Incumbent Eric Burrell and challenger Gary Minyard outline their platforms in the race for the Post 1 seat on the Franklin County Board of Education.
BOE incumbent Burrell seeks to continue progress
Editor’s note: The Franklin County Citizen Leader presented each local candidate with a set of general questions ahead of the June 9 primary. Stories written from the answers provided will be published over the next few weeks ahead of the election.
ROYSTON – Incumbent Eric Burrell is proud of the work of the Franklin County Board of Education during his first term as the Post 1 representative and wants to continue that work.
“My platform is that we are going to stay the course,” Burrell said. “I sincerely believe in our vision and that we are heading in the right direction. If the voters agree with that, and they also believe that we are heading in the right direction, then I would humbly ask for their vote. If a voter believes we are not heading in the right direction, then I understand that they would vote for my opponent. I am very proud of what we have accomplished and what lies ahead, and I support that vision moving forward.”
Burrell is seeking his second term on the board. He was elected in 2016.
“When deciding to run for the Board of Education almost five years ago now, I took a long hard look into my life to see what I possessed that would be of value to the position,” he said. “I narrowed them down to three qualities: family man, servant and businessman.”
Burrell and wife Lisa Monroe Burrell have been married for 31 years and have a daughter, Mary Catherine Burrell Cisson.
“Both Mary Catherine and Lisa have been directly impacted by the Franklin County School System,” Burrell said. “Mary Catherine is an alumni, while Lisa has spent 28 years teaching for [Franklin County Schools.”
Burrell and his family are members of Royston Baptist Church, where they have been active for 30 years. He has also been a volunteer firefighter for the Royston Fire Department for 16 years.
“I believe that service should be done with pride and to the best of your ability, regardless of what level you are serving,” he said. “As a businessman, I pride myself in creating focused goals and measuring those goals to track their progress in order to make informed decisions when moving forward.”
As the owner of Royston Pest Control, Burrell has provided services to the citizens of Franklin County and surrounding counties for the past 21 years.
“I think that while all of these things provide an insight into the qualities that I will continue to bring to the Franklin County Board of Education, I also want to mention a need for balance in life,” he said. “Family, service and business are all good things individually, but together with balance they are the best parts of me.”
The biggest challenge facing the school system in coming years is its finances, Burrell said.
“We are facing very tough times ahead in this area, and I am confident that my leadership will help us get through them,” he said. “Entering this fiscal year, we were $1.6 million over budget, with almost all of that due to recurring costs. Furthermore, our fiscal reserves are dangerously low. I charged the superintendent with presenting a balanced budget for the next fiscal year. Together we have already trimmed in excess of $1 million from that budget with even more savings projected for next year. Every economic indicator is predicting that the economy is going to slump, which means our revenues will be decreasing. That means that future boards will be left with two choices: one, increase our revenues, which would mean increasing the millage rate; two, continue to cut spending, meaning the district would live within its means. Having cut the millage rate three of my four years on the board and kept it the same the other year, I think I have provided a strong indicator that I will be a good steward of tax payer money.”
The Franklin County School System will be working in the coming year to implement its comprehensive five-year plan.
“This plan is a culmination of the desires of our entire community,” Burrell said. “The items in that plan such as JROTC, Pre-K, after school programs, better athletic facilities, an alternative high school, etc.., were driven by what all of our citizens want for our school system. Our community has put a lot of time and effort into creating that plan, I want to ensure that it is carried out.”
That plan ties into the leadership of Franklin County School Superintendent Chris Forrer, Burrell said.
“When I interviewed our current superintendent, he stated that it was his vision was that Franklin County Schools would become the premier school system in our region,” Burrell said. “That spoke to me. I believe that is the change I would most like to see. I want our students to be the best at everything: academics, but also athletics, agriculture, CTAE, fine arts, and everything else we do. If we are going to do it, why not do it with excellence? I know that I, along with the rest of our board, and all our employees will make this a reality. As my late coach Billy Henderson used to say, ’It can be done!’”
Veteran educator Minyard wants 'elite' school system
ROYSTON – Thirty-eight years as a teacher in the Franklin County School System has provided Gary Minyard with a host of relationships he said will serve him well as a member of the board of education.
“As part of my job as an agricultural educator, I was required to make home visit to evaluate students SAE’s (Supervised Agriculture Experience), therefore I have developed a working relationship with many parents and students in the county,” Minyard said. “This experience has given me an insight into the need and wants of our citizens. I also have a working relationship with many of the businesses and industries in the county.”
Minyard is running for the Post 1 seat on the Franklin County Board of Education.
He retired from teaching in 2014 after 39 total years in public education. Since retiring, he has worked as an adjunct professor at Emmanuel College for four years.
Minyard and wife Libby operate Sandy Cross Farms, producing Simangus cattle and operating a seasonal greenhouse in the spring.
After graduating from Franklin County High School in 1971, he continued his education at Emmanuel College and the University of Georgia, earning bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degrees in education.
Minyard has been a member of an educational professional organization, serving as a vice president and on many committees.
He is active in Zidon Baptist Church, serving as a deacon and Sunday School superintendent. He presently serves as chaplain for the Franklin County Young Farmers and is on the Hart EMC Foundation Board.
If elected, Minyard said his priority will be to work to improve test scores across all grades in the system.
“I am and have always been a competitor,” he said. “If elected I will apply this competitor spirit when it comes to improving our test scores. Ranking in the middle of the pack is not acceptable. I would support developing incentives to boost morale amongst teachers.”
The coronavirus pandemic is causing a challenge for the system, Minyard said.
“One of the biggest challenges facing the school system is bringing all students up to speed on all classes because they have missed five months of classroom instruction,” he said. “ I realize parents are doing their best at teaching their children at home but this is no substitute for classroom instruction.”
The school system’s budget will also be a challenge, he said.
“As always, finances present a challenge,” Minyard said. “I pledge to be a vigilant steward of the people’s resources. If elected, I would keep a careful eye on the budget so we would not need to raise the millage.”
The candidate said he would like to see the Franklin County system develop aggressive teacher recruitment strategies to recruit highly qualified teachers he believes will contribute to increasing test scores.
“I would like to see our system develop a program to aid in teacher retention,” he said. “Nationally, the overall turnover rate is currently about 16 percent. Retaining highly qualified teachers would contribute to increasing test scores.”
Minyard said he wants Franklin County to have an “elite” school system.
“By elite, I mean a system that prepares students for their next step in life,” he said, “whether that be a four-year college, technical college or enter the work force or become an entrepreneur. I will support all areas of our educational system, academics, agricultural/career technical education, fine arts, physical education and students with disabilities. I support our athletics and extracurricular organizations and activities.”