Dougherty County School Board at-large challenger Lane Price, left, addresses the audience while incumbent Anita Williams-Brown listens as the two debated in a candidates forum conducted by the Student Govenment Association and ASU iVote2012 Monday evening at Albany State University. The two women will square off in the July 31 Democratic primary.
ALBANY -- Eight local candidates gathered for debates Monday night at Albany State University's ACAD Auditorium, with the encounter between Dougherty County School Board at-large incumbent Anita Williams-Brown and challenger Lane Price drawing the most attention.
The event, sponsored by the the ASU Student Government Association and the ASU iVOTE2012 committee, also featured State Court judge candidates Victoria Darrisaw and Christoper Warren; incumbent Coroner Emma Quimbly and challenger Michael Fowler, and County Commission District 3 candidates Clinton Johnson and Louise Primrose.
The at-large School Board candidates drew the most questions on index cards submitted from the audience, but that particular debate ran out of time just as it it was heating up.
When asked why she was running for a second term on the board, Williams-Brown answered that her focus was on at-risk kids and the job was unfinished.
"We are failing our at-risk children right now," Williams-Brown, a minister, said. "Many of these kids do not have ordinary lives and a lot of them are just roaming the streets. These are the kids we need to focus on. We have to change some mindsets around here, let them know were are there for them and help them to feel good about themselves.
"They then will learn."
Price, the medical director at Willson Hospice House answered, drawing on her medical background.
"When we moved here four years ago, one of the things I have paid close attention to is the school system," Price said. "I have noticed we have a 56 percent graduation rate. That means 44 percent of our children do not graduate from high school. If 44 percent of the people in this community were sick, then we'd say we have an epidemic on our hands.
"I've not seen solutions to this problem addressed. We cannot let poverty be our excuse."
One of the audience's most compelling questions of the evening was: "Do you think children in poverty learn differently? If so, how as a board member would you foster a positive out come?"
"The brain is the same. We need parents, civic clubs, fraternity and churches," Price answered. "Think about the power in all these groups and what a group can do. I would talk to every group I can find in Dougherty County and make a difference."
"Students do learn differently," Williams-Brown said. "We have plenty of good programs in place. We have Title I, SIG (school improvement grant), we have Race To The Top. ... We don't need new programs. We need to make the ones we have work.
"We need parental involvement. It's increased for the past two years. When parents are involved students do better."