Melissa Ferris-Ozkan — Buford Board of Education (Perkins' seat)

Occupation: Occupational therapist in home health, inpatient rehab and pediatrics

Education: Bachelor’s in Communications from Carroll University in Wisconsin, Master’s occupational therapy from University of the Sciences in Philadelphia

Lived in Buford since: 2015

Political experience: Embracing diversity, love your neighbor

Community involvement: Providing therapy to a wide range of patients within Gwinnett County; providing pro bono therapy to community residents and personal community outreach projects that her and her immediate family participates in yearly.

Ferris-Ozkan said important issues to her include the development of a zero-tolerance bullying policy in the school district, including provisions such as in-services and outside motivational speakers to create an atmosphere that is accepting of everyone. She also said the school system can improve by strengthening special education. She believes the two relate to each other and educators have a platform to shape students’ views of others with teaching empathy, teaching compassion and serving others.

"Buford could lead No. 1 with special education and inclusion, this will be very transformative for the entire education at BCS as a whole,” she said.

Ferris-Ozkan said she speaks from personal experience with working at BCS, having a child who was bullied and her other child who recently diagnosed with auditory processing disorder and dyslexia.

She said she wants to erase an outsider stigma that Buford tolerates prejudice. She wants all students and employees in the school system to be treated fairly and wants to hold the Buford board members, city leaders, school officials and administrators accountable.

Ferris-Ozkan said she’s running to give voice to employees, students and their families who feel like they do not have one.