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Longtime BOE members leave Rockdale seats

Jean Yontz, left, and Darlene Hotchkiss are leaving the Rockdale County Board of Education this year after 16 years and 12 years, respectively.

Jean Yontz, left, and Darlene Hotchkiss are leaving the Rockdale County Board of Education this year after 16 years and 12 years, respectively.

CONYERS — Two very familiar faces will be absent from the Rockdale County Board of Education this year.

After 16 years and 12 years, respectively, Darlene Hotchkiss and Jean Yontz decided not to run for re-election.

“It was a very hard decision,” said Hotchkiss, who is the practice manager for Hedrick & Dodson Family Dentistry. “I love being a part of the board. After this length of time, I have a great deal of shared ownership in all that goes on to best prepare our students. However, I felt it was time for others with school-aged children to be involved.”

Yontz also said the decision was difficult, but she is caring for her mother and running a local business, Glenn’s Bar-B-Que.

“The combination of all personal concerns became the priority in my life,” Yontz said. “In order to give full-time devotion and consideration to my constituents who elected me to represent the best interest of every child in Rockdale County, I came to the realization that I could not give 100 percent of my time to that calling and serve my family as well.”

Looking back over the past 16 years, Hotchkiss said she could not name just one memorable moment.

“There have been amazingly exciting changes that have gone on in our system,” said Hotchkiss, who moved to Rockdale County in 1990 and had two sons graduate from Rockdale County Public Schools. “The board has been able to set up some amazing programs, such as the (Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology) program, (the Rockdale Career Academy) and Open Campus; expanded and built many schools; retired the debt. But through all of this, the focus of the system and even more, the teachers, has remained on meeting the needs of each student.”

Yontz, who moved to Rockdale County in 1983 and had three children and six grandchildren attend RCPS, said RCA was the “pinnacle of (her) service to the community” while serving.

“As a small business and employing those who are at the entry level in business, RCA is what I consider my greatest experience on the BOE. Not everyone will go to college, but all children can succeed. RCA is the prime example of that concept,” she said. “Certainly, it was the community as a whole … but to know that in some small part, I was involved in that decision is the highlight of my service.”

Both said they don’t consider having any accomplishments on the board as individuals.

“I have been fortunate to be part of some terrific teams,” Hotchkiss said. “We didn’t always agree, but the direction was shared, and the end result was for the students.”

Yontz said she feels that the biggest accomplishment for the board during her time was employing former Superintendent Samuel King and then current Superintendent Richard Autry.

“I learned many invaluable lessons from Dr. King, but the greatest is that all children deserve the best education possible,” Yontz said. “I also learned that all children are capable of learning, whether they are the brightest or those who suffer with disabilities, there are no excuses. We, RCPS, teach them all.”

Hotckiss said she will miss the students the most after she leaves the board.

“I used to want to believe that the younger generation had what it took to continue to run the world. Now, I know that they have what it takes to make it a better place,” she said. “I have met some amazing students in this system.”

Yontz added that she will miss the opportunity to be part of the realization that all children deserve the best education, but plans to stay involved in education. She said she hopes that the next elected officials continue to put the children first and their interests last.

Hotchkiss added, “Hope is a needed motivator; however, it is action, team work and vision that grow a system, so I will focus my prayers and energy to continue to support those that will best serve our students.”