Recently the Watauga Democrat asked candidates questions. The following was my response. My response was edited and then printed. In all fairness, the edited version did not reflect my response. Please publish the following questions and answers.
1. What distinguishes you from current board members and your fellow candidates?
A unique financial background that includes extensive experience in budgeting, cost-control, internal auditing and financial reporting. To regain and maintain public trust, the board of education must demonstrate accountability and responsibility for the precious resources entrusted to their care. My experience will be invaluable to the board of education in training other members of the board in the following: 1) reading financial statements, 2) understanding the importance of internal controls as paramount to safeguarding assets, and 3) the necessity of restructuring the budgeting process that collaborates with all affected parties (emphasis on all board members, teacher, staff and PTO member participation and prioritizing the classroom funding). I am also the only board member that has home-schooled their child and understands the positives, negatives, and challenges of the home school parents that would assist the board members in understanding the home school personal choice. This experience should prove to be important to the board in devising cooperative programs and put the school board in the position of supporting school choice instead of demonizing the alternatives. Once the school board embraces school choice instead of focusing on loss of revenue that goes with the child, they will become an effective member of a diverse community supporting education, regardless of the method. And, most importantly, the board would be in compliance with the intent of NC general statutes as expressly set forth in the NC State Constitution.
2. What aspect of serving on the Board of Education do you believe will present the greatest challenge to you?
After attempting to bring crucial issues to the attention of school administration for 9 years, it is evident that the board of education has lacked leadership, has collectively stuck their heads in the sand, and immediately circled the wagons when issues arise. Instead of making the necessary changes, being open and transparent, administration covers up situations. The current school board has been responsible for dividing versus uniting our communities and have discouraged citizen involvement. Recent changes to the administrative office have brought about an even greater lack of transparency and unfortunately; that is, politics. It will be a challenge to turn this staunch mindset into a more cooperative, open, common sense, non-political unit that becomes public servants and members of a team of parents, teachers, staff and citizens working together cooperatively to put our kids first.
3. Choose one decision the Board of Education has made in the past few months. Explain why you agree or disagree with that decision. How would you have approached it?
The school board was contacted by one county commissioner recently with an inquiry into the situation of children from Ashe, Avery and Caldwell counties attending our schools. The school board seized this one inquiry to readdress the failed attempt to charge these students for attending our schools. They did so without knowing the basic facts. They had a “knee jerk” reaction to one commissioner’s inquiry. At the school board’s Bethel Town Hall, it was evident that the teachers, PTO, and parents knew more about the situation and funding than the school board members. If we had the opportunity to hear from Blowing Rock Elementary School teachers, PTO and parents, then we would most likely find that they also know more about the situation than the school board members or the superintendent. At the Bethel meeting, the school board was asked if the State funding followed the child across county boundaries, the chair of the school board emphatically said “no”. However, the State funds do follow the child and so do the federal funds. This amounts to $6,705.54 per child. The school board, superintendent, and the one lone county commissioner have focused on the $2,708 per pupil funding that comes from local county funds. However, as the superintendent so aptly pointed out, it is all one pot of money used to fund the operation of the schools. The loss of these State and Federal funds would most likely require more local funds. And, the cost per child would go up. It is not likely that the school system would tell us that they could now operate with less funds. I would have not taken the “knee jerk” reaction route. I would let common sense prevail. The first people I would talk with would be the principal of the affected schools. I believe that after that conversation the issue would be resolved. We must keep in mind, with respect to Avery (transferring to Bethel) and Caldwell (transferring to Blowing Rock) that the boundaries are just a geographical line and that the actual location of these families position them to be best served by our schools. Sometimes the line is just a creek. These families, for all practical purposes, are part of our community and have been for years. We are about educating children. We embrace children from families that reside here illegally, and we should embrace children who live in neighboring counties that live more than 15 miles from the nearest school in their home county. The school board and superintendent complained that Avery and Caldwell were not willing to fund these children. Why should they? They are losing the State and Federal funding; they view that as our gain. Without these children, these schools might lose teachers and other staff, and it might put Bethel at risk of closing. And, the latter would be unthinkable!
Candidate for School Board