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Election 2016 — Forsyth BOE District 3 focus on growth
Cleveland tom

About this series

Beginning today and continuing on Sundays through May 1, the Forsyth County News will present a look at the contested races for local elected office in the May 24 Republican primary. There are no contested local races involving Democrats. Early voting for the primary begins May 2.

WEST FORSYTH — Crowded schools have been at the forefront of conversations relating to Forsyth County for some years, and the upcoming election cycle is sure to keep the issue alive.

District 3 Board of Education member Tom Cleveland will face Steve Mashburn in the May 24 Republican Primary for the post that serves southwest Forsyth, where three of the district’s four new schools are being built.

As there is no Democrat running for the seat, that race will be decided next month.

Brandywine Elementary and DeSana Middle are on schedule to open this August, while Denmark High is on track for August 2018. All three schools are located between McFarland Parkway, Union Hill Road and Hwy. 9.

Though a political newcomer, Mashburn has educational experience, having worked in Forsyth County for 20 of his 30 years as an educator. That includes as a teacher, instructional technology specialist and central office administrator.

Now retired, Mashburn said his main platform revolves around what he called common-sense growth.

“At the current rate of growth, we will not be able to maintain our award-winning school system for much longer,” he said. “Of course, the Board of Education does not control zoning, but they do have an ethical duty to be proactive and vocal about the ramifications that zoning decisions have on our schools.”

The district provides school impact statements to the county commission for many rezoning applications, but Mashburn said he would focus on alternative solutions to curbing the trend of campuses exceeding their capacity.

“Forsyth County is not the only county in Georgia to have faced uncontrollable growth,” he said. “The Steinberg Act was passed by the Georgia legislature in 1985 to give relief to DeKalb County. By statute, it applies only to the three or four most populated counties in Georgia. However, it can be voluntarily adopted by any Georgia county.

“It differs from our current unified development code criteria by requiring more documentation from both county staff and the developer, such as an impact study in how a development will affect the schools … I oppose the national Common Core standards and high-stakes testing. I support more parent involvement and more charter schools.”

He said he thinks “public office should not be forever.”

“In my opponent’s case, if re-elected, he will serve a total of 16 years. A child can enter first grade and graduate from college in 16 years,” he said. “Solutions that worked over the years no longer work, and it is time for new ideas and a fresh approach.”

Cleveland, who is in his third term on the school board, said he will continue to raise the bar and increase student engagement through applicative learning if re-elected.

Employed by Sage Software as the head of human resources operations, Cleveland said he has spent his career implementing information technology solutions. He wants the school system to work closer with other agencies “to be smarter about the decisions we all make.”

He served as the co-chair of the Vision 2020 steering committee, has been on the sex education committee and said he is looking forward to serving as the school system liaison to the Forsyth County Drug Council.

“I have enabled the strategy to move the system forward through STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] and other career pathways,” he said, “while looking at how to allow all students to exceed their expectations.”

Forsyth residents who live in District 3, which spans roughly from west of Ga. 400 and Cumming to the Cherokee County line, can vote in this race. Voters must be registered by April 24, and advanced voting begins May 2.