by Jim Morekis
‘We have to do whatever it takes’ An interview with Joe Buck, challenger for school board president
Connect Savannah: This was a very crowded school board field. Why do you think that is? Joe Buck: Two reasons, really. One is that a group came together about a year and half ago -- I was not a part of it – called the Chatham Education Coalition. It was a widely diverse group whose sole purpose was to get good candidates for the school board. They came up at meetings with a series of nonbinding but potential qualifications they’d
like to see. I think that created awareness. Connect Savannah: Unfortunately challengers I mean, this past election we had 19 canfor school board president are often disapdidates competing for spots on the school pointed when they find out how little power board and for president. I’ve the job actually has. been in Savannah 38 years, and as far back as I can reJoe Buck: It took the whole member it was usually a system being put on probasituation where almost all the tion to bring home how candidates for school board really under the law, the were reelected with very little board of education hires competition. the superintendent and The second reason -- and then provides that superinthis is by far the most importendent the resources. The tant one -- is that people are board enacts policy and the ready for a change. The whole intention is that the superschool system being put intendent will carry out that on probation created a real policy and make it work. wakeup call. For years I had This is not to say the been a Southern Association superintendent is not key to of Colleges and Schools site whole system. I don’t think Joe Buck visitor, and one thing I learned the board president needs from all that is that the last thing to get into telling Superinthey’d ever do is put somebody on probatendent Lockamy, you’ve got too many adtion. They’ve traditionally tried as hard as ministrators. However, the board does have they can to keep that from happening. So for a role in seeing that the superintendent and SACS to put this system on probation was a his staff are keenly aware of the need for efreally big deal. fectiveness and efficiency -- and sometimes As for me, I realized I didn’t want to rethose two are very different -- and to see that tire and do nothing. I felt like I had a lot of the money spent is spent to serve students valuable years left to serve the community. the best way possible. But there wasn’t really one defining moment.
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Connect Savannah: No Child Left Behind has received mixed reviews from educators around the country. What’s your view? Joe Buck: No Child Left Behind is not a lot different from most other federal and state mandates. All of education nowadays is so heavily mandated. Usually what happens in the real world is that people must of course find ways to comply with the law, but sometimes more logically and reasonably. No Child Left Behind calls more attention to some areas like disabled students than we have in the past. The negative side is that No Child Left Behind is heavily weighed toward grades and scores. We have to not forget it’s really all about the children. There’s not a person I know where, if they know they’re being, in essence, graded on how well their students do or company does on some kind of test, is not going to try to teach to the test. I think we’ll see some changes in No Child Left Behind, probably. And I think some of the state guidelines about education will change somewhat. Connect Savannah: You were at the recent PTA meeting at May Howard when a lot of parents voiced their discontent. What’s your take on that situation?
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Connect Savannah 11.29.06 www.connectsavannah.com
While he’s running as the outsider in the race for school board president, Joe Buck does have a wealth of experience to draw on, winning numerous awards in his 38-year career at Armstrong Atlantic State University. He can also boast being the biggest vote-getter by far in the Nov. 7 election which resulted in this Tuesday’s runoff with incumbent school board president Hugh Golson. While technically the position is nonpartisan, Buck is clearly the Republican in this race. His campaign is being run by local GOP consultant Dave Simons, and the candidate is prominently featured on mailouts from Gov. Sonny Perdue. Whether Buck can belatedly ride the coattails of Perdue’s recent reelection landslide remains to be seen, but he is clearly an electoral force to be reckoned with. We spoke to Buck last week.