo for 33 years, and been a manager there for 30 years. I'm a member of Sweetwater Baptist, I've served on the Chamber of Commerce board for four years, and I served on school councils as my children went through them. I've also served on the booster club."