Two candidates vying to fill the Bulloch County Board of Education District 1 seat claim the necessary drive and experience to lead.
The seat is open because incumbent David Ball announced earlier this year he will not run for re-election.
When appealing to Bulloch County constituents, Tom Caiazzo and Cheri Wagner point to years of education-related experience as a primary factor for being chosen by voters come Election Day, Tuesday.
“I have a passion for education. I have been in public education for more than 20 years. My wife is an educator, and my son is in Bulloch County Schools,” Caiazzo said. “I believe I can bring some new leadership, new ideas and new energy to the position of school board; and make our good school system even better.”
Wagner said: “I taught health education in the Baltimore city public school system and spent time as an instructor at Ogeechee Technical College, in their nursing program. I think that I bring a unique prospective to the board because I have served on several schoolwide and county-level committees. I bring the perspective of having interacted with everybody from the community — the parents, the teachers and the administrators.”
Caiazzo, 45, who moved to Bulloch County from Texas 10 years ago, has worked in education for more than two decades. The father of one, whose wife, Janet, serves as an instructor at Julia P. Bryant Elementary, spent the previous eight years working as a professor of political science at East Georgia State College in Statesboro.
He said his reason for pursuing a seat on the county school board is to make a positive contribution to the education of Bulloch students.
“I have the passion, the energy, the experience and the knowledge to do what is best for the parents, the teachers and, most importantly, the boys and girls, to get them the best education possible,” Caiazzo said. “I won’t let anyone down, and I’ll work diligently to make sure we accomplish all of our goals, and do it in an ethical and honest manner.”
Caiazzo said he would like to address inequities among county schools and create stronger ties to members of the community.
“I think we need all of the schools, from Portal to Statesboro, to be treated fair and equally in terms of budget and needs,” he said. “I think we need to respect teachers more, and I think we need to have more parents in the community engaged through the school board. Most importantly, I think we need to do what is best for all of the boys and girls — to get them prepared to go to college, or to get them job ready.”
Wagner, 44, the mother of one son who also attends a Bulloch County system school, has lived in the county for more than 14 years. She has, for 21 years, worked as a nurse — most recently at East Georgia Regional Medical Center.
While Wagner has instructed students in different capacities during her career, she said the bulk of her experience comes from working with parents and administrators on local boards and committees.
It is that experience, she said, that will help her accomplish the goal of involving more community members in the education of their students.
“I want to be the bridge that reconnects the school board to the community. I really do want to be the person that connects the community to the school officials; who connects our businesses, higher education institutions and parents to the school system,” Wagner said. “I want to be the person that hears all sides of an issue, from all levels, and makes an objective, unbiased decision. I think I bring a unique perspective of being able to see an issue from all different sides.”
Wagner believes she can help the school board place more focus on the future and allocate resources wisely.
“I would like to see us be proactive in things that we do and have long-term strategic plans,” she said. “We should look at ripple effects of decisions and determine how a decision today will affect us two, five and 10 years down the road. I want to be fiscally responsible with every dollar that we do spend.” Both candidates urge residents to visit the polls Tuesday, and encourage voters to learn more by visiting their respective websites.
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.
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