Donna Clifton retired as an educator in 2017 after 30 years, concluding 10½ years as a principal, first at Southeast Bulloch Middle and then at Southeast Bulloch High School. Now she is seeking the Bulloch County Board of Education seat in District 4.
She identifies creating “a safe and disciplined learning environment” as one of her top concerns.
Clifton is one of two challengers to District 4 incumbent BOE member April Newkirk. The other challenger is Kathy Sherrod. Voting is now underway in the May 24 nonpartisan general election.
“As a future Bulloch County Board of Education member, I would bring to the table 30 years of experience from P-16 levels,” Clifton said, with “P-16” meaning prekindergarten through four-year college. “I have been a teacher, administrator, and a student teachers’ supervisor for internship.”
She notes that she is the mother of two grown children, who are products of the Bulloch County Schools, and a grandmother as well.
“Most importantly I am a problem-solver, listener, decision-maker, communicator and rational thinker,” Clifton said. “I think it’s important for people to know I have no political agenda and only wish to serve the students, parents, and teachers of Bulloch County.”
Herald: What are your biggest concerns for the Bulloch County Schools, their students (and students’ parents), teachers and staff?
Clifton: “One of my concerns for Bulloch County Schools are a safe and disciplined learning environment, students’ needs academically, mentally and socially being met, and retention of teachers and staff as well as strong communication between schools and parents. Our schools must be safe for students to learn and parents to entrust and support us with their children. Students need to feel like they matter as a person and have solid, positive relationships with adults in the building.”
“We are losing too many teachers, staff, bus drivers, etc.,” she added. “We need to identify why and find solutions for retaining employees. I want to see strong, relevant communication with our parents on a regular basis.”
Herald: What changes or improvements would you like to see made in the schools? What would you like to see continued?
Clifton: “I would like to see improvements with schools thriving academically and socially, retaining top-quality educators and support staff in schools that seek innovative, high-tech strategies to reach today’s children in the learning environment. I would like to see more problem-solving learning occurring within all grade levels. I would also like to see teachers focused on teaching and not stressed with paperwork, meetings, checklists, lack of instructional materials, and having support from all.”
Herald: How would you balance the interests of taxpayers with the needs of students and school employees?
Clifton: “I am a property owner and taxpayer in Bulloch County. The average county and municipal millage rate in Georgia is 30 mills according to Google. We are blessed in Bulloch County with (the) current millage rate. Money cannot solve all the problems in education, and teachers certainly don’t go into profession for the money.
“In fact, my first check as an educator in 1987 was for about $975 for the month like many teachers,” she continued. “Like other teachers, it was never about the money, it was about the passion for learning and caring for children. In my many conversations around the county the one thing that I consistently hear is that teachers want and need support.”
A Bulloch County native, Clifton attended Brooklet Elementary School and Southeast Bulloch Junior High and graduated from Southeast Bulloch High in 1984. Her husband, Mike Clifton, and their son Chase and daughter Ashley Clifton Warren are all also SEBHS graduates. Clifton has a granddaughter in prekindergarten at Stilson Elementary, and her other granddaughter was just born April 11.
Clifton holds a Bachelor of Science in Education, a Master of Education and an Education Specialist degree in educational leadership, all from Georgia Southern University.
She started her career with seven years as a teacher at Marlow Elementary in Effingham County and then spent 23 years as a Bulloch County Schools employee, teaching first at Stilson Elementary and then at Southeast Bulloch Middle. She was an assistant principal at Southeast Bulloch High for two and a half years, then principal of SEB Middle for six and half years and principal of SEB High for four.
After retirement, she worked one year for Georgia Southern as an Internship 1 student teacher supervisor before the COVID pandemic. She has also served as poll worker for elections.