The Dade Sentinel conducted a Q and A between Dade County School Board Candidates Dr. Jayne Griffin and Brooke Wilson on July 10 ahead of the upcoming runoff election.
Each candidate was asked the exact same five questions. Questions ranged from SPLOST funds to the COVID-19 pandemic and the quality of Dade County Schools.
When asked how she and the board would use SPLOST funds, Wilson said she would determine which educational programs need the most monetary assistance. However, Wilson said that if there was enough money given to the schools after the April 12 tornado to aid struggling programs, she would encourage the SPLOST funds to be set aside.
“I think we should put the SPLOST money in savings,” Wilson said.
In regards to how Griffin would use SPLOST funds, she said that she is not fully aware of the greatest needs of funding and where additional funds come from that could potentially cover them.
“I think it’s presumptuous for me to say at this point,” Griffin said.
Wilson was asked her opinion of how well the schools handled the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that as a mother of four daughters, who all attend Dade County High School, she believes the schools did the best they possibly could to ensure the safety of students, parents, faculty and staff. Her only personal complaint was that grades were not sent back to her children in a timely manner. Wilson believes that now that the school has learned more about how to handle COVID-19, the plans to reopen on Aug. 7 will likely run a lot smoother.
Griffin said the schools did the best they could with the information they had, adding that consistency was the only thing lacking, which she said was hard to do without time to plan.
“I think the schools handled it in the best way that they could,” Griffin said. “This is new territory for everybody and we’re all learning.”
If Wilson could change anything about how the schools tackled COVID-19, she said she would have worked with parents who did not have internet access to find a way to effectively help their children continue to learn.
Griffin said that if she were in charge of handling the school’s efforts during the pandemic, she would have used a three-tier system that placed top priority on the safety of the students.
“[That] goes without saying,” Griffin said.
Griffin said the second tier would focus on how to support families and the third would focus on how to support the teachers.
When asked if the Superintendent position should be an elected position or remain as an appointed position, Wilson was not shy in her response.
“We live in a democracy,” Wilson said. “I believe the Superintendent should be elected.”
Griffin had a different opinion.
“[Superintendents] should not be elected,” Griffin said.
Griffin said the appointee system currently in use best represents the community because the board members are elected on behalf of the people and the Superintendent is not tied to politics.
Wilson said that while she cannot speak for the larger schools of Atlanta, she is very familiar with Hamilton County schools and how they compare to Dade’s quality of education. Wilson said that Dade’s basic-level classes can compete with any metropolitan school around. However, in terms of honors and advanced placement classes, Wilson believes these classes are not encouraged and emphasized the way they should be.
“These classes can better prepare students for college,” Wilson said.
Griffin said that the numbers for Dade speak for themselves, referencing the county’s exceptional College and Career Readiness Performance Index, which determines the number of career-ready graduates. Griffin added that Dade’s graduation rates are also higher than most metropolitan schools.
“Dade County is far superior,” Griffin said.
Griffin also said Dade’s additional programs are diverse and set the school apart from bigger ones.
“I would put Dade County’s extracurricular [activities] up against anybody.”
However, Griffin said the number one factor that puts Dade schools above the rest is the close-knit community and the relationships that can be formed between teachers and students.
Early voting for the runoff election begins on July 20.
Election day is on Aug. 11.