Candidates in the running for school board seats answered questions July 24 at a forum presented by the Lebanon-Wilson Chamber of Commerce and moderated by the government relations committee.
Nine candidates were in attendance, including candidates for Zone 2, incumbent Bill Robinson, Matthew Mock and David Burks; candidates for Zone 4, incumbent Linda Armistead and Maurisa Pasick; candidate for Zone 6, incumbent Johnie Payton, whose opponent, Kimberly McGee, was absent; and Zone 7, incumbent Gwynne Queener, Chad Karl and James “Rusty” Keith.
Lebanon-Wilson Chamber of Commerce board chair J.B. Owens introduced the candidates, and Jay Hinesley, chair of the chamber’s government relations board, went over the format.
Each zone was asked three questions with questions delivered by Owens and Hinesley alternating. Payton answered questions with Zone 4 since her opponent was absent.
The first question was for Zone 2 candidates about the new zoning districts drawn for schools.
“I think with the amount of growth that we’re incurring in this county right now, we need to look at many options and see what we can do,” Burkes said.
“If we’re going to do it, we need to look at the long term. If we change zones now, and then five years down the road we change zones again, that hurts the student population, that hurts the culture of the school where a student can feel comfortable,” Mock said.
“Zoning is probably one of the most difficult things that we have to deal with because people get used to going to certain schools, and their family goes to school there, so any time you have to make those shifts it is very difficult. The more we grow, it’s going to require that different zoning lines are drawn. We just have to do what’s best for our children each and every day,” Robinson said.
The question for Zone 4 and Zone 6 was about discipline problems on the busses.
“Looking at the bus system and probably trying to implement some sort of safety on the bus system is probably something that should really be addressed, being that each child, once they’re put on a bus is probably at this point property of the school and county and the responsibility therein lies with the bus drivers. I think that we would have to look at making sure the bus drivers have some sort of safety class that they go through and maybe potentially putting some sort of SROs on those busses or parents or volunteers,” Pasick said.
Armistead said, “Discipline is a deterrent to the safety of driving the bus. I think we’ve all had children in our vehicles where we’ve had to be distracted trying to settle the children down and focus on the driving. The discipline has been addressed already in our school system with the principles taking the lead. That increases the effectiveness of discipline. I think they are able to use the system that we already have worked out concerning disciplinary codes to make sure the children understand the safety of the situation and not distracting our drivers. We do have cameras on the busses so we do have a measure of safety in that manner as well.”
“I think first, parents should understand that drivers have to be paying attention to where they are going. No. 1, it starts with the parents talking to the children at their home, I do with my 6 year old. I say if you want to ride the bus you will sit still and you will follow the directions. It is very important that parents see the rules and if children do not behave, they should be placed off the bus. And it’s a matter of talking to the kids. Sometimes you have to have an aid on some busses, and I understand that, especially when you have elementary kids with high school and middle all together. First it starts at home and then we go from there,” Payton said.
The third question was for candidates in Zone 7. “The relationship between the school board and the county commission is very important. How would you envision the ideal relationship, and what role do you believe the school board member should play when working with the county commission?”
“That’s a very important question, just because they have to work together, and I think the main thing is just being honest. Being able to have an honest conversation, whether you agree or disagree, have an honest open conversation about this is what I want, about where you are and where you want to go, be clear about your goals.
You can always work things out. The worst thing to do is just go in your corners and just argue from afar. You have to be able to figure out what you can agree on, the commonalities, especially if you have a common goal so you can work your angles toward that goal. Ultimately, it’s about relationships,” Karl said.
“Cooperation between the school board and Wilson County I think is vital. I think it’s very important moving forward in the future, not just the communication between the school board and the county commission, but communication between the parents, the bus drivers, the administration. This is the key. We’re doing some wonderful things here in Wilson County and we need to continue on the path that we’re on because as far as I’m concerned, this is the best school system in the state,” Keith said.
“Communication between board of education and the commission is vitally important, especially in Zone 7, we’re one of the bigger zones and we cover about six different commission districts. I would like to see all of us sit down, prior to this time of the year when we have a budget, all year long and discuss with them what’s going on, what we need so that we have some ongoing communication between everybody and creating that atmosphere of being able to work together,” Queener said.