Crystal Felty says residents of District 6 in Murray County deserve better representation on their Board of Education.

She disagrees with some ways the board has recently handled key issues, which has led to a recall hearing against board chairwoman Pat Hooker.

“As a candidate, I have nothing to do with the recall. But I know it’s a concerted effort on behalf of some people, and they are allowed to exercise that right,” Felty said. “People in this county are to the point of frustration, and they are not going to be ignored. They’re going to hold people accountable, and that’s probably what the recall effort stems from.”

Felty won September’s Republican primary against Scott Martin, 440 votes to 428. She faces Democratic incumbent Faye Brindle, who’s seeking her second term on the board, in Tuesday’s general election.

While Felty said former superintendent Charlotte Pipkin’s decision to not renew Gary Mealer’s contract as principal of Murray County High School is old news, she said she disagrees with the process the board underwent to find Pipkin’s replacement after her resignation.

She said the current board members should have waited until January, when new board members begin their terms, to hire a superintendent.

“In executive session, the current board decided to offer the job to Dr. (Vickie) Reed, and they have intentions of proceeding with negotiating her contract,” Felty said. “It’s a disservice to the new superintendent to have to work with a board when that person knows at least two, and possibly a third, will not be returning. The superintendent is going to have to turn right around in January and work with a new board.”

Felty said her disagreement with the board’s search has nothing to do with Reed, the curriculum director and former interim superintendent who was offered the job after the last remaining finalist, Pete Adams, was not hired. Two other finalists had removed themselves from consideration, and Hooker made the deciding vote to not hire Adams, a long-time educator in the county.

“We should have let (Reed) continue as interim, then let the new board make a long-term contract commitment,” Felty said. “People are not happy with the way the board went about making that decision. It could have been handled in a different manner. They should have taken some time and gone back and reopened the search; they did not do that.”

Felty, 35, a Murray County native, graduated from Murray County High in 1988 and works as a legal assistant with Lovingood Law Firm. She and her husband, Chris, a lab technician with Shaw Industries in Dalton, have one son, Grant, 12, who attends Bagley Middle School.

“We’ve been involved the last 11 years on both the educational and sports sides. Chris coaches ball, and Grant plays baseball and participates in Quiz Bowl and Math Bowl,” Felty said. “We also served as parent members of the elementary accreditation committee. My biggest qualification is that I have a child in the school system.”

Felty said she has attended school board meetings since August, which she says is the best way to familiarize herself with current issues, such as overcrowding at the high school. Felty agrees with some board members that Murray County needs a new high school and should begin by splitting the current high school during the 2008-2009 school year.

“The split is going to have to happen. After the last board meeting, they made the decision to hold off another year, for lots of different reasons, and that was probably wise,” Felty said, “but the high school is extremely overcrowded and has been for years. We’re at a situation where something has to be done, but we must look at long-range goals.”

It’s expected that one of the first acts of the new board in January will be to authorize a March ballot referendum that would allow citizens to vote on a new educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) to help fund construction of the new high school. That SPLOST, a 1 percent sales tax, is expected to raise almost $22 million of the estimated $50 million cost of a new high school. That SPLOST and future ones could be used to buy bonds to pay for the new school.

“The SPLOST is beneficial, but it’s not our only resource. I think we should definitely explore business partnerships so they invest in the school system. In return, they receive trained, educated employees,” Felty said. “We’ve got to think outside the box and maximize every resource we have. I can’t speak to how the companies might feel about it; it’s never been done.”

“We’ve got to do whatever it takes to build the school. We’ll probably be selling bonds,” Felty said. “I feel strongly we’ve got to sit down with the board, financial people and the state and look at all the possibilities and make an investigated decision.”

Felty said she would be able to work with any board member.

“I have no problems with any of them. I know everyone outside their capacity as board members,” she said. “We all have the same heartbeat; we want to do the absolute best we can for Murray County. I’m excited to help be a part of the potential in Murray County.”

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