SUWANEE -- A group of female education officials with more than 60 years of collective experience on the Gwinnett County Board of Education are seeking re-election, touting their experience as a plus.
Voters on Nov. 6 will determine whether Louise Radloff, Carole Boyce and Mary Kay Murphy, who make up a majority of the five-person board, are to remain as members.
Three political newcomers, however, with little -- and in some cases, no -- political experience aim to take the District 5, District 1 and District 3 seats away from the veteran members, armed with new ideas and fresh perspectives.
Challengers to the incumbents include Jennah Es-Sudan, a tax accountant and small business owner; H.K. Dido, an administrative fellow with the Emory University School of Medicine; and Jen Falk, a special projects director for a statewide nonprofit organization.
Falk, who is seeking to unseat veteran school board member Murphy, said she hopes "to bring diversity of thought" to the current board of education.
"The current board does not ask relevant questions," Falk said. "What I hear mostly is justification and complaining. I don't see the board trying to realign the resources they have to solve problems."
Added Falk: "Frankly, the board in my opinion has lost touch with what parents and teachers and students are looking for."
Murphy, who has served her district for 16 years, defended the board and fellow elected officials seeking re-election.
"The perspective of an experienced board member is of one who knows the value of diverse points of view, but the significance of developing consensus on the board," Murphy said. "The idea of having different points of view is not foreign to us. We are five members who have distinct backgrounds and experiences, but our focus has always been finding common ground to determine what's best for the students."
Falk disagreed, saying that the current board is more likely to agree than to have healthy, public discourse.
"They're not willing to have the hard discussions about the budget or the graduation rates," Falk said. "These are the things parents and teachers want to hear about."
Murphy said the current board's tendency to agree is one of its biggest advantages.
"We don't have to look far to see other boards that are dysfunctional," Murphy said. "There is no sin in board members being unified. When has that ever been a problem? Those who say there's a need for lack of unity misunderstand what a school board is all about and would not bring much to the table."
While the candidates speak of various priorities for Gwinnett County Public Schools, all six have said that among the most important matters currently in K-12 education are funding and keeping students first when determining how to approach the budget. A majority also have voiced concern over a constitutional amendment slated for the Nov. 6 ballot, which seeks to affirm the state's power to create independent charter schools.