RAY CITY -- Two candidates vie for the Berrien County Board of Education Post two, covering the Ray City area. The winner of the non-partisan election on Aug. 20 will fill the position in January.

Joe Sizemore

A trip to India enlightened incumbent Joe Sizemore's view of education.

A teacher prior to and afterward his trip, he obtained a grant to study at the Maharajah University in Bombay and participated in an educational survey throughout the country.

"India relied heavily on testing," he said, adding that the country, at least during his time there in 1977, had a graduation exam that students had to pass. Consequently, he said, the school curriculum was modified. Instead of teaching subjects, the teachers were teaching the test. That's one of his concerns about education here in Georgia.

He also noticed a difference in the way the two countries deal with academic failures.

"In this country, when we have a failure, we tend to blame it on a lack on monetary resources," he said, adding that teachers and administrators there tend to find other ways to get the resources and use tried-and-true teaching methods.

"If it works, we ought not to abandon it just because something that costs more is available."

Born and raised in Berrien County, Sizemore, 70, graduated from Nashville High School, received a bachelor's degree in education from Georgia Southern Southern University, a six-year specialist degree in school administration and a master's degree from Valdosta State University. He taught high school math in Irwin County and science in Brooks County. He taught science and computer operations at Nashville Middle School from 1981-85. In 1992, he was the principal of the former Ray City Elementary School, retiring from the school system in 1997.

He's spent four years -- one term -- on the school board, and has been the board chairman for two years. Although he said he's proud of many things the board has done, including hiring a new superintendent and other personnel, that's not the thing he's most proud of.

He's proud of the fact that the system has chosen to focus more on school improvement and excellence. As a champion of community involvement, he's trying to get the board of education's policy online for public viewing. This, he feels, will enable parents and community members to better understand why the school system acts the way it does.

He's also involved in the Ray City Community Library, and is proud of the fact that he was instrumental in starting the facility. He added that he's pleased that the library has later hours on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday to accommodate Ray City students who otherwise might not be able to access a library afterschool. He said the Nashville Library closes around 5 p.m.

"The library is an essential assett for a community."

Charlotte Dasher Cook

Charlotte Dasher Cook, 53, said she wants community members to feel less intimidated by the school system.

"I just think that knowledge is power," she said, adding that the board should work together to make sure the public knows what the board is doing. After all, the public is entitled to know how the schools are doing.

"When you talk about education, you're talking about taxpayer money," she said. She worked for about 30 years with the state educational system, first in Atlanta at the Georgia Department of Education, in the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, spending about 16 years as a rehabilitation counselor at Tifton High School, Fitzgerald High School and Berrien High School, helping students with disabilities rise above their circumstances and develop life skills. It was a position she enjoyed. It was also one she said she was suited for: she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1971.

"I was able to reach a lot of people by having a disability myself," she said. And she's been involved with various activities for people with disabilities, from Special Olympics to assisting with multiple sclerosis walks.

Dasher received a bachelor's degree from Georgia S

tate University, and a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Georgia. Since Dasher has never been a teacher and has worked with education on the state level, she said she's looking at the educational system from an outsider's point of view. She said that the state board of education usually allowed local systems a great amount of freedom in interpreting policies -- at least when she worked there.

This is Dasher's first time running for office. Among the causes she hopes to tackle are pay raises for paraprofessionals and bus drivers. She said she'd also like to see more student-oriented programs, and said while she trusts the superintendent, she's not sure why a school system of Berrien County's size would need two assistant superintendents. She said she also fielded a complaint from someone who was concerned about a 10-year old science textbook, and the condition of the books.

"We need money to spend on what the students need," she said. "How can a student learn if they can't even read effectively from a book [due to the condition of the book]."

However, she's quick to say that while there are things she feels need improving in the system, she thinks the Berrien County school system is very good.

To contact reporter Marie Arrington, please call 244-3400, ext. 254.

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