Editor's Note: We are endeavouring to interview all five Savannah-Chatham School Board President candidates, with three of the interviews running this week.
CANDIDATE Tye Whitely has three very personal reasons to run for school board president. Her three kids are currently attending Chatham County public schools.
“As a user of the school system, I feel like I’m the best candidate to navigate it,” she says. “In order to make effective change right now, we need someone who’s in the system right now.”
Whitely says she decided to run after she got involved in PTA’s, school councils and other official channels of parental engagement.
“I saw teachers working so hard to change things and doors being slammed at every turn,” she says. “I saw parents being shut out of the process.”
Her biggest frustration was communication.
“If we’re shaping these policies at the top level and parents, students and teachers don’t feel those things at the ground level, are we really effectively doing what we should as leaders?” she asks. “No, we’re not.”
Whitely’s background is in communications with an educational bent. She wrote how-to books for college students. She taught drama and computer skills to high school and elementary school students. She researched educational disparities.
And now she directs the Coastal Cathedral Early Education Center, a Christian-based program serving children through age 12.
“If I can inspire young people to learn then I’m doing something that I’m very passionate about,” Whitely says.
That said, she knows the board president doesn’t really teach anyone or direct anything. The job is much more constrained than self-employment or education center directorship.
“I think we’re looking at this wrong,” she says of this question. “Yes, the board president does work with the superintendent and he or she helps to shape policy, work with the budget and set the agenda. But we’re also elected officials, or servants. And we need to go out to the people that we’re elected to serve. And that’s what’s been missing.”
She describes what she’d like to do as being a bridge between the people she’d serve and a school system that’s often described as opaque and unresponsive.
Asked about policies that she’d like to address, she doesn’t name any particular interest, returning instead to the general displeasures of a parent with kids in local public schools.
“It starts with support,” she says. “The key phrase that I hear over and over again is ‘I’m not being supported, I’m not being listened to, they don’t care about me.”
“And because I’m in the school system with my children, I have my pulse on some of the things that are going on,” she says. “We can show people we care about them by supporting them.”