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Better Know a District: Board of Education District 3

There's a stark difference between Board of Education candidates Jen Falk and Mary Kay Murphy the two, and recent GCPS controversy makes it harder to be objective.

Admittedly, schools were not amazingly high on my list of priorities when I bought our current house.  We had confidence that the Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) were better than average, so that was enough to check it off the list.

But now that I'm actually thinking in terms of what and how will my family will use these services (and how much they cost), I realized that there's more to it than just GCPS furloughing teachers to make ends meet.

Enter this year's election for Board of Education (BoE). Here is an opportunity for us to get to know the candidates, issues, and most importantly, contribute to a debate on them. I didn't know that there was an "establishment" for the school system, much the same way there is an "establishment" of politicians on the left and right. I also didn't know GCPS was as complex as it is.

With that, I'd like to introduce the two candidates for GCPS BoE District 3:  (I've listed the incumbent last, since they already get a bump for being the incumbent)

Jen Falk
(Campaign Site | Chamber of Commerce Bio)

Initial Impression:  Website is chalk full of information, she brings charter school experience to the table, and a focus on children and parents.

After email conversations:  Questions were answered directly and completely, and the tone was one of empowerment and education.

What to watch for:  Stated positions on recent GCPS issues, more great information for becoming an expert on School Issues, and a new vision for GCPS.

Mary Kay Murphy (Incumbent)
(Campaign Site | Chamber of Commerce Bio)

Initial Impression:  She's got a PhD, served for 16 years, and seems like a nice lady.

After speaking on the Phone:  Less impressed - her answers seemed very rehearsed, and she could not give specifics answers to my questions.  However, she did take the time to have a very nice phone call with me.  I left feeling like she tried to play me and spin my questions.

What to watch for:  Specific ideas and positions on Charter Schools, GCPS funding for Lobbyists and Chamber staff, and articulating how new programs will help GCPS.  

I  didn't know how the current BoE spent our tax dollars, which "investments" earned priority from the BoE, and more importantly, how my neighbors and friends viewed the GCPS.  The issues up for grabs this go around are immense, and the candidates couldn't agree less on how to best use the tax dollars, provide parents flexibility and choices, and partnering with other groups to build GCPS.  

I encourage you to go to Jen Falk's website to check out all the wonderful resources she has posted about Charter Schools, the GCPS Budget, and her vision for GCPS.

I also encourage you to call Mary Kay Murphy and visit her website to get her take on some of the issues affecting you and your children, as well as her vision for GCPS.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Annette Rogers September 04, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Tom, the lack of student success in using a Georgia math curriculum has affected up to 70% of students who either failed an EOCT (end of course test) or at least one semester of a high math class. I think the problem was not as much with the curriculum as with the lack of experience and resources. Not sure the age of your grandchildren, but the way my daughter and some friends in the class of 2012 succeeded was to take their Junior and/or Senior math classes at Georgia Gwinnett College as dual enrollment students. My daughter's Junior year she took Algebra and Statistics at GGC (and made A's) which satisfied not only her high school math requirements but also 2 college semesters of Math credits! Jen Falk has assisted other parents in options that help students to graduate on time after failing Math. Since failing Math also affects GPA, dual enrollment options, and HOPE scholarship it gets pretty stressful. Some students are able to make up the time by transferring to a school with block scheduling since they can get more credits in a year. But, you really can't make up the grade nor the negative impact ineffective instruction has on a student.
Al Viller September 04, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Kevin, my experience has been the same as yours... with both candidates. Personally, I'm supporting a true advocate for our children - Jen Falk, as opposed to a career politician - the incumbent.
PTC Concerns September 04, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Everyone who wants any kind of improvement needs to vote for Jen Falk and you need to encourage your friends to do it as well. I have spoken with Dr Murply on several occasions and been present when she has spoken to others. To my recollection she has never given an actual answer or anything that resembles an answer. GCPS are at a critical point and if the school board and the county don't get together and get our class sizes and budgets under control it is going to be a disaster. Every elementary school in the Norcross High district is overcapacity and teachers are overburdened with too many students. (except for white castle). The Esplost is a waste and won't address any of our most critical issues. The current school board has no solution to this problem and to my knowledge are not concerned. Take a close look that the length of time the current GCSB members have been on the board. It looks to me like they need some term limits. I say vote them all out over the next few years. JEN FALK for DISTRICT 3.
Sara September 08, 2012 at 06:23 PM
My personal and professional dealings with both candidates started about 2 years ago. As I look at old e-mails from both women that were written long before they were candidates, I really believe Jack's first impression is absolutely correct. Dr. Murphy seemed like a very nice lady, but never really shared any original ideas or solutions. Ms Falk was very direct, approachable, and more concerned with finding real solutions to real problems. While I appreciate the time Dr. Murphy has given, I also believe that the future of Gwinnett County's children is much brighter in the hands of Ms Falk.
Sue Swanson September 27, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Hi! I just want to say that I don't think Gwinnett County (or any county) could find a better advocate for parents, students, teachers, and schools than Jen Falk. I have known Jen for about 7 years. I met her when she was heading up a volunteer reading program at Duluth Middle School. Of course, she did a terrific job! Later, I asked her for help and guidance regarding a curriculum issue. Jen could not have been more willing to help me, although I had not seen her for 2-1/2 years. She helped me understand what was going on in the context of school policy and she referred me to some people who also were very helpful. She met with me, emailed with me, talked with me on the phone, and even attended a meeting with me, all on her own time! Jen is a very kind, compassionate, strong, knowledgeable, and effective person. She has the success of our children and the success of effective schools at heart. There is no doubt in my mind that Jen Falk would be the BEST GCPS BOE District 3 representative!

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