Five look to join Board of Education

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Four potential candidates for the Board of Education have stated their case to replace Joanne Peak as District 5 board member.

The candidates met with current board members during an interview session held at the school system's central office on Thursday night. Each candidate - former district judge Barry Branum, accountant Greg Griffin, Greenville businessman Johnny Lee, and optometrist Aubrey Alan Odom - were each allowed five minutes to address board members followed by a 10 minute question and answer period.

Another candidate Voncile Bedgood, said Superintendent Mike Looney, had a prior commitment and was unable to attend.

Branum was the first candidate to interview with the Board and the former judge said his main concern with the Butler County Schools System is the decline in student population.

Branum, who served as a district judge for 12 years, said he first became aware of the decline in student population several years ago when then-Superintendent Mike Reed spoke in front of the Exchange Club of Greenville, detailing the dramatic decline in students from 1990-2000, although the county population remained steady.

&#8220That's what prompted me to become a candidate for this position,” Branum said. &#8220I want to do what it takes to make middle-class people, working-class people, want to stay here.”

Although Branum said he is interested in joining the Board for the remainder of Peak's term, one and a half years, he added he has no interest in running for re-election because he doesn't want to get back into politics.

Griffin was next to interview in front of the Board and the McKenzie native said he feels the biggest concern facing the Butler County Schools System is the dilapidated facilities, especially dealing with athletics.

&#8220Our athletic venues are classrooms,” Griffin said.

Griffin, whose mother was a teacher at Georgiana and McKenzie for 31 years and father served two terms as the Butler County tax collector, has served on the McKenzie Parks and Recreation Board along with the McKenzie Quarterback Club.

As an accountant, Griffin said that Butler County residents would also benefit if he were appointed because of his experience with managing money.

&#8220I feel I would be a good steward of the tax payers' money,” Griffin said.

Third was Lee, who has owned Hot Waxx in Greenville for 17 years, who described himself a &#8220strong family man,” with ties throughout Butler County.

&#8220I understand that the board is here to make the policies that guide the school system and not micro-manage the superintendent,” said Lee, who added Looney's enthusiasm towards educating students is what is motivating him to seek appointment to the board.

&#8220I believe hiring Mr. Looney is one of the best things this board ever did,” he said.

Lee said he felt there were three major problems facing Butler County schools: parental involvement, general funding of schools, and classroom behavior.

Odom, who addressed the board last, is a McKenzie alumnus and said he felt he was well prepared for life following graduation.

Odom said he believed discipline is the biggest concern.

&#8220I would certainly work very hard to ensure students have their priorities straight as it relates to discipline,” he said. &#8220Money is not the problem. Discipline is. If you have discipline the money will come.”

When asked, hypothetically, how he would he get more community and parental involvement in the school system were athletics to disappear, Odom said the arts would be a good area of focus.

&#8220There's talent in the school system - and it doesn't always involve a ball and a bat,” he said.

Board President Billy Jones said the board would make a final decision as to Peak's replacement at its June meeting.

Peak - who is moving to Troy - resigned in April. Board member Linda Hamilton was named vice-president of the board to serve the remainder of Peak's term.