Becky Gilbert George was elected to fill the Post 5 seat on the Calhoun City Schools Board of Education in November of last year after the retirement of Tony Swink. She ran her campaign on the promise of open communication, devotion and dedication. Now, four months in, George said she continues to seek out ways to strengthen communication between the community and the board.
“I think it’s so important for parents and anyone involved in a child’s life to feel like they can come and talk to someone and give their opinions or suggestions,” George said. “I want to make sure we continue to build on that so everyone has a voice and feels they can come openly and willingly to talk to someone about the schools. I want them to know we’re listening because everyone matters.”
Most especially, George said, she wants the key stakeholders in the community — parents and guardians, staff and faculty, and, most importantly, students — to know she is always available for them when they need someone to talk with or bounce ideas off of. Politics today can seem naturally very divisive, but her goal is to make local school politics a place where people from every background can come together to create solutions to problems.
It should be that way, she said, because the schools are a product of a diverse community.
“My big philosophy is that we should never surround ourselves with people who are just like us. Whether its in life, business, education, just don’t do it. Surround yourself with people who challenge you and push you. The more ideas, opinions and goals you are approached with, the more you can get outside the box,” George said. “It’s why I love talking to people who are different from me. They have great ideas and suggestions that I might not think of, so I think it’s important to broaden your horizons and hear from other people.”
Being involved in community activities before joining the board helped with this, she said. As a member of numerous school councils, the Calhoun Middle and High Schools’ Governance team, the 2020 Parent Advisory Council for Georgia, the SPLOST campaign committee and Tip Off Club president, she has had the opportunity to meet stakeholders at every level. Still, she wants to continue that outreach.
“I am a graduate of Calhoun High School and was born and raised in Calhoun. I also have children in the schools here, so I’ve been very, very active in the schools, but I want to continue that. I don’t want people to feel they can’t come to me now that I am on the board,” she said. “So far that hasn’t happened, but I am open. I even have my cell phone number on posters in the gym at the school. I want people to communicate with me.”
Asked why she wanted to run for school board in the first place, George said that community involvement is and has always been very important to her. The Calhoun-Gordon County community has always supported her in all of her endeavors, ever since she herself played basketball at Calhoun High School, and she believes that returning that support and investment is important.
For her, it is the best way to ensure that future generations and children — including her own: Jana (20), Jaide (18), Anna (senior), Jace (7th grade) and Blair (1st grade) — all get the same access to opportunities that she had.
“I think as adults it is sort of our job to continue on the legacy and give back to the community that invested in us. It is our responsibility to continue making our community the best it can be,” George said. “So, if you’re not active and you’re not giving your time, it’s difficult for you to give you opinion. You have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and work to make sure our kids, who are our future, have what they need to be successful.”
As George looks toward the next school year, two things in particular stand out to her as issues of major importance. First, she wants to continue to expand career pathways through the Calhoun College and Career Academy. She believes offering students opportunities to experience jobs and learn about them from a young age allows them to make wise, informed decisions about their future. Her own daughter, Anna, is a perfect example of this.
“Anna has decided she wants to be a speech pathologist because of what she learned in her pathway,” George said. “She knows it is what she wants to do and she doesn’t have to question it because she’s been exposed to it.”
The other issue she hopes to focus on is garnering community support for the Special Local Option Sales Tax. SPLOST dollars are most often used to pay for facilities for the schools, facilities that she said help keep Calhoun City Schools innovative and competitive with surrounding county and city systems.
“I think it’s evident when you come to our school campus that we have some of the nicest facilities in the state of Georgia and also in the Southeast. It is due to the SPLOST. It’s a penny tax, but that penny is huge,” George said. “Because Calhoun is an interstate city, we get the benefit of that. When people stop to get gas or stop to shop at the outlet mall, they’re helping fund our education through the SPLOST. In the near future, the SPLOST is probably one of the most important things that we need our community to support and focus on just like they have the last two times.”
To contact George, community members may reach out over email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 678-646-9177.