District 1 incumbent Fannie Delaney and challenger Michael Kendall, as well as District 5 incumbent James Graham and challenger Syntel Brown stated their positions on a number of issues, as the forum was also designed to encourage people to vote in the general election on Tuesday.
District 1 candidate Freddie Phillips did not attend.
The forum offered a number of critical responses by candidates, such as when moderator Zay Williams asked about problems the local school system is facing.
Kendall pointed out an image problem he sees in the community, which “is way behind in academic achievement.” He said that Griffin is primarily perceived as a football town when the goal should be to boost academic success.
“We’ve got to become a community that promotes the education of our children. We need to show to our elementary students that there is more in life than football and basketball,” he said.
Brown seconded this view.
“We must challenge the status quo. It’s time for school board members to step up to the plate,” he said.
Delaney, the board’s current chairman, acknowledged that “we are not where we need to be, but we are not so far behind.” She said children are doing better and receiving the type of education that enables them to be successful in college.
When the issue of parent involvement came up, Kendall used the forum’s low turnout as an example of where he sees one of the problems.
“See how empty this room is? It’s an embarrassment for black folks,” he said, adding that it is challenging to get blacks involved in their children’s education when sports push everything else aside. “That’s the only thing black folks in Griffin are concerned about, is football,” said Kendall, who is black.
While not addressing any race group in particular, Graham said he wished more people had attended the forum.
“This building should be running over with people,” he said, adding that the school system and board members need to continue to reach out to parents.
In their closing remarks, candidates took the opportunity to campaign for themselves.
Brown said he thanked Graham for his many years of service on the board.
“However, I believe our children and county deserve better. I’ll propose ideas and not just go along with the status quo,” he said.
Graham emphasized the concept of the board working as a team.
“No one board member has the power. It’s not ‘I.’ It’s not ‘me.’ It’s us. The only reason someone should be on the board is to provide excellent education to our children,” he said.
Kendall said he has a lot of respect for the diligent educator that Delaney is but finds it frustrating to hear from her what the school system can’t do.
“You just have to make something happen and don’t accept ‘no,’” he said.
“I’m not a ‘can’t person.’ I’m a realistic person,” said Delaney. She said she would love to see a high school graduation rate of 100 percent in the spring, but that wouldn’t be realistic.