Two new members of the Bulloch County Board of Education, Glennera Martin from District 5 and Jimmy “Jay” Cook Jr. from District 6, will take their seats in January, more than seven months after they were elected.
The state’s scheduling of the nonpartisan election with the party primaries, and a federal court’s insistence on an earlier date for those primaries, resulted in the nonpartisan local school board races being decided May 20. On that date Martin outpolled incumbent board member Vernon Littles, and Cook took more votes than incumbent Anshul Jain.
But Littles and Jain’s terms ran through December, resulting in an unusually long transition.
“It has been a long time,” Cook said Friday. “You know, you want to get started and really get involved, but you know there’s a time and place for everything, and the current board and the superintendent have been very gracious in keeping us well versed in what’s going on.”
Interviewed in a separate call, Martin had also mentioned Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson’s role in bringing the new members up to speed.
“Mr. Wilson did keep me informed of the board meetings and other events for the school system. That was helpful,” she said.
Both Cook and Martin attended the Georgia School Boards Association’s two-day training for board members-elect, held in association with the annual GSBA conference in Atlanta in early December. Martin said she attended workshops two additional days.
Cook had also attended training held with the GSBA summer conference in Savannah in June, and recalled seeing Martin there. The Savannah session was optional, but all new members are required to take the new member training within a year of being elected.
“Yes, I’m ready,” Martin said this week. “It appears to be lots of work, but I accept the challenge.”
Martin, 71, comes to the board after a 44-year career in education. Born here, she taught briefly in Bulloch County and then for five years in Chatham County before returning to Statesboro, where she served as a First District Regional Educational Service Agency consultant. But her longest tenure was with the Burke County Schools, where she served in several central office
jobs, including curriculum director and parent coordinator and in two different program director positions.
She earned her Education Specialist degree from the University of Georgia, taking some of the classes at Georgia Southern. Her master's degree is also from UGA; her bachelor's degree, from Savannah State University.
After joining the board, two issues Martin expects to encounter soon are those related to the schools’ continuing to adapt to the Common Core State Standards and, of course, work on next year’s budget, she said.
“And I do realize that whatever decisions will be made will be decisions of the entire board, not just the one person,” she said. “Whatever our ideas our suggestions, the group has to approve.”
This, Martin said, is important for her constituents to realize as well.
Cook, 50, is a community banking specialist with BB&T. He completed separate degree programs in finance and accounting, with a public and governmental emphasis, to earn his Bachelor of Business Administration from Georgia Southern University.
He and his wife, Candice C. Cook, a registered nurse, have a son and daughter, fraternal twins. He served four years on the Sallie Zetterower Elementary School Parent Council and was a member of the Parent-Teacher Organization board, including terms as its president, vice president and treasurer. He has since served on the Langston Chapel Middle School Parent Council, and as treasurer of that school’s PTO and band.
During his campaign, Cook said he would emphasize involving parents and community leaders. This, and simply improving education for students, is what he still sees as priorities, he said.
“I want to get more of our retired teachers, the university, the technical school and parents themselves involved in the schools,” Cook said. “You know, become a mentor, help with the children who are having a hard time with their reading. Those who are not reading on a third-grade level by the third grade, they’re going to struggle throughout their school experience, and we don’t want that.”
The Board of Education’s 2015 organizational meeting is scheduled for Jan. 15, and Cook said he has been told this is also when the new members will be sworn in. The regular meeting time is 6:30 p.m.
At the Dec. 18 meeting, other board members thanked Jain and Littles for their ideas and dedication, and Superintendent Wilson gave them trophies of service.
Littles had served since a May 2010 appointment to complete an unexpired term, followed by election to a full term that November. That was also when Jain was elected, and so has served one four-year term.