Another local has thrown his hat in the ring for the District 4 seat on the Tift County Board of Education, which is currently being held by board member Rita Griffin, who will not seek re-election.
Keith Barr told The Tifton Gazette during an interview Monday that he decided to run because he has a unique perspective of Tift County schools every night around the dinner table due to his three children (a sophomore, eighth grader and third grader) being in the local school system and his wife, who is a teacher.
“So, I get the full perspective of what’s going on in the school system. I hear a lot of the issues on a daily basis, every night around supper,” he said.
Combined with his experience in business, as well as handling budgets and employees, Barr says these are assets he would bring to the board to help out with the things that are going on right now.
Barr works as a seed manager for the Georgia Division of the local business Crop Production Services, the largest agriculture retail company in the country. He has been with the company for about five years, but has been in agriculture all his life. He says he enjoys working with people.
Barr said he and his wife had the opportunity to live in Tifton in 1997 for about a year. They moved away and then returned. He said when they lived here before they liked what they saw in the school system. With Tifton being the “Reading Capital of the World,” they wanted to bring their children back here.
“We felt like the education system that was in Tifton at the time, and now, was a great place to raise our kids,” he said.
Barr is originally from Troy, Ala. and his wife is from Jacksonville, Fla. They’ve been living in Tifton for about 14 years.
“We love it here. We love Tifton. We have a lot of friends here. We love the town and the people. We love the school system,” he said. “A lot of good things positive are going on in Tifton right now.”
Although he’s originally not from Tifton, Barr says by being an outsider coming in, he can bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to the board.
“But, I think the No. 1 concern is educating our children with the constraints that the budget has on us and giving our teachers the assets or tools they need to get the job done,” he said.
He feels despite budget constraints the board has done a good job and made some good decisions handling the money the way they have.
“The budget, as big as it is, we still can’t lose sight of the end goal, which is giving the teachers everything they have to have to maximize the teaching with our children. I think I can bring some different ideas on that perspective,” he said.
When asked about the Common Core Standards in Georgia, Barr says at this time, he’s neither against it or for it. He said he’s learning more about it on a daily basis.
“It has its pros and it has its cons. It’s got some good uses and some bad. (I’m) still trying to determine where I stand on that. I know that Tift County has done a lot in training the teachers to get them adjusted to it or get them to learn it. I think we need to determine if that is the true direction we need to go on Common Core,” he said. “I know it’s a hot topic right now with a lot of people in the state, county and around the country. I know a lot of school systems are evaluating where they stand on it.” He added that he’s trying to determine what is the best option for Tift County.
Barr says Tifton has a great school system and fabulous educators.
“We have some of the best teachers in the state,” he said. “I think we need to give them all of the tools they need to get the job done.”
He said Superintendent Patrick Atwater and the board have done a good job with that.
“I think there may be a few things that could be tweaked here or there that could really improve some things,” he added. “All in all, I feel like the school system is going in the right direction.”
Barr said he’s all about doing what’s common sense — the right thing to do. He wants to do what’s right for the students and teachers.
“The end result is educating our children,” he said. “If you have two options and one of them makes sense and the other is a political move, obviously you go with the common sense move every time. There’s just no two ways about it.”
Barr later said serving on the school board has been something that’s been weighing on his mind for the last three or four years. He said he’s sat in on a few of the board meetings and talked to some of the members.
“I feel like I have something that I can gain or I can give to the board to help out with the problems they’re facing and to kind of help the overall system in general,” he said.
To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.