Patricia Biggerstaff of Lincolnton, Ga., has been appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue to the Georgia Board of Education to replace Augusta board member Roscoe Williams, who resigned at the governor's request.
She was one of five new board members sworn in by Perdue on Thursday. The state Board of Education is composed of 13 members, each member from one of the state's congressional districts.
Biggerstaff, who represents the 9th District, has 30 years of experience in education as a teacher, education consultant and administrator. For the past five years, she has served as the assistant principal in charge of instruction at J.A. Maxwell Elementary School in Thomson, retiring last year.
"It was a warm ceremony, very personable," Mrs. Biggerstaff said. "You could tell he had put a lot of thought into the appointments. The fact he would allow me to serve says a lot. I'm just a classroom teacher and for him to allow someone who has 30 years of classroom experience to serve is just phenomenal. Typically business people have served in the past."
Under her leadership, J.A. Maxwell Elementary went from being an underperforming rural school to a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, largely because of a reading program she helped to develop called Effective Reading Practices, a spinoff of Georgia's Reading First Initiative.
"We did some adaptations so we could teach every student at their instructional level," she said. "So that if we had a child in second grade reading on a fifth-grade level, we could teach them at a fifth-grade level and wouldn't have to retain them in second-grade material.
"I believe in the philosophy if we have students who are behind, we don't need to remediate, we need to accelerate. If they are already behind, going slower does not help."
Biggerstaff recently was asked to testify before Congress to explain the reading program. As a reading expert, she has been a keynote speaker at top educational conferences throughout the United States.
Her goal as a board member, she said, will be to elevate learning throughout the state.
"I have spent most of my life in education in Georgia public schools. I believe in Georgia students and Georgia teachers," she said. "I think we have smart, smart kids in Georgia and very fine, capable teachers. We just have to support them and give them the things they need to get the job done."
She is married to Dwaine Biggerstaff, who is in his second term as mayor of Lincolnton. They have two daughters and one granddaughter.
The other four members sworn in by Perdue to serve on the state Board of Education are Wanda Barrs, Cochran, Ga., 3rd District; Dr. Garland Pinholster, Woodstock, Ga., 7th District; Dr. Mary Sue Murray, Douglasville, Ga., 8th District; and Jim Franklin, 10th District, Plainville, Ga.
"I am confident that the appointment of these members will facilitate a balanced board of members who represent diverse perspectives and leadership experiences," Perdue said. "I look forward to working with the state Board of Education and the state superintendent to strengthen education and improve our children's future."
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