Meet the candidates: Marietta Board of Education
by Jon Gillooly
November 03, 2013 11:32 PM | 2317 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — The Marietta Board of Education will see some new faces after Tuesday’s election with two of the seven board members opting against seeking re-election.

Ward 5 board member Stuart Fleming is challenging Annette Lewis for a seat on the Marietta City Council. Two candidates hoping to replace him on the school board are Jeriene Grimes, daughter of Cobb NAACP president Deane Bonner, and Marietta dentist Paul Gilreath.

Gilreath vs. Grimes for Ward 5:

Gilreath, a Marietta High School graduate, operates a dental practice near Kennestone Hospital. His children attend the Marietta Sixth Grade Academy and Marietta Center for Advanced Academics.

Grimes, who has a daughter at Marietta High School, serves as vice president of the PTSA Council for Marietta City Schools.

Grimes said the existing board, which does not have any minority members, is not reflective of the community.

“It needs to be reflective of what the school system looks like,” Grimes said.

Marietta’s 8,800 students are about one-third black, one-third Hispanic and one-third white, said school board Chairman Randy Weiner.

Grimes said she is pleased with the leadership of Superintendent Emily Lembeck.

“We’ve kind of grown up together,” Grimes said. “She was my oldest child’s favorite teacher at West Side.”

Along with electing new school board members, voters will decide whether to approve a $68 million bond that would be mostly used to buy aging apartment complexes along Franklin Road and raze them, preparing the way for redevelopment.

Gilreath supports the bond, while Grimes is not taking a position on the issue.

Ward 2 board member Tony Fasola chose not to run again. Running in his place is SunTrust banker Jason Waters, who is unchallenged.

Bittner vs. Clarke and Everett for Ward 1:

A third seat on the board also has the potential to change with Ward 1 board member Brett Bittner being challenged by Justin Clarke, an assistant vice president for Bank of America, and Chris Everett, who owns a rental property management company.

Clarke says politically, he leans Republican. He points out that with a daughter at Hickory Hills Elementary School, he is the only Ward 1 candidate with a child in the school system.

“I think that makes a big difference that I’m the only candidate that’s out there that has children in the school system,” Clarke said. “Brett does not and Chris does not. I feel like that vests me into that system saying, ‘Hey, I’m in it whether they succeed or fail as a school system.’”

Everett said he feels no need to respond to that argument.

“If he feels that that gives him an advantage, so be it,” Everett said. “My daughter is only 3, so she’s not ready to go to school yet.”

Everett, whose daughter is zoned for Park Street Elementary, describes himself as a political independent.

“I do vote for Republicans. I also vote for Democrats,” Everett said. “It depends on what the candidate is supporting. If it makes sense, I try not to lean to one side more than the other. I try to stay in the middle of the road.”

Bittner opposes the redevelopment bond, Clarke favors it and Everett is undecided.

Bittner, who is the executive director for the Libertarian Party of Georgia, said with three candidates in his race, there is the potential for a run off.

“It’s hard to tell,” Bittner said. “I feel good about the efforts that we’ve made. I’ve had an opportunity to talk to a lot of Mariettans as I’ve gone door to door since July. I think that a lot of people have appreciated that I’ve been at their door. It hasn’t been a random person advocating on my behalf.”

Weiner, who is not making any endorsements, says he will work with whoever is elected.

“I’m looking forward to our new board getting together and getting to know one another,” Weiner said.

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