School board: District 1 candidates tout their experience

Pat Hugley-Green has served 12 years on the Muscogee County School Board.

Al Stewart has 36 years of experience as a Muscogee County educator.

Both candidates believe their backgrounds make them the best option for representing Muscogee County School Board District 1 over the next four years. The nonpartisan election is May 24, with early voting starting May 2.

This isn’t the first time that Stewart has challenged Green, now the school board’s vice chair, for the District 1 seat. The two faced-off four years ago in an election where Green won 54.7 percent of the votes.

This time around, in addition to Stewart, Green also faces opposition from JoAnn Thomas-Brown, another retired educator. Brown is one of four first-time challengers endorsed by School Board Member Frank Myers. The Ledger-Enquirer tried reaching her by phone multiple times but the calls were never returned.

In an interview with the Ledger, Green, an insurance agent, said she has been an effective voice for District 1 as a three-term representative. In addition to her role as vice chair, she also serves on the finance and audit committees.

“My leadership has been largely effective because I came in in 2004 recognizing the importance and the value of collaboration, being able to work with others, being able to be accountable, being able to be responsive,” Green said. “Those are the things that parents need.”

Green is not a professional educator, but she said she believes the school board benefits from having a variety of professions represented to ensure excellence. As the parent of two elementary school children in the district, she also brings her perspective as a parent, she said.

“I think what differentiates me from the other candidates is that I currently have small children in the school system, and so the future of public education, the future of Columbus, is ever before me because I live with the challenges that public education is going through.”

Stewart, however, believes the district needs a representative who has actually worked as an educator. After serving 36 years in the district, he retired as assistant principal at Brewer Elementary School. He said many teachers are leaving the profession because they don’t feel supported by the school board.

“The only thing I can say about Pat Hugley Green is that she’s never been a classroom teacher as I have. She’s never been an administrator as I have” he said. “So I’m saying that I feel that I would be much more qualified to deal with a school situation than somebody that has not.”

If elected to office, Stewart said he would make sure that every child, including those with special needs, gets a quality education and is able to be a productive citizen upon graduation.

“Upon my being elected May 24, I’m going to be known as an active school board member,” he said. “Each week I’m going to go to my schools that are assigned to me, and I’m going to sit down with the principals and teachers and I’m going to ask them, “What can I do to help your school progress in terms of the kids learning?”

If reelected, Green said she would continue working to make sure educators have the tools that they need. She said the impact that the Georgia Milestone Assessment and Opportunity School Districts could have on students and educators are among her top priorities, and she will continue to work with educators who are impacted by her decisions.

“I like to have relationships with people so that we can work collaboratively and I can sleep at night with the decisions I make,” she said. “That’s accomplished by having effective leadership and not by standing guard at a school building’s door.”

Alva James-Johnson: 706-571-8521, @amjreporter

About the candidates

Name: Pat Hugley-Green

Age: 49

Education: Bachelor’s degree in broadcast communication, Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C.; master’s in leadership, Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tenn.

Occupation: Licensed insurance agent and student mentor coordinator at the office of State Farm insurance agent Carolyn Hugley; chief administrative officer for Hugley’s Facility Management Janitorial Service

Name: Al Stewart

Age: 73

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Columbus State University; master’s in educational administration, Georgia State University.

Occupation: Retired assistant principal of Brewer Elementary School after 36 years as an educator in the Muscogee County School District