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Reifsteck challenges Ransom for BOE 

Before her son was born 16 years ago, Joyce Reifsteck learned about the damaging effects of screen time on the brains of children through a doctor and the American Academy of Pediatric.

When Chromebooks appeared in Oconee County Schools, she spoke to the school board, citing research about the dangers of screen addiction. Her son, Fred IV, also spoke about his preference to spend leisure time outside, rather than behind a phone screen or computer.

Fast forward to 2024: Reifsteck’s heart sank at a school board meeting when a presentation stated that time was being spent teaching children to make eye contact.

“The fundamental, innate skill of human connection has been un-learned by children who have been taught that screens, social media and playing inside with screen games are better than human communication,” said Reifsteck. “It’s sad, and it’s also frightening.”

Running against Michael Ransom for BOE Post 1, which is the chair position, Reifsteck said she qualified as a Republican because she’s financially conservative and would like to help the board develop an attitude of doing more with less.

“Being good stewards of tax dollars includes patience and careful consideration of the best way to use funds,” she said. “It’s disappointing to see buildings and the latest, shiny new things valued overpaying the hard-working staff members who spend every school day with students.”

As a former teacher of 13 years within both public and private schools, Reifsteck said it’s time to explore how to creatively and cost-effectively support all forms of school choice: public school, private school, homeschool, charter school and emerging methods of education.

“Every tax dollar should be considered precious and used conscientiously in the most effective way possible,” she said. “We should constantly seek ways to save money by reducing unnecessary spending, and we should constantly seek ways to make the budget readily available to the public and easy to understand.”

“You shouldn’t have to be a detective or an attorney to find and understand the budget,” she continued. “You shouldn’t have to watch every move like a hawk. If elected, I’ll be that hawk. And I’m not afraid to ruffle feathers.”

If elected, Reifsteck said she will listen and speak for those who are unheard and who are afraid to speak.

“I will listen to people who express their thoughts at school board meetings. I will do my best to answer their questions, and if I can’t answer them on the spot, I’ll do the necessary research and get back to them,” she said. “I’ll seek solutions for their issues by acting with courage and compassion.”

Another important issue for Reifsteck is what she believes to be excessive standardized testing.

“When I started a group to help parents opt out of the unreasonable amount of testing that was going on in county schools, I was contacted by teachers who agreed that the testing had gotten out of hand, that it was abusive and that it was stressing students out,” she said. “But the teachers were afraid to say anything. I’ve been listening to teachers, parents and students in Oconee County, and the prevailing message I’m hearing is that they seek to be seen, heard and given a voice.”

Reifsteck graduated from the University of Tennessee and studied biomedical engineering. She later went back to school to study advertising and journalism.

After graduation, she moved to Atlanta for a job at D’Arcy-MacManus & Masius, where she worked on the Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, General Motors and M&M’s/Mars accounts. She then worked for a few years in radio and the newspaper industry with the goal of opening her own agency.

In the 1990s, she opened an advertising and PR agency. While in Atlanta, she took classes at Georgia State toward a teaching certificate. For 13 years, she taught in public and private schools before moving here and continuing agency work in advertising and PR.

Over the years, Reifsteck did pro-bono advertising and PR work for many organizations. She has served the Piedmont Hospital Auxiliary since 1990, where she chaired the education committee for 15 years. She has contributed her time and talents to The Atlanta College of Art/SCAD, The Morton Theatre, Athens Fireworks, Athens Homeless Coalition, and several projects and fundraisers for Oconee County Primary and Elementary schools.

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