Hamilton County Board of Education campaign features write-in effort

Hamilton County Board of Education campaign features write-in effort

July 14th, 2012 by Kevin Hardy in News

Mike Harvey

Mike Harvey

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

POLL: Who do you support for the District 2 seat on the Hamilton County Board of Education?

Write-in campaigns are always a long shot, but Mike Harvey is aiming at grabbing the District 2 seat on the Hamilton County Board of Education.

Harvey launched his campaign shortly after the filing deadline passed with only Signal Mountain dentist Jonathan Welch's name on the ballot. Current board member Chip Baker isn't seeking re-election.

"I think voters deserve a choice," Harvey said.

Both Harvey and Welch are lifelong Signal Mountain residents. Harvey has worked as an anesthetist at Erlanger hospital and a clinical instructor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's School of Anesthesia for 31 years. Welch has worked at his family-owned dental practice for eight years.

Welch said he would like to see the district's lowest-performing schools achieve at the level of the county's top schools.

"I think we've got a school system that's got a lot of room for improvement," he said. "I think we've got a school system that has a lot of extremes in terms of achievement and success."

He said the debate over resources shouldn't pit urban and suburban schools against each other.

"The challenges they face may be different, but the end goal shouldn't," he said.

Both men cited parental involvement as keys to school success.

Harvey takes issue with some of the recent negative attention to Signal Mountain Middle/High School. If elected, he said, he'll make sure school leaders are following school board policy.

In December 2010, six former or current students, including state champion football players, were cited for underage drinking. Last fall, the football team had six wins vacated and lost a shot at defending its state title after the TSSAA determined linebacker Tim McClendon's transfer papers were improperly filled out, making him an ineligible player. Then this spring, seven teachers and staff members at the school were suspended for consuming alcohol while chaperoning a school-sanctioned senior class trip to the Bahamas in March.

"It seems to be drifting off track a little bit," Harvey said. "I think people just got lax with following the Board of Education guidelines."

Harvey announced his write-in campaign days after news broke of the staff suspensions. Welch's wife, LeAnn, a school counselor, was among the seven staff members disciplined for drinking.

Harvey pledged to devote time and energy representing District 2 constituents in the Red Bank area, a group he said had felt "ignored."

"I feel like I can give them the attention they need," Harvey said. "It's a new day in Red Bank."

Harvey touted his work on various boards, including the State Board of Nursing, Founder's Fund committee and the Signal Mountain High School football committee.

Both candidates are magnet school proponents and support the International Baccalaureate program at Signal Mountain Middle/High.

If elected, Welch said he plans to stay in touch with principals at all the schools he represents. He hopes to examine the budget and make sure that money is being sent to the classroom and is being used for effective programs.

"Whatever programs we put in place, I want them to be done well," he said.