THOMASVILLE — In nearly 28 years as a Thomas County Board of Education member, Cecil Stewart has never faced an opponent in his seven elections.

That will change this year as two Republicans have qualified for their party’s primary seeking to run in the general election in the fall.

“This is the first time I’ve had it,” Stewart, a Democrat, said of the opposition. “This is pretty new for me.”

Republicans Scott Morgan and Rick Munroe also have qualified for the District 6 school board position.

Stewart, 71, a farmer who raises cattle and pecans, said he intends to campaign to keep his seat. A lifelong Thomas County resident, he attended the county school system as did his three children.

His grandson Jonathan is a seventh grader at Thomas County Middle School and granddaughter Danielle, who died in a car accident in 2006, would have been a senior this year.

“I’m just still interested in it, like I’ve always been,” he said of serving on the board. “I want to do what’s best for the students of Thomas County.”

During his tenure, Stewart said, the board has worked to provide quality facilities for students and that he would like to continue that work.

Among the group’s accomplishments are “all the new construction, the buildings, all the new classrooms,” Stewart said. “All the facilities are new except for Garrison-Pilcher (Elementary School). All the classrooms are new except the Garrison-Pilcher one.”

Among the construction work under way now are a new media center and cafeteria at Thomas County Central High School;. The system also has received a $2.7 million state grant to build a technology career center, which will be called the PREP Academy, at the school.

Over the years , the county’s taxpayers have been willing to support Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax initiatives to make the construction and renovations possible, he said. And during that time, the board has been a good steward of residents’ tax dollars.

“They had confidence in us and saw the need for the new classrooms,” Stewart said. “We’ve passed the SPLOST to build all those buildings. I think over the last 28 years we’ve accomplished a lot with the buildings and the programs.”

Some of those programs include in-school suspension, alternative school, Communities in Schools, advance placement courses and the Ninth Grade Academy at the high school.

One area where Stewart sees room for improvement is in the system’s dropout rate.

“If I’d like to change anything, I’d like to see what we can do with the dropout issue,” he said. “I think we’ve done well. I haven’t had any complaints.

“I’m going to get out and pass out my cards to my neighbors and let them make up their minds.”

Reporter Alan Mauldin can be reached by calling (229) 226-2400, ext. 226.

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