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Buford Board of Education preview: Kathleen Welch vs. Lien Diaz
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Kathleen Welch vs. Lien Diaz

Two candidates are vying for a vacant seat on the Buford City Schools board of education to replace longtime member Pat Pirkle, who is stepping down after serving since 1994.

Two candidates are vying for a vacant seat on the Buford City Schools board of education to replace longtime member Pat Pirkle, who is stepping down after serving since 1994.

Lien Diaz, 49, was born in Vietnam and moved to the United States as a young girl and says her passion for education is rooted in her humble upbringing.

Raised in the small rural town of Canutillo in Texas, Diaz grew up the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran. 

“I grew up with very humble means,” she said. “We came across some very tough economical times in those days, and the one thing that helped our situation was to really focus on academics.” 

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Lien Diaz
Lien Diaz 

Political experience: none

Occupation: Director of Educational Innovation and Leadership at Georgia Tech

Top issues: access to computer science education, increasing representation of diverse community perspectives, teacher advocacy 

One of her main interests is promoting STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

“I do believe it's very important for us to prepare our students to thrive and succeed in a technological society that is becoming more technologically advanced faster than we can imagine,” she said. 

Diaz earned a bachelor’s in math and science from the University of Texas at El Paso and a master’s of mathematics education from Texas State University. She now works as the Director of Educational Innovation and Leadership at Georgia Tech and has spent more than half of her 25-year career in education expanding access to computer sciences across the country. 

She worked closely with Georgia lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 108, which requires middle schools and high schools to offer computer science courses by 2025. She believes her experiences as an educator will allow her to best serve the Buford community. 

“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” she said. “I do understand how school systems work. I know how policies are created, and I’ve been in plenty of board rooms in deep and meaningful conversations about setting policy to provide students the best quality education that can be provided.” 

She hopes to make the board more receptive to diverse perspectives. 

“I do think we could improve on the connections with the community, being more receptive to the voices in the community — diverse voices, diverse perspectives.” 

Diaz also described herself as “teacher advocate,” and wants to pay them more and provide better educational development. 

She and her husband have four children, and she has lived in Buford for more than 15 years. 

You can learn more about Diaz on her website

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Kathleen Welch
Kathleen Welch

Political experience: none

Occupation: sales agent at Findley Insurance

Top issues: expanding post-grad career opportunities, building on accomplishments of prior members

Kathleen Welch, 28, was born and raised in Buford and attended its schools. Her family has called the city home since the 1940s. 

She has a degree in early childhood education from the University of Georgia and comes from a family of educators. Her mother spent almost the entirety of her 30-year career in the Buford school system, and her father has worked as a teacher, coach and principal. 

“I can’t imagine not serving the school (system) in this way,” she said. “I do not think of myself as a politician per se. My desire to run for the Buford school board is a desire to love and serve the Buford City school system.”

Welch would be the youngest member of the board at just 28 years old, but she has no desire to tear down the system and start anew. She wants to build upon its foundation. 

“A lot of it, I think, is looking at not coming in and changing things, but what is already here that we can expand upon,” she said. 

One area she will focus on is career preparation and “setting our students up to not only be successful at Buford, but to be successful once they're no longer in our doors anymore,” she said. 

She acknowledges that one always has to be “forward thinking,” but her main goal is “to continue the work that has already been set before me.” 

Welch said she would not  be running if Pat Pirkle were not stepping down. 

“I’m very proud and thankful for the work that Mrs. Pirkle has done,” she said. 

Welch works as a sales agent at Findley Insurance in Buford. She and her husband have a 1-year-old girl and another girl on the way. 

The election will be held Nov. 2. 

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