Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones
In spite of increased interest in the inner workings of the Clarke County School District since the alleged sexual assault at Cedar Shoals High School came to light, only one Clarke County Board of Education seat is being contested this year.
In District 8, out on the Eastside, University of Georgia geography professor and father of a recent Cedar Schoals graduate John Knox is facing Kamau Hull, a lawyer and CSHS grad with a son in the district.
Hull and Knox—along with unopposed incumbent Charles Worthy and Jared Bybee, the lone candidate for an open seat on the board—appeared at a Federation of Neighborhoods forum Monday night. Here are a few of the questions they tackled, and their responses.
What about CCSD impresses you?
Knox: The way the district handles its diverse student body. The teachers and staff. The emphasis placed on music and arts. Facilities that have been upgraded with SPLOST.
Hull: The career academy. Partnerships with UGA and Athens Tech. Technology. Free school lunches (through a USDA program for districts with high percentages of students from low-income families).
How does CCSD need to improve?
Without naming him, Hull criticized Superintendent Philip Lanoue for relying too heavily on statistics and said administrators aren’t always in touch with the community. “We’re so visionary, so data-driven that we haven’t paid attention to basics, and we need to get back to basics,” he said. In addition, discipline needs to be addressed, especially in light of a revised juvenile justice code, and parents and teachers should do a better job of working together.
Knox agreed on discipline, but added that Cedar Shoals High School interim principal Derrick Maxwell has implemented some good policies. College-bound students tend to have a positive experience, and special needs students get extra attention, but “what I keep hearing is the students in the middle are the ones being left out,” he said. And teachers feel they’re not respected by administrators who issue top-down directives. “They can get better offers elsewhere,” he said. “What keeps them here is they love Athens and love their students. But if they don’t get respect, they’re going to leave.”
What would you bring to the school board?
Knox: Experience and a passion for teaching, and experience serving on boards. Not a lawyer or a politician, but a citizen who was inspired to serve by a quote from former Athens-Clarke County Manager Alan Reddish.
Hull: A background as a former CCSD student who graduated from the Virginia Military Institute with an engineering degree, became a lawyer and moved back to Athens to serve the community.
Only 20 percent of CCSD teachers are minorities, far lower than the student body. What can the district do to recruit more minority teachers?
Knox: Address the disparity between Georgia’s racial makeup and UGA’s—the widest of any SEC school—because UGA graduates become CCSD teachers. (UGA is 87 percent white, while Georgia as a whole is 27 percent black and 9 percent Hispanic.)
Hull: Agreed with Knox, and added that Clarke County schools used to be feeder schools for UGA, but now the UGA admissions office doesn’t hold them in such high regard.
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