In the new year, the Forsyth County Schools' Board of Education will welcome its first newly elected member since 2009, when District 1 representative Wes McCall holds the seat recently vacated by longtime member Ann Crow.
A Roswell native and current deputy director of the Alpharetta Department of Public Safety, McCall beat out opponent Mark Weiss by taking 53.39 percent of the 3,750 ballots cast in the May Republican primary and running unopposed in the November general election.
McCall and his wife, Jakima, have lived in Forsyth County since 2002 while their son, Ian, attends Liberty Middle School in northwest Forsyth.
Forsyth County Board of Education Member for District 1
Phone: (678) 776-6774Email: WMcCall@forsyth.k12.ga.us
To get a better picture of who McCall is, what his priorities are and what he will bring to the Forsyth County Board of Education, the FCN sat down with the District 1 representative-elect to talk about his background, how he decided to run for office and what his goals are as a board member.
Last week marked McCall’s 20-year anniversary in the field of public safety, serving both in the Alpharetta Fire Department in the late 1990s and early 2000s and then in the unified Alpharetta Department of Public Safety.
McCall started in the fire service straight out of high school after he met some firefighters who were helping north Fulton County recover after Hurricane Opal. He is a graduate of Grand Canyon University and holds a graduate degree in Public Administration from Columbus State.
In 2006, when the City of Alpharetta consolidated its fire service and police department into a public safety department, McCall represented the fire service on their transition team.
"That's what introduced me into law enforcement in 2006 and today I still try to get police officers, firefighters and 911 operators to work together,” McCall said. “... Three different personalities coming into one.”
He said that with that law enforcement and public safety background in mind, he is excited to use his expertise to help keep Forsyth County students safer.
"I am very blessed to be able to be a leader in two very important roles that government plays: public safety and public education,” he said. “We talk a lot about social and emotional learning, and I think that one of the things that people don't realize is, that's just one spoke of the wheel in student wellness.
"My passion is to bring the community together to face and look at issues and see how we can make things better."
How McCall came to run for BOE
McCall said that the first time he was first introduced to the Board of Education and the idea of being an educational advocate was after his son started at Sawnee Elementary School.
When their son was born in 2004, McCall and Jakima made a decision to be "very involved parents" in the school community.
McCall served on the school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and as he spent more and more time working on the PTA, McCall said he found himself working as an advocate, not just for his son but for all of the students at Sawnee.
"While I was there, one of the things that I noticed is that the other elementary schools in the county were starting to have science labs, and I didn't know why we couldn’t have a science lab," he said.
By his predecessor, Crow, and the rest of the board, McCall said they were able to start that science lab at Sawnee.
"We operated it for one year with a volunteer and the next year we were able to get some teachers involved," he said.
McCall said that when he finally decided to run for the board, he went back to Crow to talk with her about the job and see if it was the right decision for him and his family.
He said that after talking to Crow and his wife, another local educator, he knew he wanted to take his passion for advocacy and use it in a larger capacity.
"We started talking and I just realized that I needed to do it," McCall said.
According to McCall, as the newest board member, his biggest priority for the coming months boils down to listening as much as possible and learning from everyone he can.
"They do a great job up here, and there are so many things they are working together on,” he said. “I'm going to have to step back, listen and learn. That's what I've been doing for the last year, and that's what I'll continue to do."
McCall said that even though he has a lot to learn, he has already seen from educators and other board members, like Crow, just how important having some sort of a connection is in education. He said that from his experience, a connection between educators and their community is what makes a quality education.
"The key to education is through a connection," he said. "The teachers you had and connected with, or the coaches that you had you connected with, brought out a better education."
Along with learning as much about the system as possible, McCall said that doing anything he can to foster that connection with the community is going to be one of the things that he strives for during his term.
With more schools and students than ever before in the community, McCall said that anything else would be silly.
"I think that whatever we can do as a county to focus on building that connection, I'm all for it,” he said.
While discussing his thoughts on the school community connection, McCall also stressed the importance of transparency as an elected official and as a school system as a whole.
He stated that he would like the board and the system to be completely open for any questions, facts, figures and procedures that residents might be interested in.
According to McCall, one of his long-term goals is to have the system anticipate its residents’ questions, making information about the processes at work readily available for residents when they come looking for it.
"I don't think our community should have to question, 'Hey, how does a school come into existence?'” McCall said. “We should be able to tell them, we should be able to know that and they should be able to come find that information. I'm going to change that."
Part of that transparency McCall said will simply be a matter of continuing what the existing board members already do on a daily basis, when they receive emails, calls and in-person visits from members of the community.
He said that he can be reached by phone at (678) 776-6774 or by email at email@example.com, and he is always happy to answer residents’ questions or concerns.
"I may not have all the answers, or even answers that they want to hear, but what I will say is I will go listen and I'll have a conversation with them," he said.
McCall said that another long-term future goal towards transparency and communication is to bring the community into the process by laying out what the system has accomplished, what tax dollars go to and where the system is headed in one concise report.
"We need to share with the community what's going to happen in six years, what's going to happen in eight years,” he said. "We have to be community leaders by bringing them into the process."