Originally created 11/04/04

Voter anger hits school board



Voters brought a lot of anger to the polls this week as they shook up the Richmond County Board of Education.

In exit interviews Tuesday, voters expressed frustration with the superintendent and the district's handling of school violence, the dress code, high taxes and low-performing schools. That's why many said they voted for change.

"It's definitely time for a new school board and possibly a new superintendent," said Regina Howard-Sims after voting for challenger Joe Scott in District 5. "I don't think they are being open to all of the choices that they have."

Sheriff's deputies shouldn't have been necessary in the high schools, said Deborah Rewis, who has a daughter at Blythe Elementary School. She blames Superintendent Charles Larke for not knowing that metal detectors weren't working and for paying for sheriff's deputies.

"He says he knows what's going on, but he doesn't," she said. "When you brought the sheriff's department in, you had to pay extra money. If he was doing his job, then it would have been getting done."

Parent Todd Neville said he voted against board president Jeff Padgett in District 8 because taxes were raised to the highest level allowed by state law. He supported Jimmy Atkins.

"Truthfully, he can do a better job of managing money," Mr. Neville said.

Change was on the mind of Janie Yarbrough, who has a son at Hephzibah Middle School. She is angry that the dress code is not consistently used and that bullying remains a problem.

"I just wish something would change to help with the kids in the school system," she said.

Retired educator Barbara Pulliam said she heard the emotion as she talked to voters in District 4, where she defeated veteran trustee Andrew Jefferson.

"A lot of them wanted change. One of the first things people would ask me is 'Well, when can we vote on Charles Larke?' And I had to tell them it doesn't work that way. I heard that over and over," she said.

Voters do not elect the superintendent, only the 10-member board that hires him.

District 7 trustee Kenneth Echols, who faces re-election in 2006, said voters sent a message when they unseated Mr. Padgett, Mr. Jefferson and trustee Y.N. Myers Jr.

"I think they are just tired of the same old board," he said. "We just need some new ideas and some new ways to do things. We just can't be complacent."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.