Grimes said she is proud to be in a school system “admired by many.”
“It just shows we have done something right,” Grimes said. “I am glad to be part of that team.”
Grimes has been in the hospitality business for 20 years and plans to go back to school, most likely to Kennesaw State University, to complete a marketing degree, she said.
After living in Kennesaw for years, Grimes said she moved inside the city of Marietta six years ago and has seen the area transform and progress with new developments.
“Every need is met within the city” and there is the added feature that her home is within walking distance to the Square, Grimes said.
This holiday season, the Grimes home was filled with her family, including her three grown children, her daughter Sydnee, 14, who attends Marietta High School, and six grandchildren, most of whom live in Marietta.
“My future is my children and my grandchildren,” Grimes said.
Venturing into politics
Grimes said she never thought she would get into politics, but always had a desire to be involved in “what our future can be.”
Grimes’ mother and Cobb County NAACP president, Deane Bonner, agreed.
Bonner said being in public office was not a long-term goal of Grimes, “but the opportunity came and she was the best candidate.”
Marietta school board Chairman Randy Weiner said he has met with Grimes several times in the last couple of months. Grimes is very open to learning and gathering information, Weiner said.
“She seems very eager to be on the board,” Weiner said.
Bonner said the four-year term will allow for a learning curve so Grimes can become the kind of representative the residents want her to be.
“The advocacy is there. … You can have the passion going in, but you have to know the procedures,” Grimes said. “She has to learn the lay of the land.”
Grimes said she has no preconceived notions and will spend time learning the school system’s policies.
Grimes added she will learn how to be an effective member from the veterans on the board, and through the leadership of Superintendent Emily Lembeck, who was Grimes’ oldest daughter’s second-grade teacher.
Black community leader
As a “military brat” born in Ohio, who has lived in Portugal and Turkey, Grimes said she never saw race as a dividing factor.
While attending Sprayberry High School, “there were the blacks and the whites. That was different for me,” Grimes said.
The Marietta school system is a minority-majority district. Out of 8,300 students, 44 percent are black, 31 percent Hispanic and 19 percent white, according to an executive summary released by Lembeck in 2012.
In 2012, Marietta High School’s graduation rate was 67 percent for all students. However, the rate for white students was 85 percent, and the rate of black students was 61 percent.
“There certainly needs to be a concern about the ratio of African-American men graduating,” Bonner said.
Bonner said there is also a need to restructure how discipline is handed out to young students. The no-tolerance policies can be too harsh, often ending in handcuffs and being booked in the county jail, Bonner said.
As an organizer and advocate, Grimes has been heavily involved with the NAACP for 12 years, serving as vice president with the local chapter.
Grimes said she is concerned about the amount of transient students across the whole system, but said the board and administration are “not putting their heads in the sand.”
Grimes said she is glad the education of black students is a concern for everyone because work needs to be done, especially with young men “on how to pull them into the game.”
The Jeriene Grimes file:
Children: Sydnee, 14, Sebastian, 26, Jazz, 28, and Brittney, 31; plus five granddaughters and a 1-month-old grandson
Residence: Off Washington Avenue, across from the Marietta National Cemetery
Occupation: Independent contract event manager
Prior experience: Vice president of the PTSA Council for Marietta City Schools