Nine candidates vying for seats on the Buncombe County Board of Education shared their positions on the role of the board, the school system’s budget and more Monday night at the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County’s first of four candidate forums.
About 60 people attended the forum, held Sept. 24 in the Ferguson Auditorium at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, which also gave voters the opportunity to talk with candidates in other Buncombe County races, including for the chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. Carolina Public Press was a co-sponsor of the event.
Clear Channel Asheville News Director Jerri Jameson moderated the forum, which featured Roberson District candidate Amy Churchill; incumbent Owen District Representative Chip Craig; incumbent North Buncombe District Representative Ann Franklin; North Buncombe District candidate Brian Freelan; at-large candidate Jerry Green; Owen District candidate Dan Hale; at-large candidate Chico Januszkiewicz; incumbent at-large Representative Dusty Pless; and incumbent Roberson District Representative Steve Sizemore. At-large candidate Alan Ditmore did not attend the forum.
Debating role of board, budget development
Board members should focus on being good stewards of the the money allocated to the public schools, Churchill said.
“We also have to have communication between the administrators, teacher, parents and even students,” she said. “Opportunities to engage in conversation would be very beneficial to the board.”
Craig said it is the role of the Board of Education to hire the school superintendent and then oversee the overall policy of the school system and approve the budget.
“I think it’s important that we not get too involved in the day-to-day activities of the system,” Craig said.
As a board member, Franklin said she wants to help all children succeed “no matter what their plight.”
“All children,” she said, “need to be in the presence of a capable, competent caring teacher, and it’s that teacher that causes the success in the classroom.” She said that the board’s role toward supporting that is to make policy, hire people and then let them to their jobs.
Freelan said he was drawn to running for a seat on the Board of Education because of his son.
“It’s for the kids,” he said. “I want to make sure they’re raised in the right environment.”
With every decision the Board of Education makes, Green said, “You put students and children first.”
“You employ the smartest people, hold them accountable and stay out of their way,” he said, while carefully analyzing resources to make sure they’re following students.
After attending some Board of Education meetings, Hale said he was motivated to run, in part, because he thinks the board should have more “two-way street” conversations.
With with what he described as a “real breakdown” of communication on the board, Hale said he questioned how members could “set good policy when they’re fighting all the time.”
Januszkiewicz described students as “our most important customers,” with educators there to give them the greatest service possible. He said everything the board and school system does should support the goal of developing the workforce to make sure it’s prepared for a global economy, including supporting opportunities that don’t just involve attending college.
Pless said his main purpose as a board member is to “put children first.” In terms of how the board oversees and crafts the school system’s budget, Pless said the board has “at most 10 percent discretion over the budget. Otherwise, the feds and the state tell us what to do with the money.”
When it comes to oversight of the school system, Sizemore said the Board of Education’s role is not to micromanage.
“We do not run the daily operations,” he said. “That comes from the superintendent. We develop policy that’s adopted that provides and facilitates efficient operations for the school system and provides the framework for the superintendent to make decisions.”
Upcoming forums from the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County:
- A District 1/N.C. House District 114 Candidate “Meet and Greet” and Forum from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Oct. 1, at the Lord Auditorium at Pack Memorial Library at 67 Haywood St. in Asheville.
- A District 2/N.C. House District 115 Candidate Forum from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Oct. 8, at the Black Mountain Library at 105 N. Dougherty St. in Black Mountain.
- A District 3/NC House District 116 Candidate Forum from 6:30 8:30 p.m., Oct. 15, at the Skyland Fire Department at 9 Miller Road in Skyland.
Call the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County at (828) 258-8223 or visit http://ablwv.org/ for more information. Carolina Public Press, 880 The Revolution, Mountain Xpress, News Radio 570 WWNC and The Urban News are co-sponsors of the forums.
Visit ELECTION 2012 for Carolina Public Press’ election coverage.
All photographs by Matt Rose for Carolina Public Press.
Correction: An earlier version of this story listed incumbent candidate Steve Sizemore in the Robertson District. He is in the Roberson District.