Jolene Byrne

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Jolene Byrne
Jolene Byrne.jpg
Board member, Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education, President
Member-elect
Elections and appointments
Last electionJuly 22, 2014
First electedJuly 22, 2014
Term limitsN/A
Education
Bachelor'sArmstrong Atlantic State University
Master'sGeorgia Southern University
Personal
ProfessionCollege instructor
Websites
Campaign website
Jolene Byrne campaign logo
Jolene Byrne is the member-elect for the board presidency of the Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education in Georgia. She advanced from the May 20, 2014 general election to a runoff election on July 22, 2014 against David Simons. Simons announced his withdrawal from the race on May 22, 2014. Byrne defeated third-place finisher Chester A. Ellis in the runoff election to win the board presidency.[1]

Biography

Byrne earned a B.A. in English from Armstrong Atlantic State University. She also holds a M.A. in sociology from Georgia Southern University. Byrne taught at Coastal Comprehensive Academy and Groves High School before the birth of her son. She currently teaches sociology at Armstrong Atlantic State University. Byrne's son currently attends a school in the district.[2]

Elections

2014

See also: Savannah-Chatham County Public School System elections (2014)

Opposition

Jolene Byrne ran against Sadie C. Brown, Chester A. Ellis, George Seaborough and David Simons in the general election on May 20, 2014. Board president Joe Buck could not run for another term because of the seat's two-term limit. Byrne defeated Ellis in the July 22, 2014 runoff election.

Results

Runoff election
Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, Board President Runoff Election, 4-year term, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngJolene Byrne 73.1% 17,617
     Nonpartisan Chester A. Ellis 26.9% 6,496
Total Votes 24,113
Source: Georgia Secretary of State, "UNOFFICIAL COUNTY RESULTS," July 22, 2014
General election
Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, Board President General Election, 4-year term, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngJolene Byrne 40.1% 11,003
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngDavid Simons 21.5% 5,900
     Nonpartisan Chester A. Ellis 17.2% 4,736
     Nonpartisan Sadie C. Brown 10.7% 2,941
     Nonpartisan George Seaborough 10.5% 2,889
Total Votes 27,469
Source: Georgia Secretary of State, "OFFICIAL COUNTY RESULTS," May 20, 2014

Funding

Byrne reported $6,165.00 in contributions and $3,717.84 in expenditures to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, leaving her campaign with $2,447.16 on hand as of May 16, 2014.[3]

Endorsements

Byrne received the endorsement of former candidate George Seaborough ahead of the runoff election.[4]

Campaign themes

2014

Byrne explained her themes for the 2014 campaign on her campaign website:

I believe in the power of public education to lift up children, families and entire communities. It is vital that our school board stay focused on what matters most—ensuring that every child has an opportunity to live up to his or her full potential. Everything we do, every decision made, every program created, every contract awarded and every line item in the budget should reflect this goal.

Replicating our models of success

We already have excellent schools right here in our community. Charles Ellis Montessori, Garrison K8, Oglethorpe Charter School and Savannah Arts Academy are among the examples of what we are doing right. Some of these schools have rigorous admission criteria, while others are open to all who apply. In every one of these schools, far more students apply than can be admitted. There are hundreds of children on waiting lists. These schools are our models of success and we should be replicating these models so that more children have an opportunity to attend schools that work. No child should be denied the opportunity to reach his or her full potential because they didn't win a lottery.

Expanding the school day

Expanding the school day for low-income schools has been proven to effectively close the achievement gap for students. Extra time in the classroom will give struggling students more time to catch up, while also allowing schools to bring music, art, and physical education back into the school day. We know that without extra time in the classroom, many children are not going to meet performance standards. We must find a way to give them this time.

Improving graduation rates

While the graduation rate at Savannah Arts Academy is 100%, the graduation rates at most of Savannah's high schools are barely half that. The low graduation rate is about more than failing our students, it is about failing our community. High school dropouts are 72% more likely to be unemployed, are more likely to be on public assistance, and 80% of prisoners are high school dropouts. We need to give our high school students more time in the day to learn, and we need to engage community partners in programs similar to OneGoal to help them succeed. Most important, we must ensure that children entering the ninth grade are prepared for high school work. When students enter high school two or three grade levels behind, they know it is unlikely they will ever catch up. When children are hopeless, they become disruptive in the classroom and prevent other students from learning.

Involving community partners

Families and schools play a primary role in helping children succeed. Community partners are important as well. Whether it's deepening relationships our schools already have with organizations like 21st Century and the Deep Center, or creating new partnerships based on the models of OneGoal and the Mindful Life Project, we need to involve community partners in our mission to ensure every child has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.

Responsible spending

We face the daunting task of meeting the needs of an ever-growing population of students with an ever-shrinking budget. As we are forced to do more with less, it is vital that we identify areas where we can reduce costs. The current transportation system for students is inefficient and wastes millions of dollars a year. Moving specialty programs to where the majority of students in them live, creating hubs for specialty school transportation, and using shuttles instead of busses when only a few students are being transported are common sense solutions. When it comes to building, constant work order changes have wasted millions, as have excessive renovations to school buildings that are slated to be abandoned. The school board must create a long-range building plan for growth instead of wasting money on short-term solutions. Finally, we need to use data-driven program evaluations to determine if money spent on programs actually leads to student academic improvement.

[5]

—Jolene Byrne's campaign website, (2014), [6]

What was at stake?

Issues in the election

Negative posters target David Simons

Detractors of board presidency candidate David Simons placed posters at the locations of candidate forums to attack the candidate's qualifications for office. A series of posters placed by unnamed opponents featured a police photo of Simons from a 2000 arrest for battery. The posters used phrases like "David Simons: A Role Model for Our Children" and "David Simons: Are Temper Tantrums a Community Value." Simons countered that the posters highlighted his frontrunner status in the race. Fellow candidates Byrne, George Seaborough and Chester A. Ellis did not address the posters but criticized Simons for his failure to attend candidate forums in interviews with the Savannah Morning News.[7]

Ethics complaint against David Simons

David Simons faces an ethics complaint and civil lawsuit related to contacts he made with Superintendent Thomas Lockamy on April 16, 2014 and five school board members on April 17, 2014. Simons, the owner of The Simons Political Group, reached out to Lockamy to meet with representatives for Rives Worrell. Rives Worrell is a Simons client and a construction firm that holds a $21 million contract with the district to build a new school. The April 17, 2014 emails to board members requested assistance in resolving a dispute with Michelle Jervey, a contractor engaged in a dispute with Rives Worrell over minority hiring claims. All five board members contacted by Simons are white and no African American board members were contacted regarding Jervey.[8]

Jervey filed a civil suit against Simons on May 14, 2014 and seeks $10,000 in damages on the grounds that the emails could damage her ability to seek future employment. Local realtor Clint Murphy submitted a complaint with the Georgia Ethics Commission claiming that Simons is lobbying public officials without registering with the state. Murphy's complaint notes that Simons has not registered as a lobbyist since 2010 despite work done by his company. Simons has criticized both claims as baseless efforts at weakening his board candidacy.[8]

April 23 candidate forum

Byrne, Sadie C. Brown, Chester A. Ellis and George Seaborough participated in a candidate forum on April 23, 2014 sponsored by the Downtown Neighborhood Association. The candidates shared their views on how to close the gap between high-performing schools and struggling schools in the district. Byrne and George Seaborough agreed that the district needs to encourage communication among principals to reproduce successful programs across the district. Byrne and Seaborough both advocated for expanded pursuit of education grants and argued against raising property taxes. Sadie C. Brown and Chester A. Ellis countered that they would reserve judgement on property tax changes until the Georgia State Legislature addresses aid formulas. Brown advocated for consistent implementation of district policies while Ellis noted that successful students have parents who are engaged through high school.[9]

Issues in the district

Bus driver protests

Bus drivers working for Savannah-Chatham County Public School System protested in early May 2014 for annual contracts and benefits. The protesters demonstrated at a school board meeting in the first week of May 2014 and the First Student bus operations office on May 14, 2014. First Student is a private bus company that has a contract with the district. Requests for year-round contracts and benefits stem from House Bill 714, a bill passed in April 2014 by the state legislature that prohibits school district contractors from seeking unemployment benefits during school breaks. Bus drivers were employed directly by the district prior to the 2012-2013 school year and received wages during school breaks. House Bill 714 was sponsored by State Representative Mark Hamilton in order to save school districts throughout the state up to $10 million per year. The Teamsters Local 728 organized the May 2014 protests to highlight the financial impacts of the state law on 60,000 contract workers. First Student has indicated that driver wages during school breaks will be mentioned during future negotiations with the district.[10]

About the district

See also: Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, Georgia
Savannah-Chatham County Public School System is located in Chatham County, Georgia
Savannah-Chatham County Public School System is located in Chatham County, Georgia. The county seat of Chatham County is Savannah, Georgia. Chatham County is home to 278,434 residents, according to the United States Census Bureau.[11] Savannah-Chatham County Public School System is the 10th-largest school district in Georgia, serving 35,842 students during the 2011-2012 school year.[12]

Demographics

Chatham County outperformed the rest of Georgia in terms of higher education achievement in 2012. The United States Census Bureau found that 30.3 percent of Chatham County residents aged 25 years and older had attained a bachelor's degree compared to 27.8 percent for Georgia as a whole. The median household income in Chatham County was $45,653 compared to $49,604 for the state of Georgia. The poverty rate in Chatham County was 18.9 percent compared to 17.4 percent for the entire state.[11]

Racial Demographics, 2012[11]
Race Chatham County (%) Georgia (%)
White 54.7 62.8
Black or African American 40.2 31.2
American Indian and Alaska Native 0.3 0.5
Asian 2.6 3.5
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 0.1 0.1
Two or More Races 2.0 1.8
Hispanic or Latino 5.9 9.2

Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin, not a race. Therefore, the Census allows citizens to report both their race and that they are from a "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin simultaneously. As a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table will exceed 100 percent. Each column will add up to 100 percent after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages, although rounding by the Census Bureau may make the total one or two tenths off from being exactly 100 percent.[13]

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See also

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