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2 candidates vie for Hall schools at-large seat
Thompson, Godfrey discuss Common Core, transparency
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Bill Thompson

Age: 63

Family: Wife, Linda, and four children

Occupation: Driver for Daniels Charter Co.

Political experience: Served on Hall County Board of Education
since 2011

Education: Specialist degree from University of Georgia

Website: None

Question: What are your goals if elected?

Answer: We need to continue our steps of reviving faith and trust in our education system in Hall County. The past several years have put a strain on that faith from the board on down. It is very hard for anyone to have faith when we had to keep cutting so many things in order to stay on top of our money situation. I am very proud of the honor we received for being so financially sound and using our money wisely. We have awesome employees in our system who work very hard each and every day.

Q: School funding is slightly rebounding after years of lean times. Where would you direct this money?

A: Now that we are getting a little bit of money from the state to the positive, we can return to some of our previous status. That would be 180 days of school for students and 190 work days for our staff. This hopefully will be a sign that we are somewhat back to “normal” and a feeling of hope for the future and not despair. We hopefully will be able to restore some of the benefits of pay, raises, etc., that were put on hold. The future should have a much brighter outlook for everyone.

Paul Godfrey

Age: 67

Family: Wife, Betty, two children and two grandchildren

Occupation: Retired educator and U.S. Air Force veteran

Political experience: Campaigns for Hall County Board of Commissioners, state House and Hall County Board of Education

Education: Bachelor’s degree in math from University of Georgia, master’s degrees in foundations of education and management from Troy State University, master’s degree in applied math and computer science from University of Central Oklahoma and doctorate in workforce education, leadership and social foundations from UGA

Website: www.GoGodfrey.org

Q: What are your goals if elected?

A: My top three priorities are: Curriculum — Teach what kids need to live a good life, not just what they need to get by. Teaching — Teach kids how to learn for life. Ease the office burdens on teachers, find the best, and let them help teach the rest. Strategic Planning — Plot a course; define a path to the future, just tallying statistics won’t tell you where you are going and how to get there. I want to make the Hall County School System’s motto: “We’re the best” not “We’re no worse than anybody else”

Q: School funding is slightly rebounding after years of lean times. Where would you direct this money?

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 be 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.

Common Core concerns highlight the race for the at-large seat on the Hall County Board of Education.

Bill Thompson, who is running for his second term in the position, faces Paul Godfrey in the May primary. Both are Republicans.

“There are a lot of things about it I don’t like,” Thompson said about the set of standards, developed in 2009 through the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Georgia adopted the standards for English/language arts and mathematics in 2010. “And there are some things I do like.

“It’s something our state has adopted and we’re pretty much bound to honor that,” Thompson added.

But Godfrey said the board has the choice to say no.

“I can tell you, it is really frustrating to see that the aim of Common Core is just to get students to think about math without any concern with them getting the right answer,” said Godfrey, a former instructor with the Technical College System of Georgia. “I have been a math teacher for years and I will tell you the important thing about mathematics is learning how to get the right answers.”

His suggestion is to not adopt the standards, while Thompson stressed the state has already adopted Common Core.

“The curriculum can be decided by the local school board,” Godfrey said. “It’s constitutionally provided. The curriculum itself is devised by the school board with the professional staff of each school district.”

Common Core is a set of standards, or expectations of what students are expected to know. Curriculum is how the standards are taught.

Godfrey’s position is that Common Core attempts to structure how teachers teach.

“There is a lot in the Common Core curricula about what is being taught that we would teach, and we are teaching now in our current curricula,” he said. “One of the big problems, though, is how it’s being taught, and the attempt to force upon us how what is being taught is being taught.”

Thompson said the controversial standards aren’t “exactly how we had hoped it would be,” but he said he does think there are some good things coming from the adoption.

“It kind of streamlines the curriculum a little bit, so that it’s not quite so broad,” he said. “And it takes a little deeper look into some things and narrows the scope of what you’re teaching in some cases, which I feel is good.”

Both candidates also brought up the issue of school board transparency, with Thompson saying the board is open while Godfrey said there are areas to improve upon.

“For instance, I was just looking last night for the minutes of the school board,” Godfrey said. “All I see is this, an outline of the agenda. But what do they talk about?”

Meeting minutes can be located at hallco.org, under the Board of Education tab. They are posted once approved by board members.

“Not everybody can leave their job and go to the school board meetings, so how else are they going to find out unless that is made available?” Godfrey asked.

Thompson said the board is open and transparent, with members ready and willing to answer any community question.

“Last year in our budgeting process, the financial meetings we had to go step-by-step with anybody that would come and sit and listen as we went through our budget, line by line, to determine exactly how we could cut or where we needed to add something,” Thompson said. “I was very disappointed in the turnout last year.

“I felt like we did a great job of advertising and everything with the budget,” he added. “And other areas of transparency, personnel, all of those kinds of things, I feel like we do an excellent job.”

If elected, Thompson said he wants to improve employee morale by bringing back step raises and other incentives.

“That just kills the morale,” he said. “Hopefully we’re going to be able to bring some of those things back that will help the folks.”

Godfrey said he’s interested in implementing a strategic plan if elected. The U.S. Air Force veteran has experience in that arena, he said.

An overall strategic plan would break down into an overall vision for each identified area, then broken further into objectives, goals and targets.

“I think I can do an excellent job for the people in the county,” Godfrey said. “I can help this school system, I believe, go from one of the best to the very best in the state.”