published Monday, June 30th, 2014

Five vie for Hamilton County school board District 9 seat

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one in a series of stories about contested races in the August general election.

With five hopefuls and no incumbent, candidates in the District 9 Hamilton County Board of Education race are campaigning to differentiate themselves from one another and secure votes for the nonpartisan Aug. 7 election.

Mike Evatt, who was elected in 2010 and has served as the board's chairman since 2011, announced in February he would not run for re-election. He has taken a leadership position at Southern Management, one of Hamilton County Schools' largest contractors and the sole provider of district janitorial services.

The only woman in the race, Karen Farrow, ran in 2010 but lost to Evatt. As a police officer for 36 years, Farrow said school safety will be her top priority if elected.

"I want to work on the bullying issue in the schools," she said. "I plan to spend one day a month in two to three of my schools."

Steve Highlander said safety is a big priority for him, too, specifically secured entrances to the schools, stricter checkout procedures for students leaving early and making the most of school resource officers.

Highlander has taught for 42 years in Hamilton County and North Georgia. Another of his priorities is creating more vocational opportunities for students who aren't college-bound.

"We have to go have our kids ready for the job market when they walk out the door," he said, "and right now they're not ready."

Another candidate, Dean Moorhouse, also identified vocational education as a priority. However, the retired businessman said his best asset is his financial background.

"I'm the only candidate on the ballot used to looking at and dealing with a multimillion-dollar budget," said Moorhouse. "My primary focus would be to make sure our tax dollars wind up in the classroom and cut down on inefficiencies."

Larry Lewis also comes from the private sector as an applications administrator for McKee Foods. He said the problem-solving skills and logic he uses every day at work will be an asset for the board, but he also wants to improve communication efforts.

"I want to increase the communication between students, educators and the school board itself," he said. "I want to be available so that anyone should feel free to call me up and talk to me about a situation with their child."

Another District 9 candidate, Tim White, could not be reached for comment last week.

Highlander started with $7,100 in campaign funds and had $2,350.71 on hand as of his April financial disclosure statement, according to the Hamilton County Election Commission. Moorhouse raised $3,430 and had $1,636 on hand as of April. White, Farrow and Lewis had not filed financial disclosures.

Contact staff writer Rachel Sauls-Wright at rsauls@timesfreepress.com or 757-6439.

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