Shontelle Childress, whose volunteer involvement as a parent has included service on the Parent Teacher Organizations at two schools, including one where she’s PTO president-in training, is seeking the District 5 seat on the Bulloch County Board of Education.
Two key concerns she identified are inequities in instruction revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic and frequent changes in school leadership, such as in principal assignments.
She is challenging incumbent Board of Education member Glennera Martin, a retired teacher and school system program administrator first elected to the seat in 2014. BOE District 5 voters are choosing which of the two will represent them for the next four years, with early voting underway in the nonpartisan general election, coinciding with the May 24 party primaries.
Childress said she wants to represent the district “and be there for all students.” She capitalized “all.”
“I’m running to stand up and speak up for our teachers, students, and leaders who are guiding our schools, anyone who is on front lines and serving our students directly,” she wrote. “I’m running to make sure that our schools get the resources that they deserve.”
The first question to school board candidates was, what do they have to offer their districts and their county as board members, and why are they running.
“I believe that I have a very fresh, thoughtful perspective that will be unique on the board,” Childress continued. “I have a passion to see young people in Bulloch County prepared for engaging on the world stage. I am dedicated to making sure every Bulloch County student is ready for enrollment, employment, or enlistment. As an engaged parent and community advocate, my ears are always open to what our community members are saying, and I can be their microphone on the Board of Education.”
Herald: What are your biggest concerns for the Bulloch County Schools, their students (and students’ parents), teachers and staff?
Childress: “The COVID pandemic exposed inequities in curriculum delivery in terms of meeting students where they are. That was not unique to Bulloch County, but it shows that we need to be more intentional about access to education in K-12 in Bulloch County.”
She went on to express some other concerns not stemming from the pandemic years.
“The frequent changes in school leadership from year to year make it difficult to cultivate traditions and consistency for students, teachers, and administrators,” Childlress said.
“I believe we have to be intentional about cultivating an environment where a free exchange of ideas and critique is welcomed by stakeholders at all levels within the schools and the community,” she said.
“The inconsistency of administrators in our Bulloch County Schools is a huge concern to me. You can’t expect for a school to truly be successful if the administrators are only there for one to two years at a time. …. I also am deeply concerned that not all schools are getting the same valuable resources as other schools. …”
Herald: What changes or improvements would you like to see made in the schools? What would you like to see continued?
Childress: “I would like to see teachers have more creativity in the way that they teach in class. Teachers should be able to be more hands-on. I want to see an environment in which students enjoy learning. I also think that there should be more opportunities for social and emotional learning.
“As a member of the Board of Education, I would also work to build more community connections with our schools.”
Herald: How would you balance the interests of taxpayers with the needs of students and school employees?
Childress: “I don’t believe that these are competing positions. I believe that taxpayer interest and the needs of our students and school employees are intertwined. It is in the best interest of taxpayers to have educators who are empowered to prepare our children for the world stage. … We need our Board of Education members to have a global view of how everyone in our community benefits from providing high-quality education across the county, regardless of what district they live in.”
Childress was an active member of the Sallie Zetterower Elementary School PTO and is president-in-training of the Langston Chapel Middle School PTO. She is also a parent volunteer for the Cheer South All Stars and is involved with Bulloch County Beloved Community “and many other community opportunities,” she wrote.
The older of her two daughters graduated from Statesboro High School in 2012. The younger is now in seventh grade at Langston Chapel Middle School.
Professionally, Childress is a Realtor for Keller Williams Realty Inc. in Savannah. She was previously an operations manager for Hampton Inn for three years.
A native of Bulloch County, she graduated from Statesboro High School in 1991 and also for a time attended Georgia Southern University. She has been back in Bulloch County for 13 years.
All BOE candidates were contacted first and then emailed a list of nearly identical questions. As of Wednesday afternoon, the reporter had not received answers from Martin, after providing her the questions more than once in the past 10 days.