As the finish line approaches, Bulloch County Board of Education District 2 candidates Susan Sneathen and Mike Sparks are each going all out to persuade voters to elect them to the position.
The District 2 position, which encompasses the Brooklet area, will be vacated by incumbent Dr. Scott Bohlke, who chose not to run for the office.
Both candidates have strong backgrounds in education - Sparks as an educator and coach, Sneathen as a school volunteer, PTO president, and having worked on local, state and national levels fighting for education legislation issues.
Both candidates have been out in the public over the past few months, meeting and greeting people and asking for votes. They both feel the campaign has gone well, and feel hopeful that they will be elected to the seat.
Sparks decided to run for office because he has one son still in the Bulloch County School system, as well as three grandchildren who attend Bulloch County schools. He said he has "contemplated" running for the office before, and now sees it as a time to " help serve the community" if elected.
The community is important to him, and he has spent a great deal of his life in the Brooklet area - as well as 30 years in Bulloch County education.
Sneathen said she felt called to run because she has a passion for education that began when she was raised in an education environment as a child, and has always been active in her children's education through volunteerism, "been a reading mentor, acted as PTO president at Brooklet Elementary for two years, and worked at the local, state, and national level on issues regarding education."
Her deep love for the community also had a part in her decision to run. "I love my community and I care deeply for all of them," she said. "When the opportunity presented itself to run for the board seat, to put it in my husband's words, ‘it seemed the next natural step'. I prayed about it, talked with my husband and some trusted friends, and felt I had to take this step. I'm doing this for my community."
Sparks' approach to the Bulloch County Board of Education, if elected to the District 2 seat, is to "wait and see what‘s going on" after he gets into the office. "Until you get involved and see what is going on, you really don't know," he said. "I want to evaluate all the areas of the BOE and ...see what needs to be done, and go from there." If elected, he hopes to be a very active BOE member, he said.
Sneathen said she would like to address the "disconnect" between the community and the board office, if she wins the race.
"We are all a team; or we should be," she said. "We need to work together to create a high quality, motivated atmosphere in our schools and our homes that will ensure students succeed in their education. I want to help reconnect the community by being a board member who is available and in touch with my district."
Another issue is curriculum, she said. "The state has created standards for curriculum that are not always age appropriate." Mathematics is one area in which she would like to begin focus, she said.
Neither candidate would specifically address anything he or she felt was a current problem within the school system, with the exception of Sneathen's desire that the superintendent (Dr. Lewis Holloway) and board members would be more open and communicative with citizens.
Sparks said his experience in the classroom and elsewhere in the education field will being a great deal to the table if he is elected. "I'm not a politician, just a person going out for support," he said. "I've been a classroom teacher, a social studies teacher, athletic directors, and I've mentored Georgia Southern University students." This experience, all in Bulloch County, paired with the fact that he has a personal interest in local education, makes him the right choice, he said. If elected, he hopes to immediately begin " evaluating areas in the BOE that haven't made any progress,"
Sneathen said she hopes to focus on what affects students most.
"I want to see our students enthusiastic about learning. I want to see them all believe that they have a strong future, and I want to see every one of them find their place in life; that thing they are individually great at," she said.
Both she and Sparks said the campaign has gone smoothly and they are anticipating the Nov. 2 elections.
"For me it has gone very well," Sparks said. "I've been going out meeting citizens, talking to people, looking for support and input, and answering questions. I've run a grassroots campaign and even made my own signs."
Sneathen said the campaign experience has been an adventure.
"This has been an amazing experience," she said." I knew a lot of people in my community before this campaign, but the campaign gave me the opportunity to get out and meet so many more incredibly wonderful people.
"...It seems that with each new face, my extended family has grown and my passion to represent my community has become deeper. I have such tremendous respect for so many I have had the privilege of meeting, and I look forward to being involved with every single one of them in the future.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 912-489-9414.