Mary Felton, Ed.D., a candidate for Bulloch County Board of Education in District 5, says she wants to be a "voice for the voiceless" and make a difference for students and the school system's employees.
Felton served as a Bulloch County Schools assistant superintendent from February 2014 through June 2017. Last May when Superintendent Charles Wilson did not offer Felton another contract as assistant superintendent, she revealed that she had a job lined up as an assistant principal at Claxton Elementary School in Evans County, and she remains in that role.
As a resident of District 5, Felton is challenging incumbent board member Glennera Martin on the May 22 nonpartisan ballot. Both are career-long educators, although Martin is retired, and neither has children in the school system.
In a phone interview, Felton identified several reasons for running.
"One, I'm passionate about education and I want to make a difference for students and the employees of Bulloch County Schools, and it's now my school district," she said. "Two, I stay current on the latest research and best practices in education and I'd like to share my knowledge and expertise to help move the county forward and keep them on the cutting edge so we can ensure our students are college- and career-ready."
For reason number three, she noted that there has been a lot of discussion about diversity.
"I have worked in various states, counties and various communities, wealthy as well as poor, and I can help the district develop programs to meet the needs of our most needy students," Felton said. "Basically, I want to be a voice for the voiceless."
Felton, 53, has been a resident of Bulloch County since February 2014. She and Christopher R. Felton, a self-employed investor, have been married 30 years. They have one son, age 21, who graduated from high school in Rockdale County and now lives in Miami, Florida.
Dr. Mary Felton has been a professional educator for 29 years. Before coming here she was assistant principal for a year at Sims Elementary School, a part of the Rockdale County school system in Conyers. Before that, she was district literacy curriculum coach to teachers in Rockdale County for almost four years, and before that an elementary school teacher there for a year.
Earlier, Felton worked in Florida schools in various roles, including as a state trainer for the Reading First initiative and as a district specialist for gifted and magnet programs and director of the before- and after-school program, both in Miami-Dade.
She has taught every grade from kindergarten to 12th, except second grade, she said.
Felton attained her doctorate in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University. More recently, in April 2016, she completed her fourth graduate degree, a Master of Business Administration from the Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University, through an online program.
Earlier she attained both a master's degree in elementary education and an Education Specialist in reading from Barry University in Miami. Originally from South Carolina, she graduated from South Carolina State University in Orangeburg with a bachelor's degree in business administration.
One of the changes she would like to bring to the Bulloch County Schools is greater support for struggling learners by reaching their parents.
"I want to see more programs to support out struggling learners, and I want to see an increase in parent involvement that is more authentic and relevant to student learning," Felton said. "Parents of struggling students are not attending school events. So we've got to begin to look at ways to get those parents involved."
As assistant superintendent here, she had started to work on mentoring programs, and would like to see that continue and increase.
"I recognize that Bulloch County is comprised of three distinct areas of communities," Felton said. "However, they all have the same issues with struggling students, and I want to see more district-wide programs to support our minority and struggling students."
At this point, she plans to remain as assistant principal at Claxton Elementary School. She said she enjoys being back at a school site working with students and has no plans to change that.
Felton said she does not see working for a neighboring county's school system while serving on the Bulloch County Board of Education as a potential conflict.
"I don't see any conflicts there," she said. "My goal is to support students, teachers and families in the community where I live and in the community where I'm employed."
'Not the reason'
Last May, Felton submitted a letter of resignation as assistant superintendent to Wilson and all eight board members, along with an email stating that she had been notified by Human Resources Director Phillip Tremble the same morning that she would be non-renewed or could resign.
Wilson gave no public reason for not offering Felton a new one-year contract. Meanwhile, Evans County's board confirmed her hiring as an assistant principal. Wilson said that he was informed of the Evans County job only after Felton was notified of her nonrenewal.
Seven Bulloch County Board of Education members voted for a list of contract renewals that did not include Felton, with District 8 member Maurice Hill casting the one "no" vote, but all eight members voted to accept a list of resignations, hers included.
Asked if the way she was let go as assistant superintendent is part of her reason for seeking a board seat, Felton said she appreciated the question.
"But no, that is not the reason I've decide to run for a BOE seat," she said. "I made plans to leave Bulloch County Schools long before I was even notified that I was being non-renewed. So, that's not it.
"I still communicate with a lot of the employees in the Bulloch County school system. I hear their concerns on a regular basis," Felton said. "As I began to reflect on how to continue to support them, provide support and bring about change, I realized that serving on the BOE could give me that platform to help them."
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.