Several Eager to Fill Barge’s Spot as Superintendent

This is educator Kira Willis' second run for superintendent.
This is educator Kira Willis' second run for superintendent.
Credit Kira Willis Campaign

State Schools Superintendent John Barge, a Republican, announced in September he’s running for governor. That means his seat is up for grabs come November.  The field of candidates who want to replace him is already getting pretty crowded.

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Early entrants into the superintendent’s race include ousted DeKalb County school board member Nancy Jester and State Representative Alisha Morgan of Austell. Morgan is the only Democratic candidate so far. Jester is one of five Republican candidates. Two of them, Kira Willis and Richard Woods, ran for the position in 2010.

Willis ran as a Libertarian candidate that year.

“I still think we need to make some changes in Georgia,” Willis says. “I think we need to improve our education for our children. School choice is one of my big issues. A child’s zip code should not be the sole indicator of where that child goes to school.”

Woods, a small business owner from Tifton, spent 22 years as an educator.

“One of the things I’m very firm on is focusing on the classroom because that’s where our kids learn, our teachers teach, and education takes place,” he says. “So, whatever policies we look at enacting, it has to be viewed through that lens to see if it’s positive or negative?”

Matt Shultz is a new candidate. Shultz is a certified teacher and member of the Bartow County school board. He’s also a pharmaceutical sales representative.

“My big interest is I think finally we have an opportunity using technology to, in real time, close a lot of those learning gaps that we’ve been talking about for a long time, but we just didn’t have the practical tools to be able to do it,” Schultz says.  

There are some areas where they agree. Woods and Schultz believe the state’s education funding formula is outdated and needs to be re-examined. All three candidates agree the state will need to carefully handle any action it takes on the Common Core education standards.

Republican candidate, Fitz Johnson, did not respond to WABE’s interview requests before deadline.

The Republican candidates will face off in a primary in May, with a possible runoff in August. The winner will face the Democratic candidate in the general election in November.