Troy Weathers, who served as a member of the Bradley County Board of Education for 16 years, said he will not stop trying to better local schools so children can have the same kind of opportunities that led him to success.
He is the current vice president of distribution at Wholesale Supply Group in Cleveland, and he credits education with helping him to get where he is today.
After losing his bid for re-election to the board’s 4th District seat, Weathers said he will continue looking for ways to support local education, though how that will look is still up in the air.
“At this point, I don’t have an answer,” Weathers said. “Will I still be involved in education? Yes.”
The 54-year-old business executive said he will continue working at Wholesale Supply Group, and keep attending school board meetings as a “concerned citizen,” and soon as a “concerned grandparent,” when his first grandchild arrives this November.
Weathers said his desire to run for the school board office for the first time back in 1998 stemmed from his realization that education plays a large part in a person’s success.
He grew up in East Cleveland the youngest of nine children. Describing his family as “dirt poor,” he said education did not play a large role in the lives of his family members.
Though he was the youngest, Weathers said he was the first of his siblings to graduate from high school.
Weathers said his mother had a third-grade education herself, and she “didn’t understand” the impact that education could play in her children finding their way out of poverty.
“I believe education is what breaks the cycle,” Weathers said. “We have the opportunity to give the students opportunities to break that vicious cycle.”
After finishing his time at the East Cleveland and Michigan Avenue schools, he later graduated from Bradley High School.
Throughout his education, he was on his schools’ free and reduced lunch lists, lists that carried more negative connotations with them than they do today. Weathers said he was determined to work hard and someday be able to pay for his own necessities.
To have the money to afford things like school clothes, Weathers took on his first job at the age of 11, working for a local company that paid him to do basic labor and run errands after school each day.
After earning the achievement of a high school diploma, he served three years in the U.S. Army as a tank and armored personnel carrier mechanic at Fort Stewart in Georgia, earning the rank of motor pool sargeant before he was done.
When his military career ended, Weathers moved to Atlanta to work as a shop supervisor for a trucking company. He eventually moved back to Cleveland and switched his career focus to that of distribution.
Weathers has a daughter who attended Michigan Avenue Elementary when she was younger, and he served as the PTO president for part of the time she was enrolled.
He said someone asked him if he would consider running for the school board, and he said yes. He said he wanted to help people like his mother ensure that their children had better opportunities than they had when they were younger.
“I wanted to be the person to represent the person who did not understand the education process,” Weathers said. “I would hope that I would be known as a board member who cared and did something about it.”
Those 16 years on the school board have been filled with both triumphs and challenges like disagreements over what was best for Bradley County’s students.
New schools have been built within that time, and he said measures like that have been team efforts with members of the school board and the Bradley County Commission, which had final say on the board’s budgetary requests.
Weathers said he has also seen student achievement head in a positive direction over the years — up, with both Bradley Central and Walker Valley High Schools both currently boasting graduation rates above 90 percent.
He said that is worth celebrating, and the board needs to continue to help teachers as they help their students succeed.
He also cautioned those currently on the school board to take care that politics do not get in the way of their jobs because it is a “big task” to make sure students in the school system succeed.
“I wish the board success,” Weathers said. “But we’ve got to push past the politics. Let’s put that aside and do what’s best for students. I want to keep it a great system.”
Weathers explained that ensuring local children receive a good education is an effort in which everyone in the community can be involved.
Offering support and listening ears to local teachers, volunteering at school functions and sharing any concerns with school board members are some ways he said people can have a positive impact on a local school system.
Weathers said teachers don’t always realize that what they are doing makes a difference, but teachers showing concern for him while he was in school inspired him to grow up and find his own success, so he could be in a position to help future students succeed.
There are some local students Weathers said he saw start kindergarten and finish high school during the time he was a school board member. While he described several highlights during his time as a school board member, he said he takes the most joy in having been able to shake the hands of those who had achieved their goals and graduated because the school system supported them.