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Election 2016 Forsyth BOE District 5 draws large field

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.

EAST FORSYTH — In a seat that hasn’t turned over since 2001, and on an elected body that has seen little change in 15 years, the District 5 Forsyth County Board of Education post has more candidates than any other local race.

It also has the lone Democrat running for a non-state legislative or congressional seat.

The ballot is set for the May 24 Republican primary, with incumbent Nancy Roche facing challengers Kevin Foley and Mike Tasos. The winner will draw Democrat Anita Holcomb Tucker in November.

District 5 serves east Forsyth, which surrounds Lake Lanier.

An overarching theme in why the challengers are running is to combat overdevelopment in the county and find what they call better solutions to crowded schools.

“The main items on my platform are opposition to [the federal] Common Core [standards] and advocating for a moratorium on further development, at least until overcrowding is solved,” said Foley, a former social studies teacher and football and soccer coach.

After working in education for 10 years, he is currently employed in the insurance industry.

“Programs from the top down … create unnecessary paperwork and testing that just gets in the way of teaching. Anything that allows teachers to focus on teaching and helps their morale, I’m all for,” he said.

Tasos said he would focus on a “more friendly parent and student calendar” and on maximizing funding.

“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that school starts on Aug. 4. When I went to school, it started the day after Labor Day,” he said. “Sometimes we lose focus that it’s about the kids and the parents who are really the customers of the school system, and they’re the ones who pay the bills.”

Tasos, who writes a Sunday lifestyles column for the Forsyth County News, has lived in Forsyth since 1994 and works for a pharmaceutical company as a hospital district manager.

“In a general sense, we have to constantly look to get better and constantly explore ways to do that, whether it’s upgrading or building more facilities,” he said. “Our new schools will be great, but we have several that are already established.

“My son is at [Forsyth] Central [High], and there’s things that really need to be upgraded there.”

Nearly half of the district’s schools are under some form of construction, not including the four new campuses that will be built and opened by fall 2018. But a common talking point among Forsyth parents has been that these projects are not enough or are too little too late.

“I have a hard time believing someone who’s been in office for a long time has the initial passion and drive and enthusiasm as they did when they first took office,” Tasos said. “I’ve said from the beginning: I’m going to do this for one term. Because I think that in politics, two words that scare them the most is term limits.”

Roche, who has served on the school board since 2001, said she has been influential in making the district “the world-class system that it is today.”

“I was on the Board of Education when we created the vision of ‘quality learning and superior performance for all,’ and I am proud to say that it is still very relevant today,” she said. “I believe that vision, experience and proven leadership has been instrumental to our success as a board and as a school system.”

Roche, who previously worked as a systems analyst for IBM, served as the board chair in 2003 and 2005-08. She was appointed to the Georgia School Board Association’s Board of Directors in 2007 and has served on its strategic planning, governmental operations and nominating committees, as well as a mentor for new members.

She said she helped developed the district’s Learner Profile, which sets goals to graduate students who are “not only knowledgeable but can think critically, solve problems, interact efficiently, exhibit strong personal qualities and will contribute to the world around them.”

If re-elected, Roche said she will work with state legislators to “make sure that our students continuously improve and are not unnecessarily tested, that our teachers are paid and evaluated fairly, that our taxpayers are getting a good return on their investment.

“Forsyth County Schools has a 94 percent graduation rate, and we have the lowest tax rate and per-pupil cost in metro Atlanta. However, as we continue to grow exponentially, we have the huge challenge of maintaining our success. I feel that I am the right person to lead the way as FCS hires, develops and retains the quality leadership that we will need to face the future challenges.”

As Anita Holcomb Tucker was the only Democrat to qualify in this race, the winner of the Republican primary will face her in November.

A retired project planner in the manufacturing and construction industries, Tucker said she wants to see more transparency and community involvement in the district. She became involved in the system through her middle school-aged son and through the MSG Foundation, a nonprofit that aids people with disabilities.

Forsyth County residents who live in District 5 can vote in this race. Voters must be registered by April 24, and advanced voting begins May 2.


Staff writer Kelly Whitmire contributed to this report.