Fayette Board of Education Republican Post 4 candidate Jane Owens responds to questions from The Citizen

BoE Post 4 Republican runoff candidate Jane Owens. File photo.

The July 22 Republican runoff election for the District 4 seat on the Fayette County Board of Education is just two weeks away. To give voters the opportunity to hear from the candidates, The Citizen asked Jane Owens and Diane Basham to respond to seven questions with short answers of 100 words or less to each query.

Below are the questions and the responses from candidate Jane Owens.

1. Given that Coweta County operates a significantly larger school system (expenses for next year of $173 million compared to Fayette’s $170.5 million) and yet has a lower millage rate (18.59 mills), it appears on the surface that Coweta spends money more efficiently. What is your opinion on this? And at what point and under what conditions would you support a reduction in the millage rate to Fayette taxpayers?

Owens: “It does appear, on the surface, that Coweta County School System might be operating more efficiently. In Fayette we spend $8,318 per student and Coweta spends $7,751 per student. The real question we have to consider is ‘what do we determine to be quality education and how much does it cost to provide that’? Based on recommendations from the superintendent and finance department, it has been determined that it takes a millage rate of 21.45 to provide the monies needed to achieve our goals. We should always be carefully analyzing our budget to see if it needs streamlining. However, it is important to provide the necessary funding to maintain our high standing in the state. The millage rate should continue to go down as the debt service is paid down,” Owens said.

2. What do you see as the role of a school board member?

Owens: “The role of a school board member is to work collaboratively with other school board members and the superintendent to set policy, cast an inspirational vision and manage the budget in order to insure that each student in the county is the recipient of the best possible educational experience, training, and development,” said Owens. “Perhaps the most significant role of the school board is to thoughtfully and thoroughly select the superintendent so that policies and day-to-day operations are carried out in the most effective and efficient manner. Maintaining a strong and well-functioning relationship between the board and the superintendent is absolutely essential to the strength and success of the school system.”

3. Describe the areas of your background and competency in developing the school system’s budget.

Owens: “My background in music and in education has provided me tools for learning that can be applied to any situation. In acquiring a bachelor’s degree in music education and performance and a master’s degree in education, I have learned discipline, diligence, paying attention to details, perseverance and the importance of in-depth study and a willingness to learn. My commitment as a board member will be to make use of the excellent training tools, such as those available on the GSBA (Ga. School Boards Association) website and to seek advice and counsel from those with expertise in finance and budgeting,” said Owens.

4. Given the continued decline in student enrollment since 2007 (approx. 22,300 kids) compared to today (approximately 20,200), what do you see happening with school system enrollment and how will you respond to it?

Owens: “To deal with the issue of declining school population, the first response is to be flexible in making adjustments in staffing and resources as needed. We may be faced with some difficult decisions if this trend is not reversed,”Owens said. “More importantly, we need to be proactive in attracting young families to this county to counteract the aging population. This can be accomplished through strong public relations and marketing efforts and by working with local businesses and the Fayette County Commission to promote and provide affordable housing options. We also need to draw businesses to our county to provide jobs for young families.”

5. What is your philosophy on redistricting?

Owens: “The goal in any redistricting process is to achieve the best possible outcome for students and the system, while seeking to cause the least amount of disruption,” said Owens. “Parents, teachers and administrators should input decisions so that all parties feel their views were acceptably included in the decision. Emotions often run high in issues that involve change and realignment of schedules, activities, relationships and allegiances, so it is essential that all involved strive to be objective and not self-seeking. Special interest groups should never be given preferential treatment. Clusters and subdivisions should be kept intact as much as possible.”

6. In terms of your political philosophy, to whom do you owe your first allegiance: school system employees, voters and taxpayers, or the children?

Owens: “A school board member is primarily accountable to students and parents in helping set policies that will result in the best possible educational opportunities and outcomes for each student. Voters and taxpayers have a large stake in this process, so they should be thoroughly informed and involved in a meaningful way. Employees must be generously taken care of so that our primary goal of high-quality education of the students is achieved. Every decision should always be based on what is best for the students,” Owens said.

7. The final question dealt with the candidate’s response to a recent letter from a member of a parent booster group who made claims about Basham and urged parents to vote for Owens.

Owens: “In response to this email, I want to make it clear that this was unsolicited and I was not aware of its existence until June 27. My passion and position on the value of quality arts programs are personal and professional. Four of our children have gone through college on music scholarships and two participated in Governor’s Honors music program. Their success was largely due to their participation in band and choral programs available to them here in Fayette County. These programs, as well as the orchestra program, are highly appealing to parents seeking a quality school system for their children. I am disappointed that the 5th grade band and orchestra programs were eliminated. I sincerely hope we can find a way to make them a reality in our system once again,” said Owens.

[Jane Owens, 63, is a 24-year resident of Fayette County. She has been a teacher and musician for more than 40 years, with public schools in Cambridge, Mass., private school teaching at Pace Christian Academy in Fayetteville and in homeschool education.

Owens has served on staff in churches in Georgia and Florida for more than 30 years as a staff accompanist and director of children’s choirs.

Owens is a graduate of Ithaca College with a bachelor’s degree in music education and performance. She graduated from the University of Louisville with a master’s degree in education.]

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