Meeting Thursday evening, the Bulloch County Board of Education unanimously chose Mike Sparks as its chair and Heather Mims as vice chair for 2018.
Sparks, who is beginning his eighth year as the District 2 board member, has not served as chair before but was vice chair in 2011, his first year on the board. He is a retired teacher and coach, and Mims was one of his students.
“I’m excited about the opportunity. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and I’m looking forward to being a part of this board and following up on the strategic plan and unfinished business,” Sparks said after Thursday’s open session. “I consider it an honor to be chairman of the Board of Education.”
Many people, including fellow board members, sometimes still call him “Coach Sparks.”
He retired in 2004 after 30 years teaching, including 25 years at Southeast Bulloch High School and five years at Southeast Bulloch Middle School. He taught social studies, health and physical education and physical sciences. He also served as athletic director for some years at each school.
Sparks said he plans to seek re-election to his district seat this year.
Mims is beginning her second year on the board, after being elected by District 7 voters in 2016. She had previously served as a member of school councils at two schools her children attended, Southeast Bulloch Middle School and Nevils Elementary. Unlike the elected Board of Education, the individual school councils are advisory panels with appointed members. She has five children, including four in school and one now in college.
When Mims was a student at Southeast Bulloch High School in the 1990s, Sparks was her physical education teacher and weight-training coach for one or two years.
“I have a really good teacher, leader, mentor, and I think we’re going to do some really good things this year,” Mims said after the meeting.
The board’s naming of its chair and vice chair went very quickly, with no complications, in contrast to the two previous years.
Last January, Sparks and District 1 member Cheri Wagner each received four votes for chair through two rounds of voting, and Wagner became the 2017 chair under a then-new policy that awards the chair to the member with fewer years of service in the event of an unresolved tie. Sparks also tied with District 6 member Jimmy “Jay” Cook Jr. in last January’s vote for vice chair, and the role went to Cook because he had not served as vice chair before. In 2016, before the board adopted the policy, there had been two vice chairs, also as the result of a tie.
The board’s attorney, Susan Cox, attended the start of Thursday’s meeting and recited the tiebreaker provisions. But District 8 member Maurice Hill nominated Sparks for chair, and there were no other nominations. No member seconded Hill’s nomination or a motion he made to close the nominations, but Cox asked for a show of hands, and all eight members voted for Sparks.
Sparks nominated Mims for vice chair. Hill seconded District 5 member Glennera Martin’s motion that the nominations be closed, and after an 8-0 vote, Cox told Mims she was “vice chair by acclamation.”
The eight-member board oversees a 15-school system with 10,600 students, about 1,500 employees and budgeted general fund expenditures of $90.4 million for fiscal year 2018. Budgets for all funds together exceed $117 million.
Superintendent Charles Wilson is in charge of executive decisions. The board renewed his contract for one year on a 5-1 vote, with two members absent, in November. His contract now extends to July 31, 2019.
The board also adopted its 2018 meeting schedule. The official “regular session” is held the second Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Bulloch County Schools central office at 150 Williams Road, Statesboro. However, a “work session,” also open to the public and where official actions can be taken, is held most months, usually on the fourth Thursday, also at 6:30 p.m.
But some monthly work sessions are slated for different Thursdays, and the first will be held next week, Jan. 18. This year the Speak Up for Education forum, which takes the place of a work session, is proposed for a little later in the year than usual, March 22 or 29, at a location yet to be announced.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.