Introductions • Meet the District 1, 3 candidates who are currently in the running for the Morgan County Board of Education
profiles by michael prochaska
photos of howard, malone and veasley by michael prochaska, other photos contributed
The face of the Morgan County Board of Education will change this year. The positions of District 1 representative to the school board and District 3 representative to the school board are up for election. The Citizen would like for you to meet them. The District 3 candidates will be in a run-off at July’s end, as will the Democratic candidates in District 1.
Madison resident Robyn Cook, D, will run against Erica Veasley, D, and Dick Hodgetts, R, for a District 1 seat on the Board of Education.
Cook, 47, has an undergraduate degree from the University of West Georgia and master’s degree from the University of Georgia. She has worked in the marketing research industry for more than 20 years, spending the last seven years working remotely in Madison for The NPD Group, an international marketing research company.
“I offer 20 years of marketing research industry experience in both leadership and team roles,” Cook said in an e-mail. “I have the proven ability to gather, analyze and act on the right information needed to make sound decisions about our children’s education…Ultimately, the purpose of our schools is to educate our children so they can live productive, successful lives.”
Cook said her research background would help in implementing a survey system to gauge the importance of specific issues facing the school board
Cook said that in talking to her constituents, parents in her district have concerns about too few post-planning days and a lack of parents elected to the board.
Though Cook said a tax exemption for senior citizens would not be viable in current economic conditions, she would consider an exemption for those over 70, with limits around acreage, length of ownership and home value.
Cook is married and has two children who will be attending MCHS and MCPS in the fall.
Morgan County resident Erica Veasley, D, will run against Dick Hodgetts, R, and Robyn Cook, D for a District 1 seat on the Board of Education.
Veasley, 50 as of June 24, is a graduate of Morgan County High School.
She attained a degree in zoology from the University of Georgia and graduated from the University’s School of Pharmacy. Veasley was employed by St. Mary’s Hospital, and since 2004, she has worked for Emory’s Pharmaceutical Department.
Veasley said a key issue for her district and for the entire school board is diversity.
“You need diversity at all levels,” she said. “It’s not a race issue. It is a cultural issue.”
Veasley said the ethnic makeup of teachers has declined tremendously over the years.
“Diversity is something that affects us all,” she said. “Districts were demarked for the purpose of representation so that everyone that’s involved in the educational system can be represented.”
After meeting with Superintendent Dr. Ralph Bennett, Veasley said she is not afraid to ask questions and that having an open mind will make for a more cohesive board.
Concerning the school system’s town hall meetings, Veasley said there will be a time to let parents and students ask questions while school board members take notes and listen with an open mind.
“I’m looking forward to the challenges,” she said. “I like making good things happen.”
Veasley was endorsed by District 1 sitting representative Minnie Peek, who will not seek re-election.
Madison resident Dick Hodgetts, R, will run against Robyn Cook, D, and Erica Veasley, D, for a District 1 seat on the Board of Education.
Hodgetts, 69, graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Business Administration. He was employed by AT&T from 1965 to 1983, served as Vice President of Business for National Public Radio and retired from the Providence Group, an Atlanta-based luxury homebuilder company. He is currently a rancher at Four Seasons Farm and active in the Morgan County Rotary.
Hodgetts said in an e-mail that he is currently a volunteer with Morgan County Schools.
“Our public school system goes a long way to define what we are as a community and what direction we wish to impart to the next generation,” he said “Those who know me will likely concur that I pour myself into these efforts, and should I be elected, my time and effort would go toward meeting the training and administrative requirements of being an accessible board member.”
Hodgetts said his professional experience will play a part in balancing the budget.
“The state is reducing its funding, and continues to place unfunded mandates on local school administrations,” he said. “We have serious challenges to fund and execute policies that our community supports. We are stewards of a substantial amount of the local tax revenue, and I want to provide my experience and insight into how the system manages its resources.”
Hodgetts is married and has three children and four grandchildren.
Bostwick resident and Board of Education District 3 incumbent Keith Howard will run against Marcia Malone in the July 31 General Primary for the District 3 BOE seat.
Howard, 48, served nine years in the military after graduating from Morgan County High School in 1982. He attained a Bachelors in business from Brenau University in 1990 and a Masters of Public Administration in 1995 from Columbus State University. Howard spent 15 years with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. In 2001, he was assigned to the Child Abuse Task Force. Howard currently sits as the Director of the Georgia Police Academy with the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. He has also served as an adjunct professor with Columbus State University and Thomas University.
In an e-mail following an interview, Howard said the school board’s budget is the biggest obstacle to success.
“We need board members that not only understand the process but understands the ramifications of budget decisions,” Howard wrote. “I spent three fiscal years on the MCCS (Morgan County Charter School) budget committee … I deal with budget issues daily. The budget process at the Academy parallels the Morgan County Charter School System budget process.”
Howard said he supports tax exemptions for senior citizens as long as there is funding to offset the loss.
“I’m not opposed to any type of tax exemption as long as we make up the difference in that funding,” he said.
Howard said the board’s town hall meetings have made him more aware of students’ academic and social environment and that he looks forward to continuing a forum for public comment.
Howard is married and has two children.
Madison resident Marcia Malone will run against incumbent Keith Howard for a District 3 seat on the Board of Education.
Malone, 61, attended Georgia State University for two years. She worked for furniture manufacturer Herman Miller for 23 years and as a resource analyst in health care for six years. In 2008, Malone was hired as a bus driver for Morgan County Schools. The school board terminated her position in December of 2011, following a recommendation from Superintendent Dr. Ralph Bennett. No reason was given publicly for the termination, but Malone said she was “standing up for the rights and the safety of not only one child but every child in my care.”
“We need to secure the safety of our children and our school bus drivers as they ride to and from school on our school buses,” she said.
Malone said she feels as though the board has lost touch with the concerns of Morgan County taxpayers.
“Our voters and our citizens don’t need to lose faith in the public servant roles,” she said. “As an elected public servant, we must always take the time to listen to every member of Morgan County.”
Malone said she will campaign on a more equitable and thorough review of school budget spending plans and E-LOST spending.
“Lastly, we need to address, promote, implement and enhance the educational needs for our children who are not college-bound,” Malone said, calling for more opportunities for vocational programs.
“He could fix a car like a surgeon could fix your heart,” Malone said of her late husband, who chose not to enroll in college.
Printed in the June 28, 2012 edition