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Candidates for School Board respond to questions

This election year citizens will vote in four Board of Education members.
Tommy Houser, a current school board member and former chairman of the Board of Education is running for Northbrook Township. He is running unopposed. George Dellinger, a fellow school board member, is running unopposed for the Ironton Township.
Five candidates are vying for the remaining two seats. Fred Jarrett, a current member of the Board of Education is facing off with George Smith for the Lincolnton City Limits seat.
Tony Jenkins, who is currently holding the At Large seat, is running against both Jim Jones and Clifidean Foster Bethea.
These five candidates were asked to submit profiles and answer five questions.

Questions
What safeguards are in place or needed to make sure huge investments of taxpayer money in new facilities are properly spent?
What needs to be done to ensure the Board of Education works as a team?
How should the school system handle continuing growth in the county?
What is the best strategy to recruit and retain teachers?
Other than the issues already addressed, what do you feel is the most important issue facing Lincoln County Schools?

Name: Fred Jarrett
Age: 51
Education: Masters in Educational Supervision and Administration, Winthrop University (1990); BS in Science Teaching (Chemistry), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1975); graduate of Lincolnton High School (1971).
Occupation: Nuclear Chemistry Instructor at McGuire Nuclear Station.
Family: Wife, June Broome Jarrett, teacher assistant at S. Ray Lowder Elementary; son, Brett, a junior at Lincolnton High School.
1. What is needed is taxpayer involvement in the spending of their money for educational facilities. What safeguards are in-place? Several board members possess the knowledge and abilities of construction and project management, plus understand the environmental regulations for construction. The board and administrators have just completed one very difficult construction project, North Lincoln High School, and a second one, St. James Elementary that went well. This current experience will help assure taxpayer their money is properly spent. Before I was elected there was no control in-place for construction change orders. The administrators could approve significant expenditures in change orders without the approval of the board. That problem has been corrected by written board policy to only allow the administrators to approve change orders less than $10,000. Change orders above that amount have to be approved by the board.
2. Board members need to realize that individual actions reflect on the board as a whole, particularly their relations with other board members. A member should only be motivated by the desire to serve the community and not by some selfish or political reason. Board members should work as a team and not individuals or factions. This does not mean that there can’t be disagreement. Instead it means board members should recognize the integrity of board members and the merit of their work. Members who resort to personal attacks on fellow board members do the school district and the community serious injustice.
Also members should understand that it is a responsibility of the entire board to see that the children are properly educated. This means that each board member should realize that authority rests with the board and not individual board members.
3. Six simple words can be used to define the growth strategy…“Plan the work, work the plan.” Our planning and preparation is already underway. A Facility Needs Assessment was conducted in 2003 that addressed the needs of Lincoln County Schools today and for 10 years into the future. We have reviewed those needs with the County Commissioners. They now understand the school system’s needs to effectively educate the growing student numbers. The commissioners are integrating the Lincoln County Schools needs into the county’s overall strategic planning process. We have developed excellent working relationships with the Director of Lincoln County Building and Land Development. He has and is providing us with valuable information on growth trends, topographical maps, housing starts, housing developments, etc. Vigilant monitoring and preparation by the board of projected student growth will be required to assure adequate facilities are provided to educate the students of Lincoln County.
4. We have developed many strategies over the past four years to help Lincoln County Schools be successful in recruiting and retaining quality teachers. Some of the proven and effective strategies are: we recruit in-state and out-of-state, offer a 5.3 percent local teacher supplement, provide a local supplement advance – the fall portion of the local supplement can be advanced to beginning teachers, offer a limited signing bonus in critical needs areas, provide $500 tuition assistance per year, offer an interest-free relocation loan of $1,000, offer Praxis testing assistance, and over 35 area merchants offer incentives and discounts to beginning teachers. Many of the retention strategies reflect the recruitment strategies (e.g., $ 500 tuition assistance/year, 5.3 percent supplement, etc.). We have established and maintain an excellent reputation throughout the region regarding our school district, a safe work environment is provided, and we typically have a very supportive staff and board.
5. Student achievement. We need to ensure “underachieving” as well as “overachieving” students continue to make gains in educational proficiency.

Name: George H. Smith
Age: 63
Education: Lincolnton High School – Class of ’59, University of South Carolina, Kings College
Occupation: Retired Businessman; 35 years – Sales and Marketing
Currently, Substitute Teacher – Lincoln County Schools
Family: Married for 41 years to Judy Dodgin Smith Children: Lisa A. Smith, G. Martin Smith, Tony L. Smith Grandchildren: 6
1. The Lincoln County Board of Education has now hired a “construction supervisor” and the architect having an on site representative should keep the general contractor of the new schools “in check” and prevent any unnecessary cost overruns. We must work to see that new schools and classrooms are built with all the tools for learning but not to overspend on wasted space and whistles and bells that are not needed for the educational process. We want our schools to have a nice eye appeal but we must not waste money on appearances. We must be very prudent with the taxpayer’s money.
2. Politics must be taken out of the board room and board members must stop attacking each other. The Board of Education is no place for personal egos, there is no “I” in team. Board members must be willing to compromise and use the common sense approach to decisions that are made. The Board of Education must make sure the “right” administrators are in place and let the administration run the schools. The board sets the policies and works with the county commissioners on local funding, the board must not micro-manage the schools.
3. The Board of Education must continue it’s “long range planning” and build our new schools to handle the expected growth. The board must work with our county economic development team to attract new industries to help take the funding burden of the local property owner.
4. We must strive to make Lincoln County Schools #1 in North Carolina; we must provide a safe, clean and attractive classroom for our teachers. The school system needs to provide all the materials and books our teachers need to teach our students. We must use our “local tax dollars” wisely and increase our teacher supplements. We must recognize our teacher’s accomplishments by rewarding them for the good job they are doing. The Board of Education must continue to offer “incentives” for new teachers who are looking at Lincoln County Schools.
5. The Board of Education must be willing to listen with open minds to the students, parents, teachers and citizens to any ideas, suggestions or criticisms. The board must be willing to act on these issues regardless of the board member’s personal feelings, be able to deal with situations of uncertainty.

Name: Tony Jenkins
Age: 49
Education: Graduate of Lincolnton High School class of 1973. Level III North Carolina Fire & Life Safety Educator
Occupation: City of Lincolnton Fire engineer 20 years full time, 5 years volunteer
Family (just spouse and children): N/A

1. We now have in place testing that goes a step further to see if the soil is contaminated which would save us from a hefty cleanup bill.
We have just hired our site construction manager to ensure that we are getting what we ordered.
We just approved a process that will ensure that we hire a qualified contractor for the work being done.
2. Listen.
3. Continue to have in place the plans we have that will address the need for new facilities in the future.
Along with continuing to work with the planing board within the county, that issues building permits to ensure we know where expected growth is coming.
4. Offer and continue to get the supplements up to the state average.
Continue to go out to various job fairs as well to hold local job fairs in order to recruit newly teacher graduates.
5. Retaining teachers
The NCLB (No Child Left Behind), which was mandated by the federal government, has been a stress on the system as a whole. Although I know it is an accountability structure that is in place. Testing has been around a long time and has always been important. It has been our means of measuring if the students retained what they were taught. However, it has become more on the front burners today than ever before. The teachers are doing a great job and will continue to do so for the children. This is not to leave out all the rest of the 1,600 employees in our system it takes all of us and I know they will all get to the home plate when they come to bat for the children.
I am not saying this NCLB is the sole problem but I feel it has effected us.

Name: Clifidean Foster Bethea
Age: 45
Education: East Lincoln High School 1977, UNC-Greensboro- BA Psychology 1982
NC A & T State University Masters Degree in Education 1999
Occupation: Social Worker Supervisor in Adult Services, Lincoln County Government, Department of Social Services
Family: Husband, Kenny
Children, Kenneth & Kendall Bethea

1. There must be accountability at all levels of management beginning with the board of education. Identifying needs early and planning for growth. The new state law related to bidding for contractors will be an enhancement. The board can now choose from several bidders that they know to be reputable. In the past the board had to accept the lowest regardless of their level of comfort. The project is granted to one general contractor and that contractor is responsible for the entire project. This will allow for the timely completion of projects. It is important to be proactive and not reactive to situation. Therefore on on-going process that allows for evolution and monitoring is essential.
2. The board must continue to establish and maintain effective communication among all members. It is always necessary to respect the opinion of others. The board must be dedicated to addressing all issues openly and honestly. When you work with a group of people its important to know that there will be differences in terms of personality and approach to solutions. We must respect that. We must realize that it is ok to agree to disagree, but never lose your focus when addressing an issue. The only question becomes what is right for the Lincoln County School System.
The citizens of Lincoln County expect and deserve a board that will always be diligent in their efforts to make our school system the very best that it can be.
4. Most often when you think about recruiting and retaining teachers, you think money. It is very important that the Lincoln County School System be competitive with surrounding school systems and offer to our teachers a salary that is attractive and offers incentives. I am very supportive of this effort. Teachers want a safe work environment that is conducive to learning. The school board must be in tune to our teacher, listen to them and encourage their input in decision making. Time management allows for proper planning, evaluating and reassigning activities. Our teachers wear many hats, they are confronted with completing task that deviate from instructional time. Our teachers are being asked to do more with less.
When new teachers are recruited we want them to know that supports are in place, providing teachers with resources and training to enable them to meet the educational needs of every child. Each new teacher should have a veteran mentor. Due to the shortage of teachers nationally, we are no longer just competing for teachers in NC. We must be creative in our approach.
5. I think that a very important issue is addressing the no child left behind law and closing the gap of achievement. It is necessary to really understand the impact this federal law has on our teachers and our students. We are being asked to do more with less. The school board, administration, parents and students each have a part to play in ensuring all children receive a quality education. I support and encourage parent involvement. We must form community partnerships, provide after school supports for children, tutoring, mentoring programs, can help address some of these concerns. It is necessary to assess the current programs that are supporting struggling students to ensure they have the impact hoped for. Determine if other strategies are needed. Lincoln County Schools will continue to make great strides in closing the gap of achievement. It is equally important to our teaching students and administration to know that they are valued and supported.

Name: Jim Jones
Age: 40
Education: Attended Tri Cities State Technical Institute, Blountville, Tn. Construction and Design courses.
Occupation: General Contractor
Family: Married to Pat, for 13 years. Two Sons, Jake and Jack, ages 11 and 9.

1. Zero Based budgeting, and the public disclosure of all expenditures. Competitive bids from several contractors are a must.
2. Nothing can be done. As it is a NON PARTISAN board on paper, fact is, the individuals on the board are very partisan. The current board typically votes along party lines. By making the school board elections PARTISAN, the electorate can openly see which way a candidate will lean on issues.
3.By keeping the need for handling the growth in the fore front of the people. Schools will need to be built, AND STAFFED. The responsibility lies with the board of commissioners to have the infrastructure in place, and being READY for the growth ahead of time.
4. A more competitive compensation package. The bottom line, is that teachers are professionals who wish to advance their own personal interests, as well as teach. They should have quality work environment, and feel secure in the same. Additional funding is also needed. The free market system must prevail.
Other than the issues addressed, what do you feel is the most important issue facing Lincoln county schools.
Academic excellence, Being prepared for growth, fiscal responsibility, and most importantly, keeping local families in mind when making policy decisions.

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