Editor's note: This is the second of two candidate profiles for Bulloch County Board of Education District 6. Anshul Jain is featured today. Jimmy "Jay" Cook Jr. was featured Thursday.
Anshul Jain's educational background and experience as a parent and former teacher bring a unique perspective to the Bulloch County Board of Education, she says. She hopes to continue as the member from District 6.
Elected in 2010, Jain is completing her first four-year term. She faces a challenge from Jimmy "Jay" Cook Jr. The race will be decided Tuesday, when the ballots include nonpartisan seats such as those on the school board, as well as the statewide party primaries.
"Based on my educational background and my experience as a parent of two children in our public education system and as a former teacher, and having served as a board member for the past four years has provided me with an insight and unique perspective on issues facing public education today," Jain said.
Jain, 42, now works in accounting in her husband's medical practice in Statesboro. He is Dr. Ajay Jain, and they moved here in 2006. Their children are both enrolled in Bulloch County's public schools. One will be in sixth grade, the other in ninth, next school year.
Anshul Jain earned a bachelor's degree with honors at the University of Ottawa and obtained her Master of Education from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She taught high school biology and chemistry for several years in Woodruff, South Carolina, and at the University of Chicago Laboratory School.
In Bulloch County, she also volunteers in the schools. For several years, she has served as a judge for the Regional Student Technology Fair, and she sometimes reads to elementary school children, as in a recent celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday.
"As a board member, my goal has been, and will continue to be, to ensure that Bulloch County Schools are an outstanding place for students to learn and teachers to teach," Jain said. "Every student, every teacher, every school matters."
Asked to identify the board's greatest success during her term, she named three.
First, "the board has been committed to raising public awareness of issues affecting public education today" and has "actively sought feedback from all of our stakeholders regarding the community's vision, goals and beliefs for our students and for the school system at large," Jain said.
Those efforts culminated in the Bulloch County Schools' strategic plan, she explained. The board adopted the plan last fall after a lengthy public input process.
Second, she observed that the board has advocated increased professional learning and leadership training for teachers.
"By investing in our teachers, we invest in our students," Jain said.
Third, the board supported adoption of a new teacher hiring tool, which she said reflects a commitment to hiring the most qualified professionals. Last year, the board approved the use of Gallup TeacherInsight, which uses an online survey to screen applicants. This year, administrators are switching to similar instruments called TeacherFit and JobFit, from a different company.
"This new hiring tool will improve the screening process and provide greater transparency," Jain said.
She didn't rank these achievements, but they are reported in the order she mentioned them.
That is also the case with three priorities she hopes to see achieved next term.
"We need to reduce class sizes, and to do that, we need to hire more teachers," Jain said. "Research has shown, time and time again, that small class sizes benefit both the student and the teacher and improve student achievement."
Another priority she listed is hiring more counselors.
"By increasing the number of counselors available at the middle- and high-school level, students will have increased opportunity to discuss academic options and career choices," Jain said.
Her other priority is making sure all students have the core materials they need to be successful.
"Every student should have a textbook or a workbook or whatever educational material is being used by the teacher in that classroom, and those resources should be available for the child to bring home so that parents can partner in their child's learning and education," Jain said.
As a parent, she said, she has become aware of instances where there are not enough books for each student to take one home.
Asked what her priorities would be for improved funding now that economy has begun to recover, Jain added that she wants to evaluate and advocate pay increases for teachers and other employees.
All school board candidates were asked about the Common Core State Standards. This year, the Legislature continued the state's commitment to the standards by rejecting efforts to abandon them and appointing a study committee.
"As such they should now provide increased, more substantive direction and leadership as well as resources and increased funding to local school boards to help in the implementation process," said Jain. "We need to make sure that our teachers have all the support and tools they need."
She added that she has concerns about the standards, but did not elaborate.
"It is my understanding that Common Core was designed to standardize what is taught across the United States and to increase student achievement. Somewhere along the way, that train derailed," Jain said. "As a parent, as a former educator, I have significant concerns about the objectives of Common Core and its implementation."
After the questions, she added that when she and her husband decided to move to Bulloch County, they felt the citizens here shared their goals and ambitions for their children, namely "a quality education, a strong work ethic and commitment to family and community" and that people here have made them feel welcome.
"It has been a privilege, honor and a humbling experience to serve as a board member and to represent District 6," Jain said. "I hope that I will have the opportunity to continue this service."
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.