Southeast High School math teacher Tom Appelman doesn’t mind giving his opinion. It’s the way he was raised.
“I’m from a very rural, rural community,” he said. “In fact, my high school had a total of 100 kids in it, and a lot of them were my family.”
In the small town of Augusta, Ky., Appelman’s father was the mayor, and Appelman himself grew up wanting to be a teacher and basketball coach. He got his wish and taught and coached in Kentucky for 19 years before coming to Whitfield County Schools about 10 years ago.
This year, Appelman will be asked to give his opinion on a number of education issues facing the state. The veteran teacher was named recently to the governor’s Education Advisory Board made up of groups of school board members, superintendents, principals and teachers who will meet quarterly.
“The members of the board were recommended by various leaders and professionals in the education community,” said Stephanie Mayfield, a press secretary for the governor’s office. “It is a one-year commitment with quarterly meetings, and members will be expected to openly discuss any and all issues affecting education. It will be structured to have open, candid discussions.”
In addition to serving as the math department chair at Southeast, Appelman serves as a School Design Team Member and Instructional Leadership Team Member. In 2007 he was named Southeast Teacher of the Year, and he was a part of the Whitfield County Leadership Academy in 2008-2009. He is married to Valerie Taylor, a professor of business at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Appelman said he was caught by surprise when someone from the governor’s office contacted him a couple of weeks ago to ask if he would serve. He said that while it remains to be seen what kinds of issues the advisory board will be asked to address, his goal is to “do what’s best for the students in the state” as well as represent the concerns of teachers.
“You don’t like to think education is political, but it is,” he added. “... We have to make it through the next couple of years with this budget crisis. I think the imminent thing right now is how much money can we afford to cut in education and still give our students the things that they need.”
He said his teaching philosophy includes the idea that students should be prepared to live successfully in a global society and workforce. He also believes in using technology where appropriate. In fact, the entire math department at Southeast and in Whitfield County’s other high schools has developed its own curriculum, sans textbooks.
A former Whitfield County educator was named to the board as well. Alan Long, who was a principal for several years at Southeast High School, was named to the board in his role as principal of Jefferson County High School. Long resigned from his job at Southeast after accusations involving a small amount of temporarily missing money, but he has worked at Jefferson for the past year and said he was “very honored and humbled” by the appointment.
Long has spent 27 years in education, as a high school classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals and the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, and was a member of the State Superintendent High School Principal Advisory Committee.