Cole out to continue aiding BC schools
Last updated 3/30/2021 at 10:15pm
Everyone's heard of substitute teachers. Bridge City's Judy Cole used to be substitute lunch lady.
She found out there's no substitute for being around eager learners.
That's why she's a six-year member of the Board of Directors for the Bridge City Independent School District – and is seeking a third, three-year term in the May 1 election.
"I worked as a substitute cafeteria worker back when my son, Cody, was in kindergarten. I enjoyed being around the kids," says Cole, co-owner of Cole Plumbing with husband Micheal Cole.
"I've always loved volunteering and I'm very fortunate that I'm able to."
Cody graduated Bridge City High School in 2005. Daughter Candice Jenkins graduated in 2000 and now teaches at Bridge City High School.
Besides her work with schools, Judy Cole is very involved in volunteering at her church, St. Henry Catholic Church, as well.
Children's education is at the top of any list of a community's greatest responsibilities and a sense of that responsibility caused her to run for the school board the first time.
"I felt called to run for election," she said.
As part of the seven-member board, Cole has watched the district grow steadily in enrollment.
"We have 3,211 students in this district as of March," she said. "From January to March, we've gained 54 students."
A Bridge City native, Cole attended Hatton Elementary and Bridge City Junior High and Bridge City High School before the latter two campuses traded places at the foot of the Cow Bayou bridge at the end of Texas Avenue.
She was a graduate of the Bridge City High Class of 1980 along with current board president Mike Johnson.
The coronavirus pandemic has created many challenges for the world in the past 15 months and schools across the country have had to adapt to fast-changing rules and health requirements.
Cole is proud of the job done by BCISD. After in-person schooling was not allowed last spring, Bridge City schools have been open for classroom learning all this school year.
"We've been very lucky at the district level," she said. "Our staff and our teachers have worked very hard keeping everything disinfected and clean. And our students and their parents have followed all the protocols.
"I don't think those kids liked being at home learning. They missed their friends and they missed their teachers. Kids learn better at school. If we can just get through May; I want our seniors to be able to graduate in May."
A school board member's job is to ensure the taxpayers get schools they can be proud of.
"The most important thing is to listen to what people have to say, their concerns, their needs. Just be there, be present," she said.
Cole said out of all the changes brought by COVID protocols, the board members' monthly visits to the district's campuses are among the things she misses most.
"We haven't been able to visit the campuses since last March," she said. "We would monthly go to a different campus, eat lunch and visit with students. We'd go to classes and see what innovative thing they're learning."
Last fall, the school district awarded more than $32,000 in "mini-grants" to a dozen classroom teachers who turned in the best proposals for new and innovative learning ideas.
"I'd like to make sure that we still allow teachers to create mini-grants for their classroom," Cole said. "I want to make sure we keep the Chromebook [laptop computer] devices for each student. I love seeing all the new things kids are doing nowadays."
Career and technical education (CTE) at BCISD, which includes health sciences, cosmetology, manufacturing, mechanics and engineering, is another facet of the district's offerings Cole appreciates.
"The CTE programs at the high school are amazing," she said. "The students who come out of these programs with certificates can go to work immediately. I hope that program is able to grow."
Cole is being opposed in this year's election by Caleb Hayes, church council president at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Early voting begins April 19.