The safety and security of schools is paramount, said Michelle Conerly, who qualified last week to run for the District 7 seat on the Carroll County Board of Education.
Conerly will run against Bryant Turner, a former educator who is now on the staff at Roopville Road Baptist Church, for the seat vacated by Dr. Jon Anderson, who accepted a job in Central Georgia.
Conerly said she has been involved with the county school system because she has a “heart and passion for the schools and the community” and has children in the school system. She has served for many years as a substitute teacher and volunteer.
School security, she said, is something that everyone agrees is important. “We have to provide a safe and secure environment for our children before any learning can take place.”
She said there are some interesting proposals now regarding school security that may be worth the county’s attention, citing a bill moving through the Georgia General Assembly that proposes assigning a state trooper to every school in Georgia.
“That is similar to what we are currently doing here in Carroll County with our school resource officers, who are highly trained law enforcement officers with years of training and experience,” Conerly said. “There is also similar legislation in Congress right now that could possibly offer schools resources to increase security measures and fund threat-assessment solutions for both schools and local law enforcement. These are great ways to partner school safety with public safety.”
Conerly said there is a related issue that needs to be addressed — mental health and the mental well-being of children.
“Anxiety, depression and stress are all issues that are increasingly common with our children today, and social media just amplifies it,” she said. “Our teachers are the first line of defense, and they in turn work with our dedicated school counselors to help children struggling with these issues.”
Conerly said the counselors in the school system have developed programs at school and have made innovative partnerships with programs like the one Carroll County Schools has with Willowbrooke at Tanner to offer services to students.
“Addressing the mental health needs of our children is equally important in the issue of safety and security of our students and schools,” she said. “We have the best teachers here in Carroll County Schools and I want to make sure our teachers and our students get all the resources they need to be successful.”
Conerly said that in order to have students succeed the community needs to support the teachers and their schools. Conerly said that one of the ways to do so is to partner with the superintendent to work at the state level to take some emphasis off “teaching to the test.”
“Teachers are often constrained by the emphasis on standardized testing and I would like to see us free up more flexibility for teachers so that they have more room to teach critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that they know are so important to our children,” Conerly said. “I have friends in business in the private sector who say this generation needs more critical thinking and soft skills to be successful in today’s workforce.”
Conerly said their main goal is to educate the students so they will be successful as they move on to the next level, whether in higher education or in their jobs.
Accessibility and accountability is another issue on which Conerly will campaign.
“I have been a part of this community virtually my whole life,” she said. “I graduated from Central High School in 1988, as did my husband. I have a daughter who graduated from Central and currently have two children still in the Central cluster.”
Conerly is married to Carrollton City Attorney Chuck Conerly. She said she has been actively involved as a classroom and school volunteer for the past 16 years and has served as a PTO officer at Central Elementary and Central Middle School.
“I have served as a substitute teacher in the Central cluster for the past 10 years, working alongside teachers and administrators and learning about our schools and our children on a daily basis,” she said. “I know our schools, I know our teachers and administrators, I know our students, and because of these relationships, I will be held accountable by this community, which is the way it should be.”