RINCON — Two ardent supporters of the Effingham County School District are eager to deepen their commitment to it.
Jan Landing and Jeff Schielke, who participated in a political forum at The Herald Center on Oct. 12, are seeking the District 2 seat on the Effingham County Board of Education. The spot has been vacant since Troy Alford resigned June 2.
Alford, the board’s vice chairman, had served since 2004. He surrendered the seat so that his son, Judd, could be hired as an assistant principal at South Effingham High School.
A state law enacted in 2009 prohibits school board members and superintendents from having immediate family members in high-ranking positions in the districts they serve.
“When I found out that Troy was not going to be running again, I knew immediately that I was going to sign up,” Landing said. “We have a lot in common — Troy and I. We worked and volunteered together through the schools and in the schools as our children were growing up. Our four children are all graduates of South Effingham High School and they have chosen to continue to live here because of the schools, and now I have five grandchildren who are all going to be Mustangs, so I have continued to volunteer.
“I have been room mother, and now room grandmother, for 20-25 years in the school system and the county is growing so fast that we need to find a way to keep up with the growth and additionally plan for the continued growth that is going to be coming our way.”
In addition to serving in PTOs, Landing said she has assisted teachers in classrooms and athletic directors.
“At one point, there was no administrative assistant for the athletic directors,” she said. “I took it upon myself to volunteer for six months and helped Rob Porterfield do all the things he needed done and needed somebody to do. The school system has many ways that you can help and get involved, and that’s one thing that I would like to see happen is parent involvement ...”
Schielke hasn’t been involved in the district as long as Landing but his devotion to it, like hers, is unquestioned.
“(Serving on the board) is something that I can help the school system be better than it already is,” he said. “Taking my experiences from work and what I’ve done with the schools so far, that’s kind of what was the driving force behind me doing this.”
Schielke, an SEHS booster club leader, is happy to have settled here with his family several years ago.
“One of the things that has drawn me here to live in Effingham when we moved from Kansas City was definitely the school system,” Schielke said. “We have three children, two of which were still in school when we moved at the time. After doing a lot of research between Chatham County and Effingham County, it was overwhelmingly, to us, that Effingham was the place to be.”
Both candidates believe that they have the characteristics to be an effective board member.
“One of the things that I think is very important is that you have to be respectful of others’ opinions and their ideas,” Landing said. “Your idea is not always going to be the best one and you have to learn to work with others to do what is best for the whole county. Of course, Jeff and I want what is best for District 2 but we also have to look at what is best for the county as a whole.”
Schielke thinks skills he learned at his job would serve him well as a board member. He has managed up to 350 people.
“... I’ve learned to adapt to different people in different situations,” he said. “Working in the retail sector all my life, you deal with a ton of people — happy people, mad people — and you have to be the one that brings everybody together, especially when you are talking districtwide for something. Part of the school board is also having an open mind and, like Jan way saying, being open to others’ opinions.
“Just because you have done something for so long doesn’t mean that’s always the way it’s supposed to be. You have to be open to change.”
The 54-minute political forum, sponsored by the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce, can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8RJnwQjkZM.
Election day is Nov. 2.