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Gainesville school board candidates focused on business principles, education
Incumbent Sammy Smith faces Mike Mauldin
Sammy Smith
Sammy Smith

When asked what they want for Gainesville City Schools, Sammy Smith and Mike Mauldin have similar answers.

The two Ward 5 candidates for the Gainesville City Schools Board of Education each have a few priorities for the school system, including proper business principles and educational support.

Smith, the incumbent, said a priority for him is “continued focus as a business enterprise, with sound financial practices, clean audits, addressing financial needs of our students and being good stewards with taxpayers’ monies.”

When he started on the school board in 2008, the school system was $6 million in debt, Smith said. By end of 2014, the system had an $11 million reserve.

“In a bigger sense, here’s what good finances can produce: A valedictorian at Wellesley or Harvard, or a plumber’s apprentice at Lawson Air Conditioning and Plumbing, or a work-study opportunity at Green Ford,” Smith said. “And I am equally proud of all of those students.”

Support for students was an issue both candidates addressed, as well. Smith said the system needs “sharpened focus on academic opportunities.”

Mauldin said the district should consider more than graduation rates. His wife has worked 25 years at the bookstore for the former Gainesville College, now the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus, and he is concerned by how many high school graduates have to take remedial math and English courses at the university.

“The school board is pushing for a 90 percent graduation rate at Gainesville High School,” he said. “That to me is a laudable goal, a real good goal. The only exception to that, to me, seems to be ... increasing the graduation rate is not going to solve that problem unless we have given them a true level of education before they get to college.”

Smith said his other priorities include maintaining “critical community support” for schools, being a good listener, a compassionate soul, and showing his support for students by attending four student activities every week.

“That is self-imposed,” he said with a laugh. “Four per week is my goal.”

Mauldin’s hopes for the city’s schools include: improving conditions for teachers, keeping “Gainesville people” in Gainesville schools and connecting better with the community.

“I try to run as positive a campaign as I can,” he said. “But there is a level of dissatisfaction among our teachers and parents. ... There’s got to be a reason for it, and we’ve got to do something about it.”

Smith said he is proud of Gainesville City Schools and the system’s trends in recent years.

“We are on an upward trend with respect to academics and activities, and the community’s understanding of our mission and goals,” he said. “Being a part of the upward trend helps sustain what we’ve done and sets high goals for our future.”

Gainesville school board candidates, Ward 5

Mike Mauldin

Age: 67

Family: Married 39 years, one daughter

Occupation: Business owner of several companies in Gainesville for 35 years

Education: Graduate of Gainesville High School, Gainesville College, Brenau College, attended Georgia College graduate school

Question: What makes you qualified to serve on the Gainesville City Schools Board of Education?

Answer: I am a lifelong Gainesville resident who attended Gainesville City Schools just as both my parents and my daughter. I have had the ability to see the school system from both standpoints of a student and a parent. My business experience has given me the understanding that as a leader you must be honest, responsive, trustworthy, cost-conscious and ethical in all aspects of life.

Q: What are your goals, if elected?

A: It is my aim to put qualified Gainesville people in positions of leadership in our school system. I hope to restore a level of trust in our school board that is seriously lacking, and this has led to the loss of many qualified teachers and the dissatisfaction of many concerned parents. We must place a high priority on the actual education of our students, and not just be concerned with a higher graduation rate. We graduate students now who are required to take remedial classes in math and English before they are capable of taking entry-level college courses. If we cannot reduce the number of students who require remedial work, the graduation rate will have not accomplished anything. I hope to have serious discussions with citizens groups and parents throughout our city to address the current culture of education apathy, behavioral problems, violence and lack of respect for those in authority. I also have no plans to be a career politician.

Sammy Smith

Age: 62

Family: Single; one child, a Gainesville High School graduate

Occupation: Public relations

Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, University of Georgia

Question: What makes you qualified to serve on the Gainesville City Schools Board of Education?

Answer: I’m a proud product of the city schools, lifetime supporter of school activities and sports and have served on the Board of Education since 2008. During my board tenure, I’ve attended 99 percent of the board’s business meetings, over 1,000 student activities and countless opportunities in the community to “tell the good story” of the students and staff of the school system.

Q: What are your goals, if elected?

A: To continue the sound business practices of the school system; to be part of the visioning process in terms of academic/activity/athletic/community needs; to enhance the critical connections between schools and community; to support our students and staff.

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