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School board District 3 candidates respond to questions

LTN Staff reports

Lincoln County voters will be deciding this fall on which candidates for a range of federal, state and local offices they want to represent them. The Lincoln Times-News is surveying those office-seekers with questions related to issues they are likely to face if elected. Their answers are being published through the next few weeks. Today’s edition provides the  responses from candidates for the Lincoln County Board of Education, District 3 seat.
This is a new seat, created when the board drew up new districts last year, in response to a legislative mandate. For the first time, the districts in Lincoln County will be blanaced by population. Although residents of all parts of the county may vote for this seat, only those living in District 3, which is in the north-central portion of the county, may run.
Among those competing for this seat is current board member Ed Hatley, a registered Democrat, who is seeking a second term. Republican Anita McCall is also seeking the seat.
Question: Several schools located in within District 3 are consistently among the most poorly performing schools in the county with below-average scores on state tests, while schools targeting the same age students in the northeastern portion of District 3 have performed well.  What can you do to ensure all  parents that their children have as much access to a quality education as those in Pumpkin Center?
Hatley: Most of the schools in Lincoln County are showing progress in test scores. There are a lot of variables that figure into a school’s test scores. We have discussed with the administration techniques that work effectively at some schools and sharing those procedures with other schools. The superintendent and her staff make regular visits to all the schools to assure that the state curriculum is being taught.
One of the indicatives that are being stressed this year is the Core Curriculum. Teachers at every school are attending these workshops and these sessions should improve instruction at every school, especially those schools that are not performing at the highest level. The entire state curriculum and testing procedures are going to change this year. The administration and school board are making sure the schools are ready for those changes.
We have had grade-level meetings and sharing sessions for several years. At these meetings an open discussion should be encouraged. One of the best things that have come out of these meetings is pacing guides. These pacing guides serve a couple of purposes. One is to assure that the curriculum is being covered in a timely manner. Another result of the pacing guides is to affirm that all of our schools are presenting the same materials and there is consistency from school to school.
Test scores are just one way to measure the success of a school. School climate and the interaction between the teachers and students are just as important. Thanks to our excellent staffs for their continued hard work.
McCall: As a Lincoln County school board member, I plan to review and visit the schools to see the availability of tools, means and methods for all of our children to excel. Our county has three areas: East, Central and West Lincoln; together they make up one county. Parents should be satisfied that the finances, hiring methods and quality of education is equally distributed throughout the county. I will work to make this equal distribution a reality. The way things have been done historically is unacceptable. I believe most parents and citizens of our county are “fed up” with the ways things have been done in the past. We desire transparency, passion and effort from our Board of Education to better the county schools and produce the best students possible from Lincoln County. I believe we can do better, progress further and increase our students’ potential for success.
Question: The previous superintendent of Lincoln County Schools did not have his contract renewed after accusing board members of allegedly unethical conduct, including using their board positions to seek unfair favors for relatives and friends. What do you think about how that situation was handled and do you think the conduct of which he accused the board members, if true, would be inappropriate?
Hatley: We should be looking toward the future not keep dwelling on the past. The decision about non-renewing a former superintendent was supported by the majority of the board over two years ago. There are policies in place to handle unethical conduct by board members.
McCall: Anyone using the position to seek favors for any reason is unethical and this behavior should be stopped immediately. If evidence exists to prove the allegations true, the board member should be excused. The conduct of a board member should be held to the highest standard, with no favors or perks. After board members are elected, they accept the standards and ethics policies of the position. This does not “relax” when you have been on the board for years. The ethical conduct agreement remains as long as you are a board member.
Question: The Board of Education recently debated repairs to the track at Lincolnton High School, which had been forced to bus athletes elsewhere for competitions. Although the repairs were approved, some concern was expressed about spending money on such facilities when budgets for teacher salaries and academic resources are tight. How do you feel about this type of spending?
Hatley: Schools are more that just brick and mortar. It is up to the board to assure that all of the needs of the schools are met. I voted to repair the tracks at West Lincoln High and Lincolnton High. North Lincoln and East Lincoln have tracks that are up to standard. My reason for voting yes was to make sure that we have the same opportunities for all our students, consistency. Even though I am running for District 3, I represent all the citizens of Lincoln County.
The moneys that will be used for these projects are from the bond referendum. That money can only be used for capital improvements. It would be unethical for the board to use this money for current expense needs such as teacher salaries or academic needs.
There is a need for addressing salaries and instructional programs. Those needs have to be addressed during the budget process NOT using school bond monies.
McCall: When we have schools or grounds which are uninhabitable for sports events or practices, everyone suffers. As we all agree, now is a very difficult time for our nation financially, however the Board of Education (BOE) has the responsibility to use the money currently residing in the budget wisely. We need to explore all avenues as a board to find ways to meet the needs of the schools and spend the money in the most diligent manner. Line items in a budget separate what has been set aside for each group of needs. Although teacher salaries are tight, the BOE has the responsibility to consider the line items approved when preparing a budget. Currently, West Lincoln High School and Lincolnton High School track field needs construction; this is next on the list to repair. The Building and Site Committee has a list of future necessities for our county schools, as the approved budget allows.
Question: Even though unemployment in the region is high, industries in Lincoln County have said they can’t find enough workers with the necessary technical training. What can board of education members do to address this issue?
Hatley: There should be a process to assure the needs for specific training for current and future industries in Lincoln County and the surrounding area. Our career and technical education personnel should meet on a regular basis with representatives from a cross-section of businesses to ascertain their needs. Our vocational curriculum must be flexible enough to meet the needs of our community.
McCall: Some students will choose not to attend college; those students need to be ready to “hit the ground running.” Currently being reviewed by BOE and Superintendent Dr. Sherry Hoyle is the necessity for Lincoln County Schools to have globally competitive students. An industry and business tour took place in August, to see what skills are most needed. The 2012-2015 Strategic Plan, is a step in the right directions. It will take aggressive innovative instructors to teach this, an antiquated environment or BOE will not work. My technical background gives me the ability to know and understand how to address these needs.
Question: School Board members have to handle a range of complex policy and legal issues. What can you tell us about your educational and professional background that would show you are the most qualified candidate in this race?
Hatley: I think I am highly qualified to address policy and legal issues as well as other educational concerns. I earned a BS from Appalachian State University in 1973, a Master’s degree in 1974 from Appalachian State University, and an Ed. S. from Appalachian State University in 1976. I am a retired educator with a wide-range of experience that should assist the board and administration.  I started as a teacher in Lincolnton and then moved into administration.
I served as an assistant principal and then as a principal at three different schools: Iron Station Elementary, East Lincoln Junior High and North Brook Elementary. After serving as a school-site administrator, I moved to the county office and served as Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for three years. I retired after 14 years as the Associate Superintendent.
Since being elected to the board four years ago, I served as chairman of the policy committee for two years and have served as the chairman of the board the last two years. I have also been appointed to the board of directors for the North Carolina School Board Association Trust Fund.
Non-school-related, I have served in several leadership capacities at First United Methodist Church and have served on the city planning board, board of adjustments, and ABC board.
McCall: I have been in engineering 24 years, no longer working full time and have the desire to help. I am a better-qualified candidate because I am independent from the school system. There is no conflict of interest for me. No past relationships exist with any of the administration or teachers of Lincoln County. I am a professional within our community who is willing to serve, not for my own agenda or to continue my career path. I have the time, technical ability and energy to put forth all my efforts into this endeavor. I am 46 years old, Lincoln County’s 2011 Red Cross Volunteer of the Year, an appointed member of Lincolnton’s Board of Adjustments and Lincolnton’s Planning and Zoning Board (a quasi-judicial board), a past member of the Board of Managers for Lincoln County Family YMCA, volunteer with Lincolnton’s DDA and Lincoln Cultural Center. I build websites and social media pages for nonprofits for our community. I seek to move Lincoln County and our school system into the future.
Question: The School Board is required to enter a closed session to discuss some issues, but not allowed to examine other matters or take most actions while in closed session. If you were on the board and believed that improper business was being done in closed session, what would you do?
Hatley: Most of the decisions to go into closed sessions are made with the guidance of our attorney. Closed sessions should only be held in compliance with state laws. If elected, I will continue to monitor those guidelines.
McCall: I would immediately tell the board, “This is inappropriate.” I would expect it to stop immediately. I am not afraid of speaking the truth. I expect my other board members to hold each other and myself accountable. Let’s be honest, we should not have anything to hide, if we are not doing anything wrong.
Question: At budget time, the board often faces tough decisions. What would your priorities be in such a situation?
Hatley: Our budget requests should always reflect what is best for the students. Budget priorities should be made with input from all the stakeholders, including parents and staff. One thing that I want to stress is that the school board should be good stewards of the money that is entrusted to us. Even though there are a lot of needs in the schools, the decisions on budget requests need to be a close co-operative effort between the school board and county commissioners. No one wants tax increases during these tough economic times.
McCall: There is still money in the Lincoln County school system budget that can be saved.This would allow us to pay our current teachers a competitive salary, purchase additional resources such as more smart boards (which have proven to be a success in our schools), IPads, laptops and additional technology. I am a common-sense person, who has the ability to face the tough decisions and stay focused on what is needed in today’s time verses what is desired.
Question: If the board is asked to hire high-level administrators, should whether a candidate is from Lincoln County, or a certain part of the county be a factor in the decision, either for or against them?
Hatley: The best candidate for any position should get the job. The one main advantage of hiring from within the system is that you know what you are getting. Some people look good on paper but do not have the skills necessary to fill the job. Some people can interview well but do not have the interpersonal skills to be effective. If all things are equal … the person from within the system should get the job.
McCall: No favoritism should be shown to any applicant for Lincoln County being their hometown. Regardless of whether you are applying to be a high-level administrator, teacher or custodian, you should be looked at equally with those from other areas. All applicants will be reviewed and interviewed with no respect (for or against) hometown location. The goal is to have the best schools, which requires the best teachers with the highest credentials, certifications and success. If you are the highest-qualified you will be hired for the position.
Question: While charter schools in some areas of the state have struggled, Lincoln Charter School has consistently posted better scores on standardized tests than the public schools in this county. What do you think of charter schools and Lincoln Charter in particular, especially as they affect funding for and perception of traditional public schools?
Hatley: Parents are, by legislative action, given the choice of traditional public schools or charter schools. The one thing a lot of people forget is that both models are public schools. It is only fair to all parties that money for both models should be allotted based on enrollment figures.
McCall: All families should have the ability to choose what is right for their students. However, I desire our traditional public schools to have an allure to move to Lincoln County for the best schools of anywhere. We can do better than we are currently doing to promote and create an environment where the students desire to excel. I believe technology is the key to success. I will be a catalyst for the positive change.
Question: Much of the board’s work currently takes place in committee sessions that are not heavily attended by the public, with final action often coming only in reference to proposals discussed during the committee sessions. Does this procedure serve the public well and would you want to see any changes?
Hatley: I have discussed with the superintendent and some of the board members the possibility of some of the board meetings, starting next year, being conducted at schools out in the county. There are a couple of advantages to rotating the meetings. It would give board members a chance to get to know the schools and give the school a chance to show-off some of their programs. It would also make it easier for students, parents, and the community members to attend the meetings.
McCall: I would love to see the procedure changed to include more committee discussion.

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