Maria Clanton


Alyssa Holland, Online Editor

What are your goals for the position?
Summed up: Children First, Transparency, Financial Responsibility & Integrity.
   Children First. We hear that statement all of the time. We hear it so much that it has become a ‘catch
phrase’ that seems to have lost its value. When I say Children First, I mean Children First. We all know
that state testing has become the ‘standard’ by which districts function. Because our world is what it is,
state testing is important. High stakes testing isn’t going anywhere. I may be the only educator (and
school board candidate willing to say this), but at the end of the day…. a test score, is a test score that
does not define a child. I want our children to do well. I absolutely want students to do well. I want our
district to excel. I want them to achieve beyond our wildest dreams. But… to me… every child… in every
district… in every place, has value that far exceeds what score they receive on a test. Don’t get too
excited, we are still going to test. But I do want our students to know, your teachers know that you are
MORE than a score and they are proud of you!
Every decision that is made in our district should have the children as the driving force. Regardless of
what the decision is, we must ask ourselves, how it will benefit the children of George County. Even when
a decision doesn’t seem to directly impact children, we still must ask.
George County parents, families, and stakeholders expect the people that are elected and put in positions
of leadership to make good, wise, responsible decisions. I don’t believe that the people of George County
want every decision that is made to be broadcast for citizen scrutiny, but I do believe that the people of
George County expect that when big decisions are being considered, that due diligence is made to let the
community know what is being considered before a vote is taken. When it comes to decisions that are
related to excessive financial expenditures, safety of our students and staff, or curriculum decisions that
may conflict with family beliefs, the school board needs to put forth effort to let the community know.
Being transparent helps to build trust. As voters go to the poll to cast a vote, they need to have
confidence that the person they are casting their vote for is someone who will be trustworthy. The voters
do not want someone to just go along with a vote and be complacent; they want someone who will
represent them and our children. With that being said, there are times that because of legalities of a
situation, the board is not at liberty to be transparent. Even then, the board can be transparent about their
legal constraints.
The school district receives state, federal and local funding to operate the school district. Funding is a
huge piece of the puzzle for school districts. Funds that we receive are coded by function and must be
utilized for the purpose they are intended. For instance, Title III funds are to be used for English Learners
and immigrant youth; Title IX funding is to be used to ensure that children who are considered homeless
have equal access to the same free, appropriate education as other students. When it comes to making
financial decisions, the board must verify that the funds are being utilized as they are legally obligated.
Decisions must be responsible and made with integrity. When $1.7 million is spent on an unfinished
building for adults, I have an issue. When I hear that student toilets are out of order on the entire hall in a
school or that there is no restroom for small children when they are in the gym, I have an issue. We must
have fiscal responsibility and integrity.
How will you bring about change and improvement to the school district?
   I want to encourage an atmosphere of trust and respect. Parents, students and employees need to know
that when there are concerns, their voice will be heard without consequences.
I believe that one way to put students first is by valuing the input and insight of those adults who are
directly involved with children every day. The teachers, assistants, custodians, nutritional staff, bus
drivers, school nurses and counselors, school leaders, as well as, the other support staff who are directly
engaged with the children have such great insight that needs to be embraced
Sometimes when decisions are made, the decisions are made by a select few. Encouraging collaboration,
not from a preferred few, but from a variety of people (students, teachers, support staff, parents, and
community partners), can help us be a stronger district.
I will be transparent. I will make sure that when big decisions are being considered, the parents, staff, and
community are aware. When a decision is before me that I am unsure of, I will ask to table the decision
until I can get more information so that I can make a wise decision. When I don’t agree on something
being considered, I will listen to the facts, have open dialogue and then carefully consider the best option.
I will look at policy and follow policy. I will question policy that doesn’t seem right. I will be part of the team
to make sure that we are being accountable to the children, staff and community of George County.
As we move forward, we need to make sure that areas of concern are corrected and that we identify other
areas that need to be addressed. We need to work together to make sure that we don’t repeat past
mistakes and we need to hold ourselves accountable.When changes are needed, like personnel
changes, program changes, or financial considerations, we need to carefully consider our options and
make the decision that is best for our district .
We must address bullying! It is our responsibility to provide students and staff with a safe learning
environment. Bullying and harassment must never be tolerated. We need to work closely with our school
counselors and teachers and provide the training to staff and students to be able to recognize bullying
and know how to respond. We need to be united. Even when we differ in our opinions or beliefs, we must
refer back to Children First. The goal of any educator, including school board members, should always be
‘seek to serve the children’. If we let differences cause division, we are not serving our children.

What are your qualifications to run for this position?
I am not a politician or a business person, but I am an educator. I was employed with the George County
School District for almost 20 years. During my employment with GCSD, I served as both a general
education and special education teacher. I have taught in elementary, middle and high school settings. I
also served as a behavior specialist and director. As a director, I worked in human resources, alternative
education and special education. Serving in a variety of roles within the district gives me a unique
perspective when it comes to education.

What personal information do you want voters to know about you? (family, education, etc.)
I was born and raised in George County and graduated from GCHS in May 1985. While in high school, I
was a member of the Golden Brigade Marching Band. When I married my husband, Scott, in 1988, I
became the wife of a United States Marine. We have two children, Brittney and Bryce, and five
grandchildren: Elliot, Maverick, Kipton, Savvy James, and Hollis Scott. I enjoy worshiping with my sweet
Journey family here in Lucedale. I received my Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies with emphasis in
Special Education from University of Texas in San Antonio, my Master’s in Special Education from William
Carey in Hattiesburg and my Specialist’s in Educational Leadership from Arkansas State University.
We must remember, 1 Corinthians 10:31 – ‘..whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’