The Lebanon Democrat asked candidates for the Lebanon Special School District Board of Education to tell readers why they are running for office and how they would address the challenges facing the district.

Joel Thacker and James “Jay” White are vying for the board’s single open seat, which current member Andy Brummett is retiring from.

The election is on Aug. 6, and early voting is now underway. For more information, go to www.wilsonelections.com.

Joel Lewis Thacker

Age: 46

Spouse: Jo Ellen Thacker

Child: Bretton Belle Thacker, 13

Highest level of education attained: Master’s Degree

Question 1: What makes you the best candidate for the position?

I am the best candidate for this position because I have the experience as a previous Level 5 Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA) Board Member. My

time on the

LSSD School Board was positive and includes a review and

update of the policy and procedures, an establishment of a nepotism policy and an updated summary of the superintendent’s position qualifications.

I work daily with kids through my ministry at West Haven Baptist Church as Student Minister. In addition, I have served as President of Wilson County CASA. My community service also includes involvement in the Wilson County Big Brother Program, Vice President of PTO, and in Leadership Wilson Class of 2004. I will be a conservative voice, a Christian voice and a voice for students, teachers and parents.

Question 2: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing LSSD and how would you address it?

The greatest challenge we currently face is the COVID-19 crisis and safely opening our schools. The Central Office staff and teachers are working diligently to make sure Lebanon students are welcomed back safely while creating a supportive learning environment socially, emotionally and academically. I will be supportive of the Central Office and teachers as they make tough decisions during the next few months.

My desire is to focus on teacher retention and increase parent involvement throughout the district. We want to keep our best teachers by giving them the support they need. I plan to be a voice for teachers on the school board. I will work to support our teachers as they face the increasing demands of curriculum expectations and classroom management.

At the same time, I want to increase parent involvement and let them know they are welcome and have a voice in their child’s education. There are many resources available to parents, and I want to ensure they are clearly communicated in a language they understand.

Question 3: What does LSSD do well?

LSSD is a wonderful school district where my wife taught for 10 years. My father-in-law, Robert T. Johnson, was principal for more than 25 years at Sam Houston and then at Coles Ferry Elementary during its opening. Lebanon is blessed to have our own school system with fantastic facilities and a legacy of great educators. With the COVID-19 challenge, LSSD has provided all students with one-to-one Chromebook technology. This forward-thinking decision will advance our virtual learning options for both teachers and students.

Question 4: What does LSSD need to do better?

As Lebanon continues to grow, LSSD needs to ensure that diverse learners have the same opportunities to be successful. Our community has been generous to support our diverse community of learners. As a student minister my heart is for students, including those who are underprivileged or have special needs. My work and experience compel me to give full attention and encouragement to all students from the school board level.

James “Jay” White

Age: 53

Spouse: Kim White

Children: Chris, 34, and Hayden, 22

Highest level of education attained: Some college

Question 1: What makes you the best candidate for the position?

This is my home, my community. I’m a graduate of Leadership Wilson and Leadership Middle Tennessee. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of many different boards over the years including the Chamber of Commerce, Cedarcroft and Prospect. During that time I’ve worked with schools and youth. They have been a targeted area for me as I have been able to give back to this community that gave me so much as I was growing up.

Whether it’s 4-H, St. Jude’s, Prospect or the school systems, I just want to help our young people to have the opportunity to grow up where they are valued and people step in to help give them a leg up. That’s what LSSD does, and I want to be a part of helping make sure that they can continue to carry on that mission just like they have done since my children were in school there. I want to work to continue that legacy through supporting the positive work environment.

Question 2: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing LSSD and how would you address it?

LSSD is facing the same challenge that all schools are facing right now. In a national pandemic, how do we provide a high quality education for our students while helping both families and teachers feel good about coming back to school? It’s a tough job. But they have worked hard to prepare for whatever happens.

It will continue to be a challenge throughout the year as things are changing all the time, but I feel confident that they will rise to meet those challenges. And I think the best way to support and address these challenges is to support the school system and trust that they have the health and safety of their students and families as a priority.

Question 3: What does LSSD do well?

LSSD has an outstanding reputation in our community for taking care of students and families. Not only are children loved and cared for at school, but even when they are out of school — like after the tornado and during COVID-19 — families were fed, teacher work crews came in to help and buses were provided for workers to go out into the community for cleanup.

But LSSD also takes great care of teachers. Their teachers are among the highest paid in the state of Tennessee. The positive work environment in the school setting makes it a great place to work.

Question 4: What does LSSD need to do better?

LSSD does so many things well. But like in any business or organization there is always room for improvement. I am sure that COVID-19 has given them lots of opportunities to analyze and reflect on areas that may need attention that they never realized before.

No doubt the challenging economic times have made them carefully examine their finances. They have always done a good job of managing the monies they have at hand from the taxpayers and the state, and I would encourage them and support them in efforts to continue the fiscal accountability and responsibility. Continuous improvement in all areas should be a goal of any board member.

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