BoE candidates to answer questions at forum Tuesday

The Fayette County Chamber of Commerce is hosting a forum Tuesday so voters can learn more about the two people running for the Post 2 seat on the Fayette school board, the only contested race for the Board of Education remaining to be decided.

The forum will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Peachtree City United Methodist Church at 225 Robinson Road in Peachtree City.

The decision facing voters is between incumbent board member Terri Smith, who switched her party allegiance this past spring to the Democratic Party, and her Republican challenger Mary Kay Bacallao, who lost to Smith in the Republican Primary four years ago.

“Dr. Jerry Arkin from UGA and Dr. Kevin Demmit from Clayton State are preparing the questions to be asked during the formal debate portion of the event, and Mr. Julius Pryor will be moderating the event,” according to Connie Sewell, communications manager for the Fayette Chamber.

“Those questions will cover a broad range of topics including finances, school board governance, school performance and metrics, 21st century classroom, school board/superintendent roles, and workforce preparation,” Sewell said in an email response to The Citizen. “After the prepared questions have been answered, there will be time set aside for questions from the audience.”

The Chamber’s chosen moderator, Julius Pryor of JPryorGroup, “will facilitate the interaction between the candidates as well as with the audience. As with all Fayette Chamber events, we will expect the participants and the audience to be civil and respectful of each other with the questions and answers throughout the event,” Sewell said.

There will be no shortage of issues to discuss, as the school board is facing a decision later this year on the closure of either three or five schools in an effort to save money and also react to declining student enrollment numbers over the past few years.

Outgoing School Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden has also enacted a spending freeze on all schools in the system as part of a detailed plan that aspires to trim $5 million in expenses for the current fiscal year. Bearden has resigned and will be leaving by Dec. 31.

Beyond the school closing and redistricting issues lies the matter of fiscal restraints as declining property tax revenue, dwindling student numbers and steep budget cuts from the state have translated into a significant drop in revenue for the school system.

The forum will be recorded and the Chamber plans to post the recording on its website as well, according to Chamber President Virginia Gibbs.