Stuart Tedders , Ph.D., dean of the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University and father of one current and two now-graduated students of Bulloch County Schools, wants to remain District 3’s Board of Education member.
He cites his leadership on initiatives for school safety, sex education and the mental health of students.
First elected in 2016, Tedders faces a challenge from Patrice Ellison. District 3 voters decide in the election culminating June 9.
“I think I’ve made a difference, and I do think that the school district is in a really good place, and at least up until the COVID stuff we had really solid momentum, and I felt like by serving another term, I could actually help sort of continue that momentum push,” Tedders said in a phone interview.
Who he is
Born in Albany, Tedders grew up in Perry. But he first came to Georgia Southern as a student, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1987. Then he went to Clemson University for his master’s degree and to the University of South Carolina for his doctorate in public health.
After working at Mercer University’s School of Medicine in Macon, he returned to Georgia Southern as an assistant professor in 2000. He served in other leadership roles in the College of Public Health before becoming its interim dean last July 1 and being hired to the permanent post this spring.
His wife, Karen Tedders, a Bulloch native, is a special education teacher at Statesboro High School. Their two sons graduated from Statesboro High; their daughter will be a sophomore there this fall.
In regard to school safety, he was the first Bulloch County board member to set out detailed a demand for action after the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“It was shortly after that I made some, I think, pretty strong comments that we as a board needed to start taking school safety more seriously and actually have a plan because it could certainly happen to us, God forbid, but it could happen to us,” Tedders said.
In the months that followed, the board and administrators developed a plan that led to the hiring of Todd Mashburn in the new job of school safety director. The board also approved a major expenditure of Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds for security and surveillance technology in the schools.
In regard to launching the new sex education curriculum, Tedders said he couldn’t really take credit. After an initial 2019 plan was put on hold because of community objections and rewritten, the board in February adopted a curriculum that emphasizes abstinence.
“But I do feel pretty proud of the fact that I was one of the first, at least since I’ve been on the board, to bring up the need for a more comprehensive sex education curriculum in our schools,” Tedders said.
His third area of advocacy, he said, has been “the need to enhance mental health counseling services in the schools and the role that mental health plays.” The COVID crisis interrupted plans to hire intervention specialists.
Statesboro Herald: Why are you seeking this school board seat and why should voters in District 3 choose you?
Tedders: “I really do think that I’ve made a difference going on the board for four years, and I’ve mentioned the things that at least I feel I’ve contributed to. But I also think that I bring to the board a very even-keeled approach to solving problems. I think I’m very adept and skilled at listening to both sides of an argument and … trying to analyze something objectively.”
Statesboro Herald: What do you think the school system's priorities should be going into 2021?
Tedders: “School safety continues to be a priority. We’ve made great strides, but we always have to keep … the safety of our children, the safety of our staff and faculty on the radar and constantly remind ourselves to be proactive in this….
“I think another priority is serving the mental health needs of our students in a much more comprehensive way. …
“And I think the other priority is continued fiscal responsibility. I think that we’ve done a good job in being good stewards of the resources of the taxpayers, and that’s actually served us well during this pandemic. It’s allowed us to draw on resources to continue operations. … I think we’ve come up with a plan to weather the storm and we’re going to weather it just fine.”
Statesboro Herald: How will you, as a board member, support the work of the superintendent, staff and teachers and hold them accountable?
Tedders: “I think the way I support all of those parties is to be an advocate for two things, transparency and dialogue. We are community servants … and as a board member, I have to constantly remind the superintendent and anyone else that’ll listen that this isn’t our money, these aren’t our resources, they’re the community’s, and we just have to be transparent about what our motives are, and I think that in and of itself maintains accountability.”