Originally created 12/30/04

Incoming members look for changes



Barbara Pulliam spent many years writing in journals about life as an elementary school teacher.

When she leafed through the pages of the notebooks years later, she realized she had documented many problems she could help solve.

Jimmy Atkins has two children who will spend the next decade attending Richmond County schools. He wants to make sure they get a quality education.

And Joe Scott worked for decades as a principal, assistant principal and teacher in the school system. Now that he's retired, he has found a way to continue making an impact on the lives of the children.

Today, the retired teacher, the south Augusta father and the former school administrator will be sworn in as the newest members of the Richmond County Board of Education.

Each brings personal experiences that have helped shape the issues he or she will push on the school board:

Parenting skills, school safety and teacher morale are tops on Mrs. Pulliam's priority list.

Bus monitors, narrowing the achievement gap and overcrowded schools are concerns for Mr. Atkins.

And safe schools and accountability are the campaign issues Mr. Scott plans to stick to as a board member.

The common concern among the new trustees, it seems, is safe schools.

"I think the students, the parents, the bus drivers, the teachers - all of them - are asking for help," Mr. Scott said. "They are asking for help from the board of education. And that is what we are supposed to do, make the policies that make things right so students and teachers can be safe."

How the current 10 bus attendants are being used to make buses safer will be an immediate question of Mr. Atkins.

"Are they riding the same routes all the time? What is the effectiveness of it?" are questions he says he will ask.

Certainly, bus drivers cannot be expected to watch the road and keep an eye on children at the same time, Mrs. Pulliam said. That's why she will focus on getting additional bus monitors.

In addition, she wants to make sure every teacher at every school has access to a panic button, so they can communicate with the front office if there is a problem.

But parenting skills is the bigger issue for Mrs. Pulliam, who retired in May from Barton Chapel Elementary School.

"That connects with everything," she said. "That is where I saw more success with kids, when I was involved with their parents."

She will work through neighborhood associations to teach parenting skills.

She knows not all parents are able to help their children in school. Some hold two and three jobs, she said.

"I am going to that old African proverb that it takes a whole village to raise a child. We've got to let this village operate," she said.

Throughout Richmond County, Mr. Atkins sees too many overcrowded schools. He visited Willis Foreman Elementary School recently and counted nearly a dozen portable classrooms.

He said plans for two new elementary schools in south Augusta should help. But he wants to see plans for a middle school in the Goshen area moved up on the priority list.

"Because you have a huge overcrowding problem at Spirit Creek and Hephzibah middle schools," he said. "I think if you do away with the overcrowding, then that has a direct impact on your achievement scores."

Mr. Atkins said having a son who will be entering kindergarten soon means he will have a child in the school system for 13 years. He wants to see annual progress in the school system.

"It's just like a doctor told me one time about losing weight. I didn't get to be obese overnight, so I am not going to lose it overnight," he said. "The school system didn't get in the shape it's in overnight, so we aren't going to correct it overnight."

Mr. Scott said the board would benefit from monthly input from a teacher, student and parent. He wants to push for appointing each of them in an advisory capacity to the board "to let us know how the decisions we make affect them."

He also wants to keep the focus on children.

"We always have to think that whatever decisions we make are for the children," he said. "Once we keep that in mind - children first - we won't have to worry about conflicts and things of that nature. Because at the end, we will be trying to do things for the students of Richmond County."

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

JOE SCOTT

Age: 62

Family: Wife, Patsy; three grown sons; three grandchildren

Background: A native of Waynesboro, Mr. Scott graduated from Paine College and later earned a master's in science from South Carolina State University and a six-year degree from Tuskegee Institute. He began teaching at Collins Elementary School and later taught science at A.R. Johnson Middle School. He left education for 11 years to work with CSRA Planning and Development but returned as a science teacher at T.W. Josey High School. He served for eight years as assistant principal of discipline at Lucy C. Laney High School and eight years in the same role at Josey. He was promoted to principal and served in that role at both Levy White and Jenkins elementary schools. Before retiring in 2001, he served as the school district's director of human relations.\

JIMMY ATKINS

Age: 35

Family: Wife, Donna; two children

Background: A native of McBean, he earned an associate degree in accounting from Augusta State University and a bachelor's degree from Brenau University. He has worked for the past six years as a site supervisor for MAU Inc.

BARBARA PULLIAM

Age: 58

Family: Husband, James; two grown sons

Background: A native of Savannah, Mrs. Pulliam moved to Augusta to attend Paine College and married a "military man." She taught in Burke County and left to teach in Richmond County. She traveled and taught overseas before returning to Augusta. She earned a master's degree in elementary education from the University of South Carolina and an educational specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee. She has taught third through 12th grades. She has taught at Hephzibah High School, Hephzibah Middle School, Aquinas High School, C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet School, and Meadowbrook and Barton Chapel elementary schools. She retired in May.

Jimmy Atkins, Barbara Pulliam and Joe Scott will be sworn in at 3:30 p.m. today as members of the Richmond County Board of Education in Room 401 of the municipal building at 530 Greene St., Augusta.