First elected to the Bulloch County Board of Education from District 6 in 2014, Jimmy “Jay” Cook Jr. is seeking a third four-year term to help maintain the focus on continuing plans and projects.
Those include efforts “that will continue to help improve our school culture, student achievement, facilities and leadership for the future,” he wrote.
Cook faces a challenger, Mary E. Boyer, also profiled in this edition. BOE District 5 voters are choosing between them in early voting that concludes Friday and Election Day voting Tuesday, May 24.
Having served on the board since January 2015, Cook brings “a wealth of knowledge about our continuous improvement journey past and present,” he said. Cook sites the school system’s recent reaccreditation report as evidence of progress.
Cognia, one of two nonprofit organizations approved to accredit Georgia public schools and which also accredits schools in many other states, gave the Bulloch County Schools an overall rating higher than the national average.
“I am a person who has demonstrated that I can be responsible and passionate in how I participate with all of my fellow board members in governing our school district,” Cook continued, in answer to what he has to offer as a board member.
Describing himself as “a skilled listener who represents the community, not a single constituency,” Cook wrote, “I strive to help us always remain open to community concerns, but also remember that we best serve all children by being focused and moving forward.”
Herald: What are your biggest concerns for the Bulloch County Schools, their students (and parents), teachers and staff?
Cook: “It is important that we stay tuned in and responsive to the real needs of the children in this community. The global pandemic had and will continue to have long-range effects on student achievement, the mental health of children and employees, and the school district’s employee recruitment efforts.”
That, he said. is why the board and superintendent have been very intentional in creating a plan for the use of federal relief funds.
“We have purposefully planned to use these funds over the next five years to sustain programs like our Summer Learning Academies to address these concerns,” Cook wrote.
Herald: What changes or improvements would you like to see made in the schools? What would you like to see continued? (What have you and the board accomplished during your years of service?)
Cook: “I want us to have a more formal process in place to ensure that all children have a positive relationship with at least one adult or peer in their school that supports them in their education journey. Also, in addition to the physical safety and mental well-being of children, I would like to look for ways to expand offerings to our higher-end learners while continuing to address the needs of all children.”
As for things he wants continued, Cook said: “Over the past 12 years, the school district has really sought to build leadership capacity and encourage leadership from the classroom to the boardroom. I want us to continue those efforts. We are now seeing the fruits of those efforts reflected in the district’s most recent re-accreditation process.”
He noted that Cognia awarded the school system a score of 340.48 out of 400 points this year, up from a 2017 reaccreditation score of 281.71.
Cook also sent a long list of school system accomplishments, from the strategic plan and voter-approved Education SPLOST and key projects it has funded to this year’s pending pay raises for school employees and planning for an additional school.
Herald: How would you balance the interests of taxpayers with the needs of students and school employees?
Cook: “Our focus on our students’ needs and collaboration across this community are evidenced by our recent accreditation report as well as our current plans to address the critical challenges facing our students as a result of the global pandemic. … In addition to all of this the district continues to maintain one of the lowest property tax rates in the state.”
Cook is the vice-president of Truist Bank’s Statesboro branch.
Originally from Pembroke, he has lived in Statesboro for 40 years. He and his wife, Candice C. Cook, a registered nurse, have a son and daughter, fraternal twins. Now 21, both graduated from Bulloch County Schools and have continued their educations at Georgia Southern University.
Jimmy Cook also attained his bachelor’s degree in public accounting and finance from Georgia Southern.
Before being elected to the school board, he served as president and treasurer of Parent Teacher organizations at two of the elementary schools – Sallie Zetterower and Langston Chapel – and on their school councils.
A member of Compassion Christian Church and its leadership council and of the Statesboro Kiwanis Club, he has served on the area United Way and American Cancer society boards and volunteered with several other nonprofit service organizations.