I-TEAM meets with Richmond County Dist. 2 school board candidates

Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 6:46 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Richmond County schools have nowhere to go but up. The district is challenged with failing schools, poor academics, and poor attendance.

Now it’s up to the public if they want to see a leadership change.

Our I-TEAM continues to shine a light on systemic problems like homeless and special needs students not getting the aid they need.

Our Liz Owens is sitting down with the people trying to get your vote for District 2 on the school board.

Five schools sit in this district, including CT. Walker Magnet, Murphy Middle, Wheeless, Wilkinson Gardens Elementary School, Butler, and Josey High School. The majority of which are failing schools.

The incumbent: Charlie Hannah, Augusta native, Richmond Academy graduate, Augusta Tech graduate, licensed electrician, black belt, and foster father.


The pastor: Rev. Larry Fryer. Paine College graduate, retired Richmond County educator, a man of faith, and 30-year resident of Augusta.

Liz: “What do you think is the biggest challenge or problem if you could pinpoint anything facing Richmond County schools today?”

Hannah: “Discipline, discipline. “I think one of the biggest impediments to successfully educating our kids is classroom management, discipline issues…respect.”

Liz: “How has that changed over the pandemic?”

Hannah: “It has been more challenging.”

Data from the Georgia Department of Education shows more than 2,000 students in the district got in trouble last year. More than 150 were from District 2 schools.

Hannah believes part of the answer is giving control of the classrooms back to the teachers.

Hannah: “A significant amount of our teachers are there because they love the art of teaching, yet the burnout factor is high simply because of one particular issue: classroom management, and discipline. It gets to a point they don’t feel they are being supported.”

It’s the reason he believes the district struggles to retain well-certified teachers. The I-TEAM found the number of educators teaching on waivers jumped 150 percent over the pandemic in Richmond County. Fryer believes pay plays a big part in turnover in the district.

“I pushing for higher salaries, not only for teachers and they need our support because we need more certified teachers in the schools. I am also pushing for bus drivers and certainly our custodial and lunch room workers because they have to live, and we need to make sure we can do all we can do that make sure they have higher salaries.”

Liz: “What do you think will be the biggest challenge issue if you are elected?”

Fryer: “I would say the biggest issue will be academics.”

The state gave Josey and Butler High schools an ‘F’ rating on its last report card, pre-pandemic. Academics, attendance, and graduation rates are a few of the factors which make a school’s grade.

Liz: “Why do you think Richmond County schools have been failing for so long?”

Fryer: “I think they have been failing if you don’t have the right people in place, you going to have some problems.”

Fryer believes in a hands-on approach, the same approach he practiced as an educator at the alternative school.

“We’ve got to be there for them. We can’t do it set up in some office. You got to get out there, which is what I’ve been doing and still want to do,” he said.

Hannah wants to continue to give students an alternative to college that will pay well.

“We got too much going on in the CSRA. We do not have enough talent to fill the void when it comes down to trade,” said Hannah.

Liz: “Why should people vote for you over Hannah?”

Fryer: “I am going to say why they should vote for me is because I have classroom experience. I have worked in the system all these years. I have done as much as I could. I don’t have the policy-making experience that he does, but I do have the classroom experience as a certified teacher.”

Hannah: “You should vote for me because I want to continue my mission to advance trade education, which is something Richmond County schools are leading in the CSRA. I think it’s critically important we have an advocate particular for that avenue and advocate who understands the lifestyle and where our children come from. I can relate to our kids. I can relate to our struggling households.”

Two kinds of experience but a shared passion to make a change in Richmond County schools.

Yiet Knight is also running for District 2. She is the owner of Universal Childcare and Learning Center. Knight did not respond to our multiple requests for an interview.

We sat down with every candidate running for the school board. On Monday, you will hear from the candidates for District 7, Charlie Walker and Brittiany Broadwater.