Local lawyer and former Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell has formally announced his intentions to run for state school superintendent.
“We think we bring to this race a perspective of being a leader in our local charter schools and having run a youth leadership organization in our public schools for eight years successfully,” Bell, 33, said. “Along with having had experience as a local elected official, we think we have the right combination of experience at the right time for this office.”
The state superintendent seat is being vacated by John Barge, who is campaigning in the Republican gubernatorial primary against Gov. Nathan Deal.
“The superintendent’s office has to work in partnership with the governor and the Department of Education,” Bell said. “What I can do is help the office be more transparent with parents.”
He said he wants to see more transparency in the College and Career Ready Performance Index, the state’s method of ranking schools.
“What I want to focus on is, yes, let’s make our classrooms stronger and better environments for education,” he said. “I think that is a three-pronged approach. You’ve got to have parental involvement. You’ve got to have quality, well-paid teachers. And then you’ve got to have student responsibility.”
Bell, a Republican, is a graduate of Gainesville High School and Valdosta State University. He attended law school at the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University.
He was elected county commissioner in 2008 and represented District 4 until 2012, when Jeff Stowe was elected to the position. A former Democrat, Bell said he’s always been a conservative.
Bell has been involved in the Gainesville school system, serving on both Gainesville Middle and Gainesville High school governance councils. He’s active in Generation Inspiration, a nonprofit youth organization he founded that gives out scholarship money and helps students outside the classroom in financial management and professional training.
Along with his wife, Lauren, Bell lives in Gainesville with their two children, Lilla and Ashley Beaux-Walker. They attend St. Paul United Methodist Church.
Professionally, he’s a founder and partner at Bell & Washington, with offices in Gainesville, Atlanta, Jonesboro and Birmingham, Ala.
Bell is throwing his hat into an already crowded field for the superintendent position, with 16 candidates having filed reports with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.