Dougherty County School Board member Anita Williams Brown speaks before the Doughtery County Rotary Club while Lane Price, left, and Karen Kemp listen. Williams-Brown, the incumbent, is attempting to hold off Price's challenge to her at-large board seat. The two candidates held a cordial debate on Tuesday.
ALBANY -- With the Dougherty County School Board at-large seat hanging in the balance and the deciding Democratic primary coming Tuesday, incumbent Anita Williams-Brown and challenger Lane Price engaged in a cordial debate Tuesday before the Dougherty Rotary Club.
"I've had people ask me why I am running for the School Board," Price, the medical director at Willson Hospice House, said. "When we moved here (four years ago), it didn't take long to realize that we have some problems in our school system. Now we have some schools like Albany Early College and Lincoln Magnet that are doing very well, but overall we have problems.
"I thought, 'Somebody ought to do something.' Then I realized that maybe I am that somebody."
Williams-Brown, who is seeking her second term on the School Board, said the job she started four years ago is not yet done, adding, "I want to continue to be a voice for our community."
When asked by a member of the audience about the system's recent CRTC cheating accusations that swept up 49 of the system's teachers and administrators, Williams-Brown was quick to answer.
"I really don't think you can blame all of those teachers," she said. "As the review of evidence has proceeded, we've found that half of those teachers were cleared. They were just testing the way they were taught. We don't hear much about that."
Attention then turned to the system's recent situation with the Georgia Department of Education's decision to delay more than $11 million in federal funding until the school system can justify some 34 questionable Title I expenditures -- including a $91,000 consulting contract to Dabbs and Associates that was not approved by the School Board.
"First of all, that federal money is not frozen, it's on hold," Williams-Brown said. "We do have a policy in place that any contract over $40,000 had to have board approval. But in the past we've had superintendents approve contracts of $200,000 without board approval. We've always had leeway in Title I spending. Now the community wants to do away with that leeway and go with policy."
Price then responded.
"In medicine we also have policies to follow," she said. "If policies are not followed it can result in what we call a 'sentinal event.' Those are not good and are big deals."
In a health care setting, a sentinel event is defined as any unanticipated event resulting in death or serious physical or psychological injury to a patient not related to the natural course of the patient's illness.
The two candidates were then asked what innovations they would bring to the system, such as the recent College and Career Academy charter school proposal which was voted down by the board.
"I was as surprised as anybody by the board's rejection of the charter school," Price said. "There is no doubt we have to be innovative. I think we need to expand the CTAE (Career, Technology and Agriculture Education) concept and look at what other districts are successfully doing with it."
Brown said the decision to scuttle the charter school was the result of community feedback.
"The majority of the people we listened to had problems with the charter school's governance and the lack of a budget," Williams-Brown said. "I don't have anything against charter schools, it's just that I thought we needed to take a closer look at it."