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Newcomers seek overhaul of education board

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.

Comments

HonestIngine 2 years, 1 month ago

Experience, is not a reason to vote for someone. Just because someone has "Experience" does not mean they are doing a great job. In my district Mary Kay Murphy has been on the board long enough and has gotten complacent. It is time for a change, for new fresh ideas, it's time for someone to go in and make changes for the better not to be stuck in the mud. This goes along for all the board members, not just Murphy. For that matter, on the state level, TOM RICE, has been there forever...(remember Shirley Lassister)...vote them out, before its too late.

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kdgqueen 2 years, 1 month ago

I emailed both Sudan and Falk to ask them where they stood on the charter school amendment and never got a response. On Sudan's website it says she is for the creation of more charter schools and according to Falk's website, she is one of the founders of Ivy Prep.

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SickandTired 2 years, 1 month ago

Jenn Falk has my vote. MK Murphy has been on the board too long. She is a JAW puppet and is completely out of touch. Attend a BOE meeting and watch her....the only reason she's been on the BOE is because most of the time there was no one running against her. Now is the time for change. Next, we need to vote out Dan Seckinger.

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MotivatedMom 2 years, 1 month ago

Jen Falk is an experienced responsive candidate that wants to bring transparency and accountability to the Gwinnett County school board. We need someone who will question the status quo and tell us what is really going on in our schools and the money they are siphoning out of our classrooms (Gwinnett Chamber). The charter amendment should not be the deciding factor in this election. There are so many other issues that directly affect our classrooms. I also know Jen Falk has experience with charter schools on both sides of the issue. She is experienced on both the 'pro' and 'con'. This election is bigger than one issue that will be voted on by the entire state. We need a school board member who just doesn't AGREE all the time. Now is the time for change and real solutions for our children.

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Ashley 2 years, 1 month ago

How can anyone vote for the school board after the dirty land deals? That was stealing money from the kids.

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Coolray 2 years, 1 month ago

I can't understand why this didn't get the same traction since its the same type of corruption we saw with the commission. The school system was even worst than the boc with crooked land deals. Why no indictments? Where's the outrage?

Alvin Wilbanks is a power center in this county and he maybe as close to an untouchable as we'll see.

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motherinduluth 2 years, 1 month ago

"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."

Oh, honey.

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Ahelmstetter 2 years, 1 month ago

I'm with you. Does MKM even listen to herself when she speaks?

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motherinduluth 2 years, 1 month ago

"I have always thought that any group of neighbors and friends who come together around a table will resolve political differences and find solutions more efficiently than any room full of career politicians." -Jen Falk, "In My Wildest Dreams" blog.

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Ahelmstetter 2 years, 1 month ago

One of the greatest things about the political system in this country is that you don't HAVE to have political experience in order to run for office. For the past several years there has been a voter referendum on "career politicians" - we the people have been voting out elected officials who have been in office too long and are out of touch with their constituents. It's downright dangerous to reelect a candidate just because they've been there a long time and have experience as a politician. YIKES! And Double-yikes! I can't thing of a worse reason to reelect someone.

Don't be so quick to exclude a non-politician from consideration. I would take hard working newcomer with a solid grasp of the issues and some solid ideas for improvement over anyone who has voted in unison over 1,000 times over the past 4 years and a view that sending my tax payer dollars to the Chamber of Commerce to fund two "education positions" rather than trying to keep my kids class sizes down is a good idea. Jen Falk gets my vote over the long term incumbent who, even with her long tenure has lost my trust and my vote.

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kevin 2 years, 1 month ago

Murphy states,"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."

Do you really believe all this? Never re-elect and you will see the County come out of this crises we are in with education. Complaining and excuses is all we have gotten in the past 16 yrs. Never re-elect. Give a newcomer a chance to do some good. They also won't be bringing any "baggage" with them into the job. We don't want 16 more yrs of the same ideas of protecting their jobs and not the students. This is the main reason you don't have more Charter schools. Period. Folks were not scared of voting for Obama for change so lets make some changes in the BOE now.

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ptcconcerns 2 years, 1 month ago

Murphy's arguement that you should only (re)elect board members because they have experience is as empty as most of her other answers and/or comments. By that arguement she should never have been elected in the first place because she didn't have board experience. I have kids in the Gwinnett schools in district 3 and I have interacted with Murphy on several occassions and am ready for a change. Jen Falk has the experience and determination to make a difference and she will get my vote.

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SickandTired 2 years, 1 month ago

Coolray, years ago when it was revealed that Wilbanks failed to report over 20,000 (in 1 yr.) serious crimes (felonies) within the GCPS system I called Danny Porter and asked if Wilbanks and the BOE would be prosecuted for failure to report. Danny Porter said to me "Alvin Wilbanks comes close to crossing the line but is always very careful to not step over it". Wilbanks approved the report. He claimed it was a mistake and a clerical error. I can give him a few hundred "mistakes" heck I'll even be generous and give him 5000 mistakes....but over 20,000!!!!! Don't think so.

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