Incumbents, 1 challenger qualfy for school board race

Just one newcomer signed up as a candidate for the Richmond County Board of Education on the first day of qualifying Monday, but all five incumbents lined up to run again.

Robert Cheek, a shipping manager for Pq Corp., in Augusta, will run against District 8 school board member Jimmy Atkins.

The remaining incumbents – Marion Barnes in District 1, Barbara Pulliam in District 4, Patsy Scott in District 5 and Helen Minchew in the at-large District 10 – are so far unopposed.

Challengers have until noon Wednesday to qualify and pay the $100 fee for the open seats, which are not term limited, according to Richmond County Board of Elections Director Lynn Bailey.

Candidates will be on the ballots in November’s general election.

Cheek, who has two children in the school system and a wife who teaches at McBean Elementary School, said he decided to run because he is not happy with the status quo. His strongest objections involve the nine furlough days implemented for the 2012-13 school year and use of district money.

“I don’t agree with the way the board is being run,” Cheek said. “When they talk about furloughs, they always talk about the teachers, the teaching assistants and the support staff, but they don’t talk about cutting anybody in the central office. ... There’s lots of people with teaching credentials that are downtown now in the office that we should put them back in the classroom.”

Atkins said he is satisfied with the work he has done for the citizens in his district but said “the job’s not over.”

State budget cuts have crippled Richmond County schools and other districts across Georgia, and Atkins said he wants to continue being a steward of taxpayer money.

“I feel I’ve been a voice for the people in District 8,” Atkins said. “I never just went in there and voted what I felt. I’ve always taken into consideration what those who put me in office feel.”

Pulliam, a retired educator and board member since 2004, said she wants to serve another term to finish some initiatives she saw begin. As of Monday, she had not heard of any challenger planning to run against her.

“I ran because of my feelings for the children and the county,” Pulliam said. “There’s some things I’d like to see through. I want to see test scores get higher. I just want to see things get better.”

Barnes said he sought another term to monitor ongoing issues, such as the progress of construction projects funded by the 1-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax voters passed in March.

“I’ve been in education all my life, and I still have a little energy left in me,” Barnes said. “I’d like to use it to help Richmond County.”

Candidates qualify for commission, school board
Staff Writer Tracey McManus' education blog

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