Casey school board hopefuls queried at forum

October 15, 2004|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

LIBERTY - Five of the six candidates seeking seats on the Casey County Board of Education were quizzed Thursday night at a public forum at the high school. They answered questions about the lack of textbooks, hiring a superintendent, spending waste, substance abuse and fighting, and the importance of attending school functions.

The candidates are: 1st District, John W. Cox and Sheila Elliott; 4th District, Ken Coffman; and 5th District, Dinah Burton, incumbent, and Stacy H. Woodrum. Gale Durham, incumbent in the 4th District,, did not attend.

Each gave an opening statement, then answered questions from the audience, read by Connie Cundiff, former Casey teacher.

When asked why they decided to run, Cox, a farmer with two sons in school, said he was encouraged, but he was concerned about different things going on like the new schools. Elliott, a fourth-generation teacher, didn't consult anyone and decided it was what she wanted to do; Coffman, a parent of a fourth-grader and a school council member at Middleburg Elementary, had some encouragement, but wanted to do more in education; Burton, a mother and registered nurse, who has served one term on the board, made her own decision with some encouragement; and Woodrum, a CCHS graduate who works with a consultant company, is concerned about school consolidation and closing the smaller schools.


A question about sharing textbooks for all students in a class got varied responses.

Elliott said she will have to examine funding and try to dig deeper to find money for books. "I think they should have to give up something else, but not textbooks," Elliott said.

Coffman will ask the Parent Teachers Organization to help buy books; Burton will look at the reasons for the shortage of books; Woodrum was not aware of the problem, and thinks students are more responsible if they have their own books; and Cox would check the budget and see where money is spent.

When asked about waste in the school system, Coffman indicated that there are too many small school buildings. He said the new Jones Park Elementary (which consolidates Middleburg and Garrett schools) is a good thing, it will cut down on overhead expenses and save in the future.

Burton said the board has made changes in medical reimbursements and about doubled returns. "We're constantly on the lookout for ways to save, like cutting back on personnel."

Woodrum and Elliott will look at the budget and check for allocations that can be cut in certain areas before deciding. Cox had no comment.

What about substance abuse and fighting?

When asked what they will do about substance abuse and fighting in the schools, Burton said substance abuse in the middle and high schools is not a school issue, but a common problem. "We've hired a resource officer, but we need to focus on prevention activities, rather than take care of it after the fact." she said. "It needs to be addressed as a community problem."

Woodrum said programs are needed to see what can make a difference. "I think we need to involve church, parents and others to help. We have dedicated people who want to help."

Cox said everyone needs to work together on the substance abuse problem. "It goes back to the parents. A lot of things are coming into the schools from parents. We need to education the kids more about drug prevention and fighting."

The problems have been in the schools since Elliott was a student in 1976. "I'm concerned about aggressive behavior." When a kid is picked on for a long period of time, they usually explode." She's concerned about finding the aggressor and what the problems are.

Coffman said the main solution starts at home with parents which need to be more involved in education.

On the question of frequent changes in superintendents, the candidates said they would have to see the evaluations on job performance to see if the superintendent has met goals.

"Our performance is a direct result of achievement," said Woodrum.

Cox and Elliott said school is not the place for politics, but if changes are needed, they will be for them. Coffman thinks the superintendent needs guidance from the board and if he or she have not met requirements, a replacement would e considered. Burton said sometimes things need to be changed and her decision on the hiring was based on the best person for the job.

What about school consolidation?

On school consolidation, the candidates like the smaller schools, but said for the betterment of the school system and children, they are in favor of combining schools.

Cox said kids learn better in a smaller setting and less discipline is needed. Coffman said Middleburg school needed to be replaced because of its age and condition, and students need more opportunities available in larger schools.

Burton said school consolidation has been her hardest decision, but eventually knew it would have to happen because of finances. Woodrum favors consolidation if the kids get a better education, but also is concerned about schools being the center of a community.

The candidates also support extra curricular activities such as sports and social programs for students. They also said they will work for better programs for children with disabilities.

They also will encourage parents to become more involved in school by having an open-door policy and having a warm and friendly atmosphere for parents.

"The more time parents spend in school, the more students learn," said Elliott.

The board meetings in different schools have helped that, said Coffman, but more people are needed to be involved in PTO.

On the importance of board members attending school functions, the candidates said it is a good idea to be seen at school events. It's very important to be in school activities where you can be a voice for the community and know what problems parents and students are facing, Woodrum said.

The forum was sponsored by Friends of Education.

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