By Christina Cooke
The nine candidates for Hamilton County Board of Education discussed issues ranging from holding the school system financially accountable to adjusting its curriculum on Tuesday evening.
The forum was held at the central school office and sponsored by the Hamilton County Council of PTAs and the East Ridge Education Committee.
Tim Price, candidate for the District 3 seat, called for an independent audit to determine where system money is going.
“We need better business management skills,” he said. “What bothers me is that all of our tax dollars do not make it to the classroom.”
District 3 incumbent Everett Fairchild said the problem with the school system’s finances is that the school board’s priorities are not what parents and teachers would like to see.
“We’ve been as open with our financial expenditures as possible,” Mr. Fairchild said.
Kelvin Stamper, a District 9 candidate, said a top priority of the school board should be to lobby to change the state’s education funding formula, which allocates a greater percentage of state dollars to rural districts.
“We have got to do something as a board to communicate with our state legislators that we have got to get something done about the (Basic Education Program) formula,” he said.
Chester Bankston, a District 9 seat candidate, said the system should pay more attention to career and technical education.
“We should focus more on vocational (programs),” he said. “I think it would help our dropout rate tremendously.”
Jeffrey Wilson, who has served on the board for eight months and is running for the District 5 seat, said the school systems budget is $270 million, and there are 6,000 employees. A lack of funding from the state is the root of the problem, he said.
“It’s a very difficult situation to manage,” he said.
William “Eli” Jones, running for the District 5 seat, cited students’ low math scores on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests as a major problem.
“Math is a big problem in our school systems,” he said. “That’s something we need to put more resources in. It may take some extra funding.”
Kenny Smith, who is running for the District 8 seat, said he thinks the system should focus on making students aware of vocational education options.
“A lot of businesses looking to come to Chattanooga are looking to see if we have a trained and trainable work force, and right now, we don’t,” he said.
Randy Gutshall, who is running in District 8, said he will push to put a driver’s education program back in the schools.
“If a person makes As in algebra, As in English and As in science and gets killed...” he said. “We need a driver’s ed program.”
Incumbent Janice Boydston, who is running unopposed for the District 6 seat, said the board should focus on publicizing the system’s accomplishments.
E-mail Christina Cooke at firstname.lastname@example.org
SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES FOR THE AUG. 3 ELECTION
Everett Fairchild (incumbent)
Jeffrey Wilson (incumbent)
William “Eli” Jones
Janice Boydston (incumbent)