Rome Board of Education: 15 candidate profiles, Q&As on education tax, school system’s direction, technology.

Rome Board of Education: 15 candidate profiles, Q&As on education tax, school system’s direction, technology.

Among the items on the ballot on Nov. 7 will be all seven seats for the Rome City Board of Education. Hometown Headlines offers interviews with the record 15 candidates on the ballot. The interviews and profiles were complied and written by Natalie Simms. The candidates’ profiles and interviews appear in the order which with we received them. Editor’s note: This is a long read, more than 12,300 words. 



JJ Walker Seifert, 40, is a local attorney in private practice at Seifert Law focusing on juvenile matters, family law and criminal work. She holds two bachelor in Arts degrees in Political Science and Communication & Theatre from Mercer University and graduated from Mercer School of Law in 2002. After several years in private practice and a clerkship with Judge Larry Salmon, she spent seven years as a public defender in Rome. She is a Leadership Rome alumnus, a graduate of the State Bar Leadership Academy, former president of the Rome Bar Association and a sustaining member of the Junior Service League. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Rome Floyd Chamber, Cancer Navigators and Faith & Deeds Free Clinic. She has volunteered with Good Neighbors and Hospitality House, and danced in Rome’s Celebrity Dance Challenge benefiting the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia. She is active in the Rome Middle PTO and serves in the backup band for RMS Grand Illusion Show Choir. She resides in West Rome with her husband, Will, and their two children, Cole (13) and Carson Claire (12), who are students at Rome Middle School.


Dr. Richard Dixon (Incumbent), 71, is a local veterinarian and owner of the East Rome Animal Clinic for the last 41 years. He was elected to the Rome City Board of Education in 2013. He holds an associate degree in Science from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, a bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree from UGA and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from UGA. He is also a member of the Exchange Club of Rome, Floyd County Master Gardeners Association, Boy Scouts of America, United Way, Rome Floyd Chamber and past President of Coosa Valley Fair. He is an active Partner in Education at East Central Elementary, announcer for Rome High School’s Marching Band and volunteer in several school programs. He and his wife, Mary Louise, have two grown children and are members of First United Methodist Church of Rome.


Faith Collins (Incumbent), 60, has served on the Rome City School Board for the last 16 years and is currently chair. She has been the co-owner of Collins Auto Clean Up for the last 37 years with her husband, Bill Collins. She grew up in rural Floyd County and attended Mary T. Banks and Midway Elementary schools. She graduated from Pepperell High School in 1975 and attended Floyd Junior College (currently Georgia Highlands College). She also serves as member of the Patient Family Advisory Council at Floyd Medical Center, Board of Directors of Mercy Care of Rome, member of the Rome Floyd Chamber, the NAACP and Northwest Georgia Minority Business Association. She has been married to Bill for 40 years and has two children, William II and Sara, plus three grandchildren. She is a member of Life of Jesus in Action Holiness Church.


Jill Fisher,  43, is a former chemical engineer who currently serves as bookkeeper for her husband’s dental practice, interior design and lots of volunteer work. She is currently Board Chairman for Good Neighbors Ministry, a Board member for the newly formed Brighter Birthdays, an active member of First Presbyterian Church and a Junior Service League Sustainer. She volunteers in a number of RCS programs including on the PTO Executive Board and two terms as President; started the first Running Club in the Rome elementary school system; served on several advisory committees designed to bridge the school system and the community; and been a mentor to a student for the past five years. She and her husband, Mark, have resided in Rome for the last 15 years. They have three children, one at East Central Elementary, one at Rome Middle, and one at Rome High.


David J. Ehrler, PhD, 46, is a school psychologist working in various public school systems for the last 24 years. He holds a bachelor of Science in Psychology from Berry College, a Masters of Education in School Psychology from Auburn University and a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Psychology from Georgia State University. He began his public education career in Lee County, Ga., and has been employed in Dougherty County School System, Rome City Schools and currently Paulding County Schools. He has resided in Rome for the last 28 years. He and his wife, Karen, have been married 13 years and have one son, Jack (10), who is a student at East Central Elementary. They enjoy football games, concerts and family bike rides on trails around the Rome area.


Dale Swann (Incumbent), age 71, has been a member of the Rome City Board of Education since 1988. He was the owner of Jack Robbins Furniture Store in Rome, retiring in 2008. He has lived most of his life in Rome and graduated from East Rome High School. He attended Shorter College and Floyd College. As a sergeant in the United States Army, he received the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. He was married for 43 years to the late Beth Robbins Swann.  They have two grown children. He is currently married to Sue K. Swann.


Valerie Smith Howard, age 63, is a former educator and substitute teacher. She is a graduate of Talladega College with a bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. She previously taught in the Atlanta Public School System and served as a substitute teacher for RCS. She worked as a Pre-K teacher at Tallatoona Head Start and partnered with RCS Program for Special Needs to help children achieve their I.E.P. goals. She was an active parent at the Rome City Schools with my daughter who is now in college. She is a member of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, Democratic Party, AACPA and supports National Alliance on Mental Illness. She attends St. James A.M.E. Zion Church and volunteers to serve lunch there on Saturdays.


Elaina Beeman (Incumbent), age 51, is currently completing her first-term on the Rome Board of Education. She and her husband, Rickey, are owners of Beeman’s Management Association. She has also worked as a contractor with Northwest Georgia Housing Authority and Project Soar Education Navigator. She is a grated of Jacksonville State University, Georgia Highlands College and West Rome High School, as well as a graduate of Leadership Rome and Leadership Georgia. She currently serves on the board of the Northwest Georgia Housing Authority and past board member of Rome/Floyd County Habitat for Humanity and Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce. She is a 2016 Heart of the Community Honoree. She and her husband have three children, Malik, Rachael and Kelsey, who all attended or currently attend Rome High School.


James (Jim) O’Hara, age 63, is a former sports journalist and currently serves as a sports information consultant. He also has served as a long-term substitute teacher at RHS for five years and contracted with Shorter University as Football Communications/Media Director. He received in bachelor of Arts in History from Hampden-Sydney College. He and his family have been Rome natives for more than 30 years. A graduate of Leadership Rome, O’Hara is a former board member of the National Youth Sports Program at Georgia Highlands College, was a member of the Rome Championship Game Host Committee that helped bring the NAIA National Football Championship to Rome, was a charter board member of the Rome Junior Golf Association, served as a board member and president of the Coosa Valley Tennis Association. During his 20-year tenure as the Sports Editor at the Rome News-Tribune, O’Hara won numerous journalism awards and was also involved in sports and news groups on local and state levels. He also served as a volunteer at West Central, Rome Middle and Rome High. He and his wife, Trish, have two grown sons.


Dr. Melissa (Lisa) Davis, age 49, is a local pediatrician at Harbin Clinic Ansley Park Pediatrics. Practicing medicine in Rome for more than 10 years and known to friends as Lisa, she is married to Greg Davis, and they have four children (Emily, Adam, Jordan, and Katie Beth) who attended or currently attend Rome High School. Initially trained as a teacher, she graduated from Georgia Southwestern State University with a bachelor of Science and Master of Education degrees.  Her teaching experience is extensive, ranging from preschool through college.  After staying at home with their young children, she pursued her dream of becoming a physician, graduating from the Medical College of Georgia and completing a residency in Pediatrics. Her outstanding awards range from high school valedictorian to earning the GSW Excellence in Education Award, as well as the William Weston Award for Excellence in Pediatrics.



Ron Roach, age 73, is a retired teacher and coach with over 40 years of teaching experience. He holds a lifetime teaching certificate and continues to work as a substitute teacher in Floyd and Bartow counties. He is a graduate of Pepperell High School and Jacksonville State University. During his career, he served as the head of Bartow County’s in-school probation program. He also headed a summer work program for youth in Duluth and Norcross. He has been president of the Northwest Georgia Tip-Off Club since 1986 and the director of the Number-One Basketball Camp since 1976. He was the first girls’ basketball coach to be selected as Coach of the Year by the Atlanta Tip-Off Club. He is a member of the Rome Kiwanis Club and volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, Pepperell High School, Rome Little Theatre and coaching recreation baseball.


Alvin Jackson Sr., age 68, is a native of Rome and retiree from the General Electric Co. He graduated from Main High School in 1967. He has served the following service organizations among others: United Way, founding member of 100 Black Men of Rome and Rome-Floyd Chamber of Commerce Citizens SPLOST Committee. He is a graduate of Leadership Rome and received the Board of Governors Award from  Heart of the Community in 2011. He is a member of Lovejoy Baptist Church. He and his wife, Bernice, have been married 50 years and have a son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons.

John Uldrick, age 42, currently serves as the Minister of Students and Mission at First Baptist Church Rome. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Clemson University and a Master’s of Divinity degree from Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology.  In addition to his years of service as a youth minister, he serves on the board of the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia, the Community Kitchen and Good Neighbor Ministries. He is a graduate of Leadership Rome.  Throughout his time in Rome, he has volunteered at West End Elementary, West Central Elementary, Rome Middle and Rome High.  He served as the chaplain for the Rome High School football team for three seasons and will serve as a mentor in Rome Middle School’s Habitudes program throughout this school year. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children, Charlie and Annalise, who attend Rome High School. He and his family have lived and worked in Rome for the last 10 years.


Eric McDowell, PhD, age 52, is a professor at Berry College where he has taught for the last 19 years. He holds degrees in mathematics from Bethany College (W.V.), Miami University (Ohio), and West Virginia University.  He is president of the Summerville Park Neighborhood Association and serves as chair of the Rome/Floyd County Board of Adjustments.  He is also a board member and singer with Rome’s community chorus, the Three Rivers Singers. He and his wife, Jackie, have three children who have graduated from Rome High School: one in the college preparatory track, one in the traditional curriculum, and one through the Phoenix Learning Center.


Will Byington (Incumbent), age 38., was appointed to the Rome Board of Education in fall 2016 and is running for his first full-term. He is employed as Director of Property Management for Floyd Healthcare Management Inc. where he manages construction and remodeling projects, new property acquisitions, maintenance, service contracts and utility management for all Floyd properties outside of the primary hospital. He is a graduate of Rome High School and Georgia Southern University with a degree in Business Administration. He is a graduate of Leadership Rome and previously served on the Rome Championship Game host committee for the NAIA Football championship, the Rome Floyd Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and currently serves on the Rome/Floyd County Board of Adjustments. He is a longtime volunteer at Rome High School. He and his wife, Heather, have two children, William (10) and Thomas (6) who are both students at East Central Elementary.


QUESTION: In no more than 200 words, please describe the state of Rome City Schools.

The RCS system is at a serious crossroads. There has been a lack of central leadership and adequate communication between the board, educators and parents. We must embrace the challenge of preparing our students to be successful in the new global economy.  Our schools are known for excellent academics, as shown by the volume of AP scholars every year, but we must keep growing to remain relevant and on par with the jobs and careers out there waiting on our students.  Our teachers are our biggest asset and have the ability to provide educational opportunities for each and every student regardless of background; teachers need the proper assets to be successful.  I am a first-generation college student. (I watched, and cried, as my dad graduated from Kennesaw State at age 60.) We must meet these challenges not only for our kids’ futures but for our own.  We need to harness the energy of our students, utilize the wealth of knowledge and experience of our amazing teachers, and make every student believe that he or she can succeed in a big way in this world and the future to come.”

The state of the Rome City Schools system is a constantly changing, ever improving system.  This ensures the needs of the students will be met as they prepare to join the workforce or continue their education at a college or technical school. Changes take place in every aspect of our lives, some are planned and others are unplanned. Our school system is continuously changing to prepare the students to successfully meet the requirements needed to meet the demands they will be facing. The school board is always looking ahead, planning for the future so our students will be prepared to be successful in our ever-changing world.”

The state of Rome City Schools has shown outstanding rankings statewide in: our school climate rating, Advanced Placement Scholars, AP Stem Scholars, Spirit of Green Award, leader in athletics by winning the GHSA state football championship, winning awards in the arts for middle school band and high school band, jazz band, and concert band programs, as well as choral program. In addition, Rome City Schools has been named one of the Top Ten Digital School districts in GA and students from the nontraditional Phoenix Performance Learning Center (PLC) received the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) first place award in video contest. Rome City Schools has a commitment to maintaining high-standards for all students. Our school system displays continuous growth in the high school graduation rate, expanding the use of technology to increase student achievement.”

FISHER: “I believe Rome City Schools are excellent schools, not necessarily because of the resources we have, but because of the quality of teachers and staff.  I have enjoyed volunteering with RCS because I am impressed with its employees and the positive environment they create for our students.  Great things are happening at the elementary, middle and high school levels.  Rome High has 84 AP Scholars and a recent 92.8% graduation rate.  Elm Street and North Heights are STEM certified schools. Rome Wolves won the 5A State Football Championship last year.  There is just not enough space to list everything! I fully support the One Rome vision.  We should work together to bring our students the best education possible and it absolutely starts at the beginning with kindergarten.  I think Dr. Holland’s commitment to not just Rome High but to all students and the community is energizing.  I believe there is some room for improvement.  Our schools need more resources and classroom space to keep instep with growing demands.  I think RCS could also be better partners with community resources.  We all want what is best for our students and we are stronger when we work together and communicate needs.”

EHRLER: “Although we have serious problems to solve, I want to see Rome City Schools in the news more for the great things that are happening. And, there are definitely some great things going on in Rome City Schools. Just to name a few, State Superintendent Richard Woods recently visited North Heights Elementary to recognize the school for their STEM certification. He then visited Elm Street Elementary, also a STEM certified school, as one of only five winners of the Georgia Family-Friendly Partnership School (FFPS) Award. Since 2012, Rome High’s graduation rates have topped the state average by some 9 to 15 percentage points. There is excitement in the air on fall Friday nights at Barron Stadium. We have areas for improvement as well. There are achievement gaps across groups of kids and our discipline issues are higher than they should be. Our teachers have insufficient resources and their time is overtaxed outside of the classroom. Our bus transportation problems definitely need to be tackled sooner rather than later. As a new school board member, I will ensure that these issues will be a focus during my term.” 

SWANN: “The graduation rate for Rome High School reached 93% in 2016. There were 84 Advanced Placement Scholars for 2017, with 5 National AP scholars. Rome High School has the 10th highest district scores on the SAT in Georgia. There are computers in every classroom, as well as smart boards. Under the Chromebook initiative, students in grades 3 thru 12 already have Chromebooks. Second graders will have them in October and first grade will have them by the end of the school year.”

HOWARD: “I feel that the state of Rome City Schools is the following: Reading scores and comprehension levels must be increased with fun and hands-on activities among the primary grades, including Pre-K.  New books and updated technology are needed for our children, faculty and staff. More space for a growing population in the schools is needed. Parental involvement and mentorship volunteers are needed in the schools. More school buses and qualified drivers are in dire need to transport our children to school and back home safely. A supported fund will allow economically challenged children to eat hot meals. A weekly incentive points system used to measure good behavior and academic improvements. I believe that it would decrease undesirable behavior in children. Air-Conditioning in the gyms and more security cameras throughout the school system. A strong program to prepare our students for college or opportunities for career development and placements.  A workshop to help parents get their child ready for college with information on deadlines, financial aid, community service, references and recommendations.”

BEEMAN: “The state of Rome City Schools lies in the hands of the community and citizens of Rome. Once individuals elect the Rome City School Board, they become our voices in the community. They determine practices for general policies for the school district that insure that the state guidelines are being met.  During this process, the Board focus should be on implementing the best practices to ensure that all children who enter the public education system achieve at high levels and reach their full potential.  Back in 1992, when the city decided to merge East Rome and West Rome High Schools together, their plan was to offer one superior combined school. The citizens and the community brought into the consolidation plan because they had faith and belief in the vision. Today, the student population is growing at a fast pace due to our academic excellence, fine arts, athletics, and extracurricular activities.  However, we still have educational gaps between high achievers and low achievers within Rome City Schools.  We still have facilities that cannot accommodate the growth of our quality academics, athletics, and arts. We need to reduce our class sizes and create new Pathways within a College and Career Academy.”

O’HARA: “Rome City Schools has and continues to be one of the top systems in Georgia, thanks largely to what has been a dedicated and caring staff of teachers, all whom have the interests of their students in their hearts and minds. Those in the classroom who are tasked with the role as educators, have gone the extra mile to provide the pathways to success not only in the classroom setting, but outside of it as well. I have seen them first-hand as a substitute teacher, how they adapt to what seems to be ever-changing standards and milestones and continue to help the children achieve success. At this point of time, however, Rome City Schools appears to have entered a state of flux. In the past four years, we have seen constant changes throughout the system, from the superintendent on down. ‘Change’ has been the optimum word lately and, naturally, with changes, those involved tend to land on opposite sides of the issue. Yet I’m certain that the changes will not deter what this diverse community seeks, and certain RCS will emerge even stronger.” 

DAVIS: “The Rome City Schools stand on a rich and diverse history that includes overcoming challenges of the past with great success; yet again we stand at a crossroads.  This is the uphill climb that we adults know as life.  Children who are successful in life personally and professionally demonstrate a characteristic known as a growth mindset. It involves taking chances and not being afraid to fail and start again. We know this builds resiliency in children!  Success is built over time as we learn from mistakes.  The Rome City Schools stand at a crossroads with mistakes having been made in the past. Relationships and trust have broken down.  We need to stand with children and with each other.  We need to encourage and support excellence in our teachers and students.  We need character-filled leaders in our school, on the playing field, and in our community.  Big problems do not always require complex solutions. Let’s build relationships and be interested in the needs of others who may have a different and valuable viewpoint. I believe we stand on the brink of great opportunity!”

ROACH: “It is obvious that the system has much to be proud of. A couple things that stand out: last year, the graduation rate was 92.8%, which is 13 points higher than the state average; and Rome City Schools was named best school district in Georgia Niche Rankings. There have been achievements on all levels, elementary, middle and high schools in both educational and extracurricular activities. Overall, I think Rome has a great school system, but needs to focus on teacher morale.”

JACKSON: “One characteristic of a great school system is proactive leadership. The Rome City Schools are in the midst of leadership change with a new school superintendent, assistant superintendent and a new principal at Rome High and Annie K. Davie. This change is necessary to establish a sense of order, continuity and direction in the administration of our schools. With these recent changes, the state of the school system looks promising. This has been lacking over the past years with three principals at Rome High in four years and the same in school superintendent. Some of this responsibility is due to the make-up of the current School Board. This is one of their most important duties. The selection of a dynamic and proactive leader whose single focus is creating a school system of excellence dedicated to the education of our most precious resource, our children. In retrospect the question must be asked, did the candidates under consideration have the desire to roll-up their sleeves and go to work? Was their loyalty first to the city of Rome’s Schools? This is where their heart should be. As a result of proactive leadership in administration, there has been increased enrollment in the system.”

ULDRICK: “Rome City Schools has experienced transition in the past four years. The turnover in system leadership has created unease in the community and among RCS teachers. A system that was known for its stability suddenly had hints of unrest and uncertainty. During this time, teachers pressed on, doing what was right for students, no matter whose name was on the letterhead. That describes Rome City Schools to me — doing what’s right for students, even in times of uncertainty. Put students first, and you can never go wrong. Through times of change, teachers have always pushed forward to provide students with meaningful learning experiences, whether it is through STEM certification, the creation of ASPIRE elementary after-school programs, or the many accomplishments of our middle and high school. Rome High School winning the state championship was a crowning achievement for an athletic program in need of a boost. A more important milestone for Rome High was the 84 AP Scholars that they boasted last year! Rome City Schools’ teachers, administrators, parents, and students should feel proud of their school system, while realizing that more work needs to be done to prioritize our needs and focus on ensuring that every student succeeds.”

MCDOWELL: “The Rome City School System ranks above many of its counterparts in Georgia.  Its mission that all Rome High graduates be prepared for college or work is both appropriate and attainable.  Its recognition of the role that the Arts plays toward achieving that mission is laudable in a time when other school systems are abandoning that foundation.  The impressive variety of academic, athletic and extracurricular programming that is available allows interested students to literally pave any path that they wish toward a future that they seek.  And the teachers that I’ve had the pleasure of working with are talented educators with a passion for tapping the potential of their students. Of course, there are also opportunities for improvement.  Like most public school systems, Rome students are poorly served by state and national mandated testing requirements.  Inadequate classroom space continues to hinder optimal instruction.  And, the number of years that our teachers remain in the classroom tends to follow low national norms.  As a Board member, I can work to address these challenges.  But the positives far exceed the problems, and I look forward to leading in such an already successful system.”

BYINGTON: “I’m thrilled about where we stand and I have all positive expectations about what’s to come.  We were recently named 16th best school district in the state by Niche Rankings. Our graduation rate is 93% and we had 84 Advanced Placement Scholars, as well as five National AP Scholars. Participation in our award-winning Sound of the Seven Hills marching band is at a high and we have added a very popular show choir to our already acclaimed vocal program.  Two of our elementary schools received STEM certification and our athletic programs have brought home playoff appearances, playoff wins, and region and state championships. We have an excellent administrative team in place and our central office is fully staffed with talented leaders who are preparing us for an outstanding future.  Dr. Brittney Wilson has joined us as Assistant Superintendent. Dr. Wilson’ understanding of career and technical education will help us further prepare our students for life after graduation.  Tashia Twyman, our new Student Support and Community Outreach Specialist, is already building relationships between students and community mentors.  Our vision is for RCS to be the best system in the State and our leaders are poised to take us there.”

QUESTION: An independent college and career academy based at Rome High, a field house and other athletics improvements, the Main/North Heights projects and the county schools projects: How will you vote on Nov. 7 on the latest extension of the 1-cent education tax and why?

After research and consulting with Rome/Floyd Citizens for Better Schools, I still have questions.  Extending the current ELOST is an excellent opportunity to benefit our schools, with potential game-changers as far as projects.  However, there is still work to be done and questions to be answered.  This proposal provides our community with an opportunity to participate in some collaborative leadership where both City and County can have a voice and all our students benefit.  My kids are a year apart, and I just spent two consecutive years with sixth graders at West End.  The idea of a sixth grade academy is appealing to me but I do have questions regarding logistics.  Also, the second-tier projects aren’t as flashy or exciting but are very much needed. For example, one project is equipping all the elementary school gyms with air-conditioning. I’ve spent the last eight years sweating through PTO programs and school dances in the West End Gym, so this highly appealing to me. My point is: Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water…if you aren’t 100% on board with one proposal project. ELOST can, with some work, benefit all our students in all our schools.”

I will vote YES.  Our school systems (both city and county) need the money to make improvements in existing school buildings and to build new schools. As a result of state funds being constantly cut and citizens being taxed beyond their means, our school systems need this money to improve existing facilities and to build needed new facilities.”

“I will vote for the extension of the 1-cent education tax because of my concern about meeting the needs of all students. As an innovative thinker, I can envision the future of our school system. We cannot lose sight of totally focusing on the best for our students. The division of buildings at the previous Main Elementary School site and the open campus had always been a security concern. It is definitely time to make absolutely sure that our faculty and students are placed in a safe/secure school environment. The new Main Elementary School will provide an opportunity for the education of Main Elementary students in Pre-K to 5th grades to be safely under one roof in one location. The changing of North Heights to a STEM Academy serving all of Rome City 6th grade students will further promote a strong STEM education to develop ideas and make discoveries through instruction in STEM programs. The College and Career Academy based at Rome High will be a showcase for education and workforce development. It will serve all students with a seamless transition to post-secondary opportunities. The multipurpose building which will house the athletic department will be used for many activities.”

I will be voting yes for ELOST on Nov. 7.  I recently toured RHS during the school day while it was in full operation and the school, while pristine, is over 25 years old. There is simply not enough space for their needs.  RHS has over 200 additional students this year than last.  If we don’t have plans to address this, what will our school be like in five years? There is no question that RHS athletic facilities are cramped and inadequate. A field house and athletic improvements would benefit all of our athletes.  The plan to merge all 6th graders and create the 6th Grade STEAM Academy would have incredible benefits for not only 6th grade students, but also for the students at the elementary schools because it frees up more classroom space.  It’s about time…our elementary students need air conditioning in the gymnasiums.  They are returning to school in July and it is unreasonable to expect them to thrive in such hot conditions. The county school projects are exciting too. Pepperell Middle and Armuchee need these improvements.  I completely support investing in our city and county schools and I believe ELOST is important to pass in November.”

EHRLER: “I will be voting for the extension of the 1-cent education tax (ELOST). Rome is in the beginning phase of growth, both in terms of student population and need for diversity in the curricula at our schools. This year alone, Rome City Schools has had a significant increase in student enrollment. We need more room. We need to move 6th grade out of the elementary schools. The statistics are also very clear that, while traditional college is the dream of many, technical tracks have employment and income potentials that can equal or exceed the potential for some jobs requiring a traditional college degree. Rome has a need for technical specialists. We have a need for the ELOST to pass in order for our schools to grow in the way they need to grow.” 

SWANN: “The College and Career Academy will offer a lot of opportunities for our high school students. They will be exposed to future career options. The main advantage is having the Academy right on campus. We definitely need to upgrade our athletic departments for all our sports teams. The new Main Elementary School building will be a sense of pride for the students. Turning North Heights into a Sixth Grade Academy will allow all of our sixth-grade students to be together to meet new friends and to get prepared for middle school. I will definitely vote YES on November 7th. As long as I have been on the Board, I have always said, ‘It’s all about the kids.’”

HOWARD: “I will do more research on the 1-cent education tax, but based on what I have heard, it would be used to improve or expand county and city schools’ current conditions that would allow our students to learn more effectively.” 

BEEMAN: “I am so excited about the possibility that we may soon have an independent college and career academy based at Rome High School to benefit the Rome City students.  My vote will be a resounding ‘yes’ to the ELOST. My reasoning is because Rome High is currently the only high school in the local area that does not have a facility that will accommodate a Career Pathway program that is accessible to all our Rome High students.  When it comes to collaboration between Rome City and Floyd County high schools, transportation remains an issue that interferes with instructional time and the safety of a Career Pathways Program located off site for both high schools.”

O’HARA: “The projects on the proposed ELOST is set in stone. There is little myself or any other of those seeking a seat on the Rome School Board can do to change it. I have always been a fervent supporter of projects that benefit our children, although there have been some proposals that seemed out of place and inadvisable. I have, however, always supported ELOST projects and will continue to do so as I feel the community needs to continually provide the resources that give our students and teachers every possible opportunity to be successful. Still, it is vital for a School Board to be transparent in seeking extensions of education taxes to make sure the community understands the importance of why all of the projects are needed to adhere RCS’ sole mission – Education – and does not benefit non-educational programs.” 

DAVIS: “I will vote ‘yes’ on the latest extension of the 1-cent education tax. I see this as an opportunity to stand with our children and invest in them. I believe much of the concern from the community revolves around allocation of funds. We need leaders who will make future decisions with a balanced, educated perspective, who stand first with the child and endorse excellence in academics, excellence in arts, and excellence in athletics. As allocation decisions are made, we must model the creative and critical thinking skills that are imperative for our students.  We must look out for the interests of others, not just our own. We are neighbors together in the Rome City Schools.”

ROACH: “Projects need to be funded in order to maintain an educational environment in which our children can thrive. I have attended meetings and had discussion with committee members on the projects up for approval on the Nov. 7 ballot. Before I finalize my decision, I wish to get feedback from a variety of people in the community. A vote ‘yes’ means we all share the cost with 40% of the money collected coming from people that do not live in the county. A vote ‘no’ means the burden will be on property owners. If I voted today, the decision would be simple, because youth are our most valuable investment and everyone needs to support their future.”

JACKSON: “I will vote YES in November for the extension of the one cent education tax. Regardless of whom one supports in the School Board election, I hope you will give a thumbs up for the approval of the tax extension (ELOST) to fund these much-needed projects. A good, safe, and advanced learning environment is essential for the students in our education system. Each of the projects is worthwhile, but one small expenditure to increase the safety of our children while at school is worth the peace of mind it achieves for parents. Whatever the cost of installing security cameras, and other advanced security technology, at every entrance and exit in every school in the system pales in comparison to the value of one life saved. Another example of the many things we can provide to enhance the learning of our children is the creation of the planned STEAM academy for sixth graders. This school will focus on teaching our sixth-grade children in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. This will better prepare them for a successful and fulfilling life.”

ULDRICK: “I will vote ‘yes’ the ELOST on Nov. 7.  I am proud to be a part of a community that is forward-thinking, and I believe these types of taxes promote growth in infrastructure and planning that cannot be accomplished outside of the collection of those funds.  Enrollment in each of Rome City’s eight schools continues to climb, and many schools are out of classroom space.  As a result, class sizes have grown.  The creation of a Sixth Grade Academy through ELOST funds will create the much needed space that many elementary schools need.  The creation of a College and Career Academy at Rome High School will only serve to prepare students for the many technical and career opportunities that do not necessarily require a four-year college degree.  Are there things in the education tax that I would lay out in a different way? Sure!  However, I do not believe in punishing students and their future growth because of decisions adults have made for them.” 

MCDOWELL: “The mission of Rome City Schools to ensure that all graduates are prepared for college or work would be brilliantly supported with a College and Career Academy.  Currently, our county students are benefiting tremendously from a very successful academy of their own.  Ideally, I would like to see our two systems pool their efforts to create a single College and Career Academy that would serve all students.  This would minimize administrative costs while allowing our community partners to work with all students without duplicating their efforts.  That said, I would rather see a separate academy at Rome than none at all. As for the other projects listed above, I believe the Main/North Heights proposals are novel solutions to the space allocation problem, and that these projects align nicely with the RCS mission.  I know less about the field house project.  All said, our students would be well served by the realization of these projects.  I will enthusiastically vote ‘yes’ for the ELOST extension in November.”

BYINGTON: “I support the proposed ELOST package and my reasons go beyond the benefits to the city school system alone. Placing a College and Career Academy at Rome High is the right move. It’s imperative we prepare our students for a challenging job market and the CCA will help us do that by introducing them to a variety of career paths and teaching the marketable job skills needed in today’s market. As enrollment increases, so does participation in our athletic program, making it increasingly important that we improve our athletic facilities. It’s also important to note that the multipurpose indoor facility will be a great for all students, not just athletes.  The facility will be used for physical education classes, ROTC Training, band/color guard, fine arts programs, and other special events. The consolidation of Main and North Heights Elementary will not only provide our students with a state-of-the-art facility, it will allow us to more efficiently manage our resources.  I feel the same about Floyd County’s decision to build a new Pepperell Middle School and renovate Armuchee High School.  I will vote yes for the ELOST package because I believe it is best for all students in Rome and Floyd County.” 

QUESTION: We’ve seen three superintendents in four years, three principals at Rome High in that same period and sweeping departures in Rome High athletics with rumblings of teacher turnover next. How would you help stabilize and improve the administration of Rome City Schools?

SEIFERT: “I’ve noted, as a parent, some divisiveness in our community…a sense of ‘us’ vs. ‘them’. There is a lack of transparency and appears to be little consistent central leadership. We need delegation and involvement of those who are actually ‘in the know’ – that is, the teachers and the parents.  I want to bring transparency and accountability to the Board when it comes to communication and giving the community a voice. The Board’s meetings and agenda items should be published in advance for the public and for parents and teachers who have a vested interest and want to make their voice heard. Stabilization is achieved by communication, and centralized, accurate, and congruent communication has been lacking. I initially decided to run for the Board because, despite my attendance at monthly board meetings, I rarely know the agenda items in advance and have never been offered an opportunity to weigh in as a parent on any issue. Parents and educators should have a seat at the table and a voice before the Board. I have the leadership experience to move this school system forward with stability, teamwork, and spirit.”

Educators leave positions in a school system for a variety of reasons. The superintendent and school administrators are best suited to encourage retention and to select the most qualified candidates to fill vacancies. The school board should set long term goals to meet the needs of students. They should work with the superintendent and school administrators as necessary to accomplish those goals.”

The stabilization of the administration is a cooperative effort beginning with collaboration with the Board of Education and the Superintendent. It is the intent of the Board to work for the best for students in everything we do. As a consensus builder, I believe I can help guide our Board to reach common ground on issues of concern. We must focus on recruitment and retaining highly qualified and capable staff. We must build communication and understanding with employees, parents, and stakeholders.”

FISHER: “Three superintendents in four years and three principals at RHS is a lot of change.  Of course, retirement was a catalyst for some of the changes.  Anna K Davie, Rome Middle, and Rome High School each have new principals this year and I support their visions for our students. Going forward, a school board member’s role is to hold the superintendent accountable for the quality of the leadership and our school system.  The school board is designed as a check and balance for the school system and it also sets policy.  As a school board member, my goal is to uphold the high-standards that Rome expects from its schools and do what is best for all of our students, staff, and community. The school board is also responsible for budget oversight.  RCS must be responsible financial stewards of your tax dollars.  My background as a chemical engineer provides unique experience in evaluating and optimizing the financial relationship between the school system and community members. As a parent with three in each level in the school system, I definitely have a finger on the pulse of our school system. I am personally invested in Rome City Schools and its success.”

EHRLER: You can’t hide dysfunction in a school system. While energy and motivation is contagious among educators, so is the opposite. Typically, the main leadership problems that contribute to the loss of top teachers is breach of trust, lack of consistency, ineffective communication, lack of vision, or all of those factors combined. Building the trust with our teachers and the community is a long process, and we cannot move forward without it. As a new school board member, it will be my commitment to ensure that the only issue on the table will be the well-being and education of our children. Secondly, building trust requires greater transparency in communication. This means more public discussion of issues than what we have seen before. Thirdly, it will be my commitment to ensure that our system’s leadership maintains integrity and competence at the highest level, conducts business fairly and consistently and communicates with teachers and the community with a clear and positive vision.” 

SWANN: “I feel that our current superintendent, Louis Byars, is doing a great job of bringing stability to our schools. He is hiring great personnel throughout the system, from teachers and principals to the assistant superintendent. I have great confidence in him and will support his decisions.”

HOWARD: “I feel that the turnover of employees is behind us as we move forward and we have well-qualified administration hired by the previous School Board. A job well done! We could implement an incentives program on a professional level that would match high standard performance; it would help stabilize our teachers, staff, and administration. Offer (1) winter and (1) summer retreat at a bonus location for the persons with the most points on their evaluation.” 

BEEMAN: “Our number one problem with the turnover at our school is some people are just not willing to buy into the bigger picture that Rome High is advancing into the 21st century.  We cannot stay in the same era because ‘we have moved into a new era.’  Anytime there is a shift in management, there will be a shift in morale and vacancies.  And one must ask why some are not willing to give the new administrators a fair chance? We have seen three Superintendents in the past two years because one of our retired and went back to his hometown; another moved on to manage a higher paying educational institution. The key words here are retired, went home, and moved on, which equals life choices. However, our current Superintendent is truly vested in Rome. He graduated from a local high school, lives in Rome, and will probably retire in Rome.  I am confident the system got it right; because Mr. Byars is smart, stable, vested, and most importantly ‘his primary focus is all about the educational advancement of our children’!  I understand the concern that is being expressed because we have had three principals in the past three years.”

O’HARA: “There is no question that the makeup of Rome City Schools has gone through noticeable changes in the past several years, as I addressed in a previous question about the state of RCS. Maintaining the stability of a school system is the responsibility of the School Board and currently, due to the on-going changes the system has experienced, many are questioning the stability. Changes take place in all walks of life – adapting to such changes, especially within the context of education, can however be difficult, and in the long run, costly. I believe it is the responsibility of a school board to make sure the system remains stable especially when change takes place. One must understand, however, that it is not a board’s responsibility to run the schools. That is what the superintendent is charged to do and, in turn, the board must determine if the leadership is accountable in reaching the goals and executing the policies established by the board.” 

DAVIS: “I understand there is much concern over the recent turnover at Rome High School in the leadership roles, as I listen to our community.  What is the answer? I believe relationships are the key in life.  It truly matters how students treat one another; it matters how our administration treats teachers; it matters how I treat you.  First, we need to build relationships. Then we need to be willing to explore the most effective ways of reaching students, not simply continuing a process that may not be effective. Learning should be exciting and creative and concept-oriented. We need students who are encouraged to think critically.  This process starts with a leadership team who will not just follow former procedures that may not be effective, but instead look for what is working and what is proven effective.  We need leaders who will think outside the box and value their team members. We expect excellence in our schools. The stabilization will come from working together as an effective, integrated, thriving team to truly make a difference in students’ lives.”

ROACH: “After witnessing so much instability in the two most important leadership positions, it is imperative the Board be supportive of all decisions that are in the best interest of the students and their education. These are some of the problems that make it absolutely essential to have educators with classroom experience on the Board. We can relate and provide valuable insight to the needs of the faculty, administration and students. If there are rumblings of teacher turnover, teachers need to be involved in expressing their concerns and working together with the administration to improve morale. It is called teamwork.”

JACKSON: “The constant changing of the guard at the helm of the Rome City School System, and of RHS, over the last four years created unfounded rumors of upheaval and unrest, harming the public image and confidence in the city’s schools. At such times, the truth is not nearly as interesting in the telling as the often, baseless stories overheard in next table conversations. This atmosphere of distraction and distrust overshadowed much good work by our dedicated teachers who found it more than frustrating when they found no one to assist them in maintaining order in an overcrowded classroom. The support they needed when the going got tough was nowhere to be found. There was a leadership void and the classroom teacher was often on his or her own. Voters of the City of Rome must make sure the entire Board of Education is populated with individuals who are sound decision-makers and have, as their primary motivation, the welfare of our children. Our children and grandchildren are our future. They must be our first priority.”

ULDRICK: “Stability in any system is important.  Organizations that experience as much turnover as RCS has these past four years have a hard time finding a steadfast center.  I believe that with measured investment, time and positive energy, Rome City Schools will see both growth and stabilization from the top down.  My part in that would be to engage students, parents, teachers and administrators and hear their concerns about the challenges their students face.  I think it’s important to fully hear their suggestions for improvement. Thoughtful decisions need to be made in the best interests of all students, and I would not take that responsibility lightly. I also believe that we should lean into the gifted teachers we have hired and provide them with the resources and space to do their job. At the heart of it all needs to be the students.  Every student in the Rome City System are my ‘why’.  No political capital is too big, and no person is too important if their decision-making jeopardizes what is right for the students first.”

MCDOWELL: “This is a difficult and leading question. Turnover is a healthy part of any organization.  That said, the turnover rate in Rome’s administration and athletics seems to have been unusually high recently.  Because I was not involved in the personal decisions that led these people to leave RCS, I cannot comment on a cause.  And, it would certainly be inappropriate to speculate on a teacher exodus that has not yet happened. The key to building a strong and stable administration lies, first, in attracting a large pool of highly-qualified candidates for each open administrative position.  (To cite a theatre analogy, a well-attended audition leads to a great show.)  From the strong pool, hire the candidate who most strongly buys into – and who can best achieve – the mission of the Rome City Schools to ensure that every graduate of Rome High be prepared for college or work.  When you hire the right person for the right job for the right reasons, stability and improvement will follow.”

BYINGTON: “I believe we are well on our way to not only stabilizing but also strengthening our system’s administration. There’s an energy and excitement in our board office, as well as in our schools, and we are confident that the leadership we currently have in place at each level is as passionate about the success of our system as we are as a school board.  We want all of our employees, regardless of their position, to be excited to walk through our doors each day, but we also recognize that other opportunities present themselves.  When that happens, it’s our responsibility to fill each position with the most talented and best qualified individual for the job and we believe we’ve done that and will continue to do so. Mr. Byars, Dr. Wilson and Dr. Holland are excellent examples of our success in these personnel decisions.”

QUESTION: Technology has surged to a point where it needs to be branded with the traditional 3 Rs. Where do you see Rome City Schools in terms of technological achievements by 2021, the year you would stand for re-election?

SEIFERT: “My kids have been the beneficiaries of many of the technological advances our schools have made over the past several years including Chromebooks on a 1:1 ratio, SmartBoards in classrooms, utilization of online cloud-based learning modules, and several others. We need to keep moving forward in order to best prepare each of our students for success in the global technology-based economy.  The best advisors in this area would be our teachers, as they know how students can best thrive in the classroom with constantly changing technology.  Having cutting edge technology is great, but only if our teachers are given input as well as the resources and instruction necessary for maximizing its effectiveness.  I suggest forming an advisory committee led by educators to make recommendations for specific needs that, if met, will facilitate the best classroom experience.  Our teachers (our greatest asset) are our ‘boots on the ground’, being in the classroom every day, meeting educational challenges head on.  In 2021, I will have a junior and a senior at Rome High, and I expect them to be technologically prepared for whatever future they choose in the every-advancing global economy.”

IXON: “Computers will be the key component of classroom teaching in coming years. We must plan to utilize technology to the maximum in making certain every student is able to read, write and compute at their grade level as they progress through the system from kindergarten to graduation.”

In terms of technological achievements in the traditional 3 Rs, as we look toward our 2020 vision, we can observe all students developing critical, creative thinking and problem solving skills, and the continued increase in technology at all grade levels. I see greater productivity and leaps in educational achievements through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) certification and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) certification is being incorporated into classrooms throughout our school system.”

FISHER: “Technology is constantly advancing, and it is a challenge to stay current.  As it is incorporated more into the school curriculum, technology is allowing students to learn in independent and creative ways.  Our curriculums are changing as well, as we concentrate on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) methodology that will better prepare our students. ELOST, if passed, would build a 6th Grade STEAM Academy at North Heights and it would be a state-of-the-art facility.  I believe this would be a tremendous achievement for Rome City Schools.  ELOST would also make a 1:1 Chromebook to student ratio beginning in 2nd grade. Our students are expected to take Georgia Milestones tests online in 3rd grade.  Technology will not replace the personal instruction teachers provide, but it certainly enhances the tools teachers have available.  By 2021, I see a strong school board that understands graduation is not an endpoint, but rather a milestone for all students. Our students need to be prepared to tackle evolving technology in order to compete for top spots in secondary education and employment after graduation.  The Rome City School system must stay committed to providing and expanding opportunities for career exploration before graduation.”

EHRLER: “Why is instructional technology so important? Because today, students no longer learn 7 hours a day. They collaborate with peers, create and share ideas and research 24 hours a day through phones, tablets and laptops. Like it or not, students learn best through technology. Rome City Schools has an incredibly competent technology department that readily and successfully adapts to, and evolved with, the ever-changing digital landscape. Several of our schools have initiated STEM programs as fantastic starting points for incorporating technology concepts with instruction. But, our schools are truly in need of better instructional resources that fully take advantage of the technology we have. As a school board member, I will ensure that our yearly goals will include greater emphasis on bringing instruction and technology together through initiatives like the STEM program and the development of partnerships with technology leaders. It is also time for Rome City Schools to merge our technology and teaching resources into a combined EdTech department in order to serve as a comprehensive resource to better enhance teaching and learning.” 

SWANN: “There will be more STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) related programs to include computers and Chromebooks. There will also be more hands-on technology, such as robotics.”

HOWARD: “It’s true that reading, writing and arithmetic are basic tools needed to navigate the world of technology. The art of reading, understanding what you read, your speed and vocabulary must be developed. Writing demonstrates spelling, grammar, structure of the written word and eye coordination that can improve with progressive reading techniques. Arithmetic are numbers, science, formulas, equations, and yes, reading. Let’s improve those areas of our children’s education and the will excel in the technology, as it rapidly changes. The school system will be equipped with programs, IT personnel and devices to teach those skills needed to achieve high tech performance.” 

BEEMAN: “Technology has surged to a point where it needs to be branded with the traditional 3 R’s. I see Rome City Schools in terms of technological achievements by 2021 as a school that molds technology leaders in our community. Rome High students will be so computer savvy, that their backup plan to restore the loss or use of their computer hardware will be extremely easy.  Once their Chromebooks reach its useful life, they will be able to recycle them. Our Rome High School students will have grasped the reusable gift giving by donating their old computers to a charitable or non-profit organization.” 

O’HARA: “Without a doubt, making sure the educational system keeps up with the remarkable technological changes that are taking place is vital. Preparing future generations to become productive people in an ever-changing world, in which technology is part of everyday life, is a must for school systems. We must, however, be aware that even more technological advances will be made down the road and be ready to adapt to new technology ideas and methods as they take place. At the same time, I feel we must make sure that the increasing roll of technology in education does not overshadow the ‘traditional 3 Rs.’ It must be incorporated into the traditional educational core.” 

DAVIS: “Technology is a critical piece within our students’ education.  We need to invest in the brightest and best in training and implementation for both our teachers and our students.  We need to explore what the most technologically advanced schools are doing. I believe in going and observing, researching and weighing the evidence.  We must be willing to invest our dollars in the education of our students, which includes providing the most up-to-date technology. As we go, it is paramount that we teach students to think critically; technology will change over the years.  Employers like myself are looking for those who can problem solve and think critically.  Security and safety are extremely important for our students in the area of technology.”

ROACH: “Rome is already having students use more technology in the classroom, so by the year 2021, I would anticipate the system to be in the top 20% of Georgia.”

JACKSON: “To refer to technology as “changing” is to use too feeble a word. There is no way to overstate how rapidly the latest tech tool will be outdated. As our local Chamber of Commerce seeks to attract new industry, we have to focus on providing a qualified workforce, and technology is key to the workforce of the future. This fact demands that our public schools be a laboratory of technology training to keep up with the needs of industry. Our schools must provide instruction in the use of modern and up-to-date technology. This will give our children a chance to compete with students from around the globe for jobs and careers in what is likely to be critical to success in business and industry far into the future. By 2021, I expect to see each and every teacher have direct and personal access to technology as a tool for instruction or whatever its successor technology might be. Whatever the newest and best technological tool should be in 2021, it would be my goal to see Rome City Schools far ahead of the pack in the acquisition and use of such tools of learning.”

ULDRICK: “I’ve just poured through a powerful article published in the September issue of The Atlantic, entitled ‘Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation’ by Jean M. Twenge.  Twenge outlines the real consequences of a generation she calls iGen. She says there’s a mental health crisis among technological teens.  ‘Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.’ I think that Rome City Schools should continue to incorporate technology in the classroom and find new avenues of learning for every student’s preferred learning style.  However, that cannot be the only focus. We must balance that technological progress with a focus on character education and service learning, both of which are important components of being a well-rounded student. The system would also benefit from having instructional technologists that support teachers in their efforts to implement the use of equipment purchased by the system and those resources/workers are not available now.”

MCDOWELL: “Currently, student computing devices are used primarily for preparation and execution of online testing required by the state.  While this might be a practical application for technology, it clearly lacks educational significance.  Instead, we need to focus our attention on using technology in pedagogically appropriate ways that support the RCS mission.  To my knowledge, RCS currently has no technology curriculum in place across all grade levels in most schools.  If elected, I would like to lead a study of what such a curriculum should look like.  Putting such a curriculum in place by 2021 would certainly be a significant technological achievement.”

BYINGTON: “Technology is changing and improving at an exponential pace making it difficult to predict what the next four years might bring, but as a board and a system, we are being proactive regarding technology and I value its benefits to our curriculum. Knowing that industry drives technological advances, it’s important that we continue to build relationships with business partners throughout our region, such as those that Mrs. Twyman is currently developing, as well as those that will grow from our College and Career Academy. It’s critical that we develop a technology program that provides the resources our students need in the classroom today as well as prepares them for success beyond graduation.”

QUESTION: The most important thing to happen to Rome City Schools in the next four years will be what?

SEIFERT: “Progress. We can achieve progress through increased participation of parents, educators and the community. Progress must be achieved through transparency and accountability. Most importantly, progress is essential in preparing Rome City School students to be successful in higher education and in the ever-changing global job market.”

The most important thing to happen in the next four years is to ensure that our teachers have all the skills and equipment needed to educate our students in order for them to be successful in our ever-changing world.”

The most important thing to happen in Rome City Schools in the next four years will include my top priority to help guide the academic success of all students. We must never forget that learning is a continuous process!”

FISHER: “The most important thing to happen to Rome City Schools cannot be one thing.  It is all of the details that work together that make our schools exceptional.  We must anticipate classroom demands and plan accordingly.  We must integrate technology into curriculum and remain current so our students are competitive for secondary education or work after graduation.  We must provide our teachers and students with the tools they need to accomplish curriculum demands.  We must provide a comfortable environment for all, even those in the gymnasium.  We must partner with our community members because they serve city school students.  We must feed our students nutritious and tasteful meals and snacks, because a hungry band student does not have a great practice.  We must provide safe transportation.  We must maintain our buildings. There are too many factors that work together and when they are out of balance, our whole school system suffers.  Academics must always be the first priority, with athletics and arts following its lead, but all three are vital components for our students.  We must provide all students with a well-rounded experience from kindergarten to graduation and there is no one thing that will accomplish that.”

EHRLER: “The community’s continued support for our children’s education is by far the most important thing that needs to happen for Rome City Schools over the next four years. As a community, we need to pass the ELOST on November 7th. Our schools simply cannot grow in the way we need them to grow without it.”

SWANN: “Completion of the new Main Elementary school, the 6th Grade STEAM Academy, and the College and Career Academy will establish opportunities for students to learn about career opportunities from the elementary to the high school level.”

HOWARD: “The atmosphere of faith, reading scores and comprehension levels will rise with hands-on and creative programs. Parental involvement and mentorship will improve in each school. Preparation for college and careers opportunities will prove that early intervention is essential. An Educational Activity Center with a variety of learning departments can be developed in every school or a center to enhance our children’s learning.”

BEEMAN: “The most important thing to happen to Rome City Schools in the next four years is that we will not be looked upon as second to none. Our graduation rate will soar and reach its highest point. Our new Main Elementary School will allow alumni to become fully vested in our amazing school so we can bridge the gap between the community and our combined elementary schools. Children who attend the New Main Elementary will feel a sense of pride that will impact their growth. Our 6th Grade Academy will be STEAM Certified and looked upon as one of the state-of-the-art schools in Georgia. We will be stronger in academics because we will be able to offer more competitive advanced AP classes.  Our AP scores will also continue to soar! We will have a Career and College Academy located on our school campus to allow our children to have a fair opportunity to develop in a pathway of their choice that will give them an incredible advantage before graduation. Therefore, our children will be well prepared for college and the workforce. Our athletic program will grow so big, the participants in each program will have followers on the elementary level.”

O’HARA: “Knowing the inordinate number of changes that have taken place in the last four years, putting stability back into the system is vital. One must realize, however, that to achieve that much-needed stability, more changes must be made and done so through open and honest discussion within the board itself and, especially, with the community. Transparency in all things within the educational process is the cornerstone of a strong public educational system and this must take place for Rome City Schools over the next four years in order to strengthen the confidence and pride our children, parents and citizens of Rome have in our schools.” 

DAVIS: “The most important thing that will happen within our school system in the next four years is dependent on what you and I do now.  What will you and I do to stand with children today and in the future?  Have you signed up to be a mentor in the schools? Did you talk with a young person about the importance of education today? Did you model appropriate behavior when working through a challenging situation? Were you concerned about a child who does not have an advocate? Did you read to child today?  Did you encourage a student to try out for an athletic team? Did you tell a child you noticed his musical talent?  The most important thing that will happen in our school system in the next four years is that you and I will choose to stand with children by being present and by being an advocate.  We will encourage them to dream big dreams and be prepared; we will be mentors and act like owners in our school system; we will all give back to our community. We will stand with children!”

ROACH: “The most important thing will be to keep our important positions of leadership filled at each of the schools and the Central Office, especially the positions of superintendent and high school principal.”

JACKSON: “The most important thing to happen to the Rome City schools in the next four years will be to see the election of a new RCS Board of Education filled with people of vision and a dedication to excellence in education. This will allow us to look back over the past 48 months as having been the best of times in our schools’ history; the best in student achievement; an annual increase in college acceptance rates; to see an annual increase in academic scholarships awarded to our graduates; to see that the past 4 years have witnessed the building and opening of the College and Career Academy; and to see all our students graduate with a degree or career choice that prepares them for life in the decades of the 2020s, 30s, 40s and beyond and which will bring to them the ability to pursue the American Dream for themselves and their posterity.”

ULDRICK: “I don’t believe there’s just one thing to point to, actually.  I feel we must prepare all students to achieve at their highest level – college, workforce, and life ready; promote fiscal responsibility and transparency; and attract, hire, train and retain the most capable and dedicated educators and administrators. Those key goals and strategies will propel the students, parents, teachers, and administrators of Rome City Schools towards excellence in all areas.”

MCDOWELL: “The most important thing to happen to Rome City Schools in the next four years is likely to be what happens to Rome City Schools on November 7.  With all BOE positions up for election, this city is about to define the leadership of our schools.  Our schools define the leadership of our future.  Nothing could be more important.”

BYINGTON: “There’s no question in my mind that the development of a College and Career Academy will propel Rome City Schools from being one of the best systems in the state to among the elite.  Because of that, I believe the passage of the ELOST is the most pressing need we have. Thank you for the opportunity to share my vision for Rome City Schools.  As a Rome graduate, husband of a Rome teacher, father of two Rome students, and a current board member, I’m passionate about the future success of our system.”

Please note key dates:

  • Oct. 10: The last day to register to vote if you’re a lapsed or new city resident.
  • Advance voting begins Oct. 16 and ends Nov. 3.
  • The election is Tuesday, Nov. 7.
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