A parent and an educator, April Newkirk says she would bring advocacy for public education to the role if elected by District 4 as a member of the Bulloch County Board of Education.
“The big answer is I believe in public education,” Newkirk said when asked why she is running. “I believe in all that it has to offer our community, what it has to offer our children, our next generation.”
She and Adrianne McCollar are vying for the seat held by Steve Hein, who is not seeking re-election after eight years on the board. This nonpartisan contest will be decided in the May 22 election.
Newkirk followed Hein’s work on the board “and was very proud of what he had done to represent our district,” she said. “I saw that he had decided not to run again, and I felt like what better chance to step up and to use my experiences and my skills to basically serve our community.”
A resident of Bulloch County since 1999, Newkirk, 37, is originally from neighboring Effingham County. She came to Bulloch as a Georgia Southern University student and attained her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s in reading education. Now a doctoral candidate, she hopes to graduate next year with her Ed.D.
As an instructor in the university’s College of Education, she works with Georgia Southern juniors and seniors seeking to become elementary school teachers. She coordinates the semester of internship prior to student teaching, supervises student teachers placed at schools, and teaches courses on how to teach social sciences.
Previously, she was an elementary school teacher for three years in Effingham County. Married 14 years, she and her husband Nick, a small-business owner, have three sons. One is in fifth grade and one in third grade, both at a Bulloch County public school, and the youngest will start prekindergarten in 2019.
Newkirk said she thinks Bulloch County has a good school system which has a history of being strong in academics.
“I think that in running for this I can bring a different and fresh perspective, and I’m excited to see what that can bring to the continual growth of our schools,” she said.
She said she has no specific concerns about the schools.
“But I think that parents are concerned about safety, I think parents are concerned about their children’s academics, and I think we have to be asking questions about what that means for our community and what our next steps are in helping everyone feel safe in their environment and helping our children get what they need to go on to be successful, functioning citizens,” Newkirk said.
School & community
She is very involved in her children’s school, where she likes to go read to the children, and any time a teacher asks her to teach a mini lesson or work with students she wants to be a part of that, she said.
April and Nick Newkirk both volunteer with Cub Scout Pack 337 in Brooklet. He is assistant pack master and she was previously a den leader for the pack.
The Newkirks are also active in Brooklet United Methodist Church, where they have been members about 12 years. She served as the church’s children’s director, working with Sunday school and Vacation Bible School and other activities for children.
Relating community work to her BOE candidacy, Newkirk said, “I think that’s part of what this job requires is having a hand in the community and an open ear to listen to parents and stakeholders.”
She also thinks that “helping support teachers,” should be part of a board member’s role, she said.
“I’m a teacher, I’m an educator at heart, I understand the plight of teachers,” Newkirk said. “I think we have to supply them with the resources that they need to be successful.”
While the board needs “to consider how to up the ante in terms of academics for our kids,” that should not be the only consideration, Newkirk said.
‘The whole child’
“I believe in educating the whole child, and I we’ve got to think about the social, emotional components along with the academic pieces,” she said. “I think we’ve got to get kids invested in school, and I think ultimately it saddens me that the state keeps defunding schools.”
Voters need to be aware that people they choose for state office make school funding decisions that result in local school systems “having to do more with less,” Newkirk said.
“But we’ve got to make sure that teachers have what they need because our kids need it, and public education is the way to go. It really is,” she said. “I believe in that. I believe in the power of our kids, I believe in the power of our teachers and I believe in the power of public education to change and to make a difference in society.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.