Calling the Muscogee County School District "broken," John "Bart" Steed officially started his campaign for the school board's District 2 seat Tuesday.
About 30 supporters stood behind Steed as he spoke on stage in the Columbus Public Library auditorium.
Steed, 55, owns Kar-Tunes Car Stereo. He is one of four candidates for the District 2 seat. John Wells, 74, a businessman with interests mainly in property management and construction, is a 28-year incumbent. Training and development coordinator Victor Morales, 55, and IRS agent John F. Thomas, 59, are the other challengers.
"There is no equity in our schools," Steed said in his speech. "Our teachers are underpaid and underappreciated. Our transportation system is out of date and unreliable. And our school board, quite frankly, has failed our students and our city."
Steed criticized the disparity among the district's schools.
"I feel like the students should be able to receive a quality education no matter which school they attend," he said. "I'll work to put an end to the good-ol'-boy system that has hampered the performance of our schools. I will not go along to get along, nor will I be bullied into compromises that hurt our children's education."
In an interview after his speech, Steed was asked to be specific about what he called "corruption" on the school board. He accused the board of approving an air-conditioning contractor despite the company missing the bid deadline. He also blasted the board for renewing its no-bid contract with Columbus law firm Hatcher, Stubbs, Land, Hollis & Rothschild LLP, making it the only legal counsel in the board's 64-year history.
"I'm sure Hatcher Stubbs is a wonderful company, but they should have to bid for their job just like anybody else does," Steed said. "I have to bid for my jobs, and they should too."
Steed, a political rookie, serves on the advisory board for the school district's automotive shops. He has lived in Columbus since he was 3 years old and graduated from Kendrick High School in 1976. He and his wife, Cindy Riddick Steed, have two adult children, Stephanie and Patrick, who were educated in Muscogee County schools.
"John Wells has had 28 years to prove himself," Steed said. "He's had 28 years, a quarter of a century, to do what he feels like he needs. It's obvious that if you can't get it done in 28 years, why would you run again?"
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow Mark on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.