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School board candidates address county’s top issues

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

Voting is underway in Washington County and the ballot includes six candidates aiming to clinch one of three seats as a Washington County Board of Education member in District 2. 

To better inform readers, the Herald & Tribune asked each candidate the following questions:

What background and/or qualifications set you apart from other candidates?  Why should people vote for you?

If elected what would be your main goal as a board member?

What specific goals or aspects of the school system do you want to focus on as a board member?

If elected, how would you go about promoting the Jonesborough School while also considering other schools in the county?

Covid-19 has changed the way school systems function in the past few months.  What would you like to see the school board do in regards to school opening and navigating the health crisis from here on?  How would you help students, teachers and parents during this time?

Each candidate was asked to respond to the question using 250 words or less.

Mary Beth Dellinger (incumbent)

Why: I would like to remain on the board to support teachers and staff and to give students the resources they need to be successful.  I feel a need to serve my community and education has been an area that allows me to utilize my experience and passion.

Background: As a retired Washington County teacher, I understand what schools need to succeed. My 35 years of teaching experience have prepared me to serve our students and communities.  I have a Master’s Degree in Education and currently work at East Tennessee State University as a Student Teacher Supervisor.  I’m always active in current education issues.

Main goal: My main goal is to support students, teachers and staff.  I want to create a school system that is focused on learning so that our students will be successful in college, career and life.  Every year is an important step for academic, social and emotional growth.  

Specific goals: I would like to see Washington County expand and fully fund our Career and Technical Education Program.  CTE does more than simply prepare students for careers, it provides students with an opportunity to develop specific academic, intellectual, technical and 21st century skills.  These skills are necessary to be successful in career and life. We need to keep our salaries competitive with area school systems in order to attract and retain the best employees.

Jonesborough: Every school and community is important to our system.  Jonesborough offers unique opportunities as we navigate their new building process.  I have been honored to be a part of the new Jonesborough School Design Team and I look forward to completing this project.

COVID-19: The ultimate goal is for all students to be going to school, learning in classrooms, socializing with friends and competing in sports’ programs.  We will get there.  Until then, we will do our best to keep our students, staff and families safe.  We need to communicate with students, families and communities with current situations.  I appreciate that both students and teachers are having to adapt to these unusual circumstances.  We need to support families with technology and be sure none of our families in need are without food.

Todd Ganger (incumbent)

Why: I am seeking reelection to the Board of Education because I feel I am a voice of reason and understanding for all Washington County stakeholders. I will work to promote and serve in a positive manner. By working alongside our Director of Schools, we will strive to increase funding, enhance our technology efforts, and improve the overall success of our system for students, teachers, and staff as a whole.

Background: I have served on the board of education for the past twelve years, two as chairman, and currently serve on the Tennessee School Boards Association as the Northeast District Director.  I possess the experience, professionalism, and knowledge that benefits our board and Washington County.

Main goal: My main goal as a board member has been and will always be to work with our Director of Schools to promote, protect, and provide for a well rounded learning experience for our students in Washington County.

Specific goals: One goal, if reelected, will be to bridge a gap with our local legislators. We need our voices in Nashville to reflect how our local board of education feels on issues.  Another goal will be to continue moving our system forward. The past ten years our system has taken great strides to improve facilities, technologies, and student achievement.

Jonesborough: The Jonesborough School is unique with its joint venture among the town, school system, and county leadership.  Promotion of the new Jonesborough school will be consistent with how the system promotes and operates all our schools.

COVID-19: The one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught, not only our community but our nation, is that we have to be able to adapt.  As the school year begins, we will learn many things, both good and bad.  Teachers and students will adapt daily as certain practices may work while others may not.  Patience as things change, adapting to those changes, and growing with the changes will be my hope for the students, teachers, and administrators for the upcoming school year.

Mike Masters (challenger)

Why: I’m seeking a seat on the board to work selflessly to address the needs of our county students and to make sure that all of Washington County students “ Are First”.

Background: If elected to the board, I feel like my business background would be an asset to the board. I feel like we need to operate the school system as a business and stop wasting our taxpayers dollars.

Main goal: My main goal, first and foremost, is to continue to be an advocate to the students of Washington County.

Specific goal: Specifically, my goal would be to bring more CTE classes back to the classroom. As a business owner and operator, I hear my colleges continuously complaining about trying to find help.  It’s become really hard to find someone in the plumbing industry, electrical, HVAC, construction and ect., or even someone willing to learn the trade. I feel like we’ve pushed our students over the years in the technology field for so long, that’s all we’re seeing nowadays. 

Jonesborough: I would like to see the Jonesborough school project finally come to fruition.  The students, teachers and parents have waited long enough. I feel like with my business background, I could help the project progress quicker and finally see students in a new school.

COVID-19: Covid 19 has changed our whole society in the way we all have lived and used to doing things in our everyday lives. I feel like the school system should have a plan implemented before, during and after the school year and years to come if we have to deal with this pandemic or any other pandemic we may see in the years to come. Communication to the parents, students and all employees should be high on the list of priorities. Parents along with teachers needs to have time to prepare and plan out their decisions based upon what the school system implements.

Carla B. McLain (challenger)

Why: I am running for a seat on the Washington County School Board because I came out of the trenches, and I know what it takes to help children flourish in the classroom.

Background: I taught grades fourth, fifth and sixth at Lamar School.   I also coached girls’ basketball there while teaching a split fourth and fifth grade class.  Later in my career I earned a Masters Degree   in counseling at Liberty University during three summer breaks.  Because I had a high school certification and a counseling degree, I took the job working truancy for the system for four consecutive years. I visited many students’ homes all over the county, and this was an eye opening experience for me.  I held Saturday school for the students who had to make-up missed school days.  I understand how engagement in students’ lives by helping them with their educational  needs is an  important part of showing them  that you care about their future.

Main goal: I want to ensure tax dollars are spent wisely during these hard economic times. 

Specific goal: I would like to see more funds spent on tutoring individual students and less on standardized testing in the elementary schools. My main goal is to see that teachers have the adequate books and materials to do a good job.  Civics should be taught in grades 5 and 7 and then again in high school. The (CTE) Career Technical Education track in our high schools should be enhanced so that our students can be prepared for the wor force as well as college. This in turn can help them qualify for better paying jobs.

Jonesborough: If elected I will work with the county commission as an advocate for the Jonesborough School as well as the other county schools.  Tax payers deserve accountability of their tax dollars.

COVID-19: Covid-19 has put a strain on students, teachers, and parents, as well as all community members.  The school system needs to work with the health professionals to devise a plan to operate schools safely.  Online classes need to be available or perhaps a rotating schedule for students to attend classes should be an option.   Temperature checks and masks recommended by the CDC should be followed in our schools.

Selina Pendleton (challenger)

Why: I would like to serve on the Washington County School Board as an advocate for all educational stakeholders in Washington County.  I believe the knowledge and experience I have in the field of education will make me an asset to the school system. I firmly believe in the motto – Making a Difference by Making Connections! A school system is only as strong as the relationship between all of its educational stakeholders including (Educational Leaders, Teachers, Paraprofessionals, Support Staff, Board Members, Bus Drivers, Students, Families, and Community Members and Business Leaders).  My goal is to work on uniting the Board as ONE for the students of Washington County! The safety and success of All Students, Faculty, and Staff must be a priority! I have knowledge of balancing a school budget, writing grants to secure additional funding for school systems, networking and team-building, teacher and support staff evaluations, leading professional development, and facilitating family involvement activities.  Let’s work together and ensure the Best For All! 

Background: Education is not just my career, it’s my passion! I have earned a Bachelor degree in Early Childhood Education, a Master of Education degree with an emphasis in Special Education, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership.  I just completed my 16th year in public education. I am currently serving as a School Administrator for Sullivan County Schools. I have held several positions in education, including serving as a 1st Grade Teacher, Attendance Official, Assistive Principal, and Principal for Washington County Schools; Early Childhood Supervisor for Kingsport City Schools; Teacher, Interventionist, and Administrator for Sullivan County Schools. I also serve as an Adjunct Professor for Tusculum University (since 2013).  I have served as a leader in many capacities and I feel the knowledge, experience, and people skills I possess will make me a valuable addition to the Washington County School Board. 

Main Goal: An effective school board plays an integral role in keeping the local school system on track, and setting policies that affect, protect, and benefit all educational stakeholders (students, certified and classified personnel, families, community members, and business members). The school board sets the vision and goals for the school district, and holds the district accountable for results. One school board member cannot effectively perform the job alone. Effective school board members contribute their unique talents while collaborating and working as a team with other board members.  My main goal is to help unite the Board as One keeping in mind –  the best interests of all educational stakeholders – Making a Difference by Making Connections! 

 Specific goals: I want to see equitable opportunities for all students and personnel across the district (work environment, academics, extracurricular activities, mental health support, etc).  I also want to work in conjunction with the county commission to increase certified and classified income levels comparable to Johnson City.  Our administration, faculty and staff work just as hard as other educators housed in the same county. I want to see vocational opportunities expanded in high school and extended into the middle schools.  I would like to see expanded opportunities for dual enrollment/college credits offered in high school.  I want educators and students to have the resources to ensure ALL students succeed to the best of their ability.  I want to help facilitate learning environments that produce achievement scores higher than the state or national average.  I want to simply advocate for the best education possible.

Jonesborough: I believe in equality for all students and personnel in the county.  One of the duties of the school board is to ensure a safe learning and working environment each equipped with the most up to date technological advancements available.  The new Boones Creek School is amazing and much needed.  The students in Jonesborough deserve no less!  I will continue to advocate for a new school to be built in Jonesborough that meets the safety, academic, emotional, and physical health of the students and faculty. I will advocate for the building of the school by building, maintaining, and nurturing positive relationships between the school system, Jonesborough, families, community members, and business  leaders. 

COVID-19: Students need to be in school if at all possible!  COVID-19 has been detrimental to society, including a huge loss to education and risking the health and safety of our children.  I believe the virus is real.  I believe the virus is dangerous.  But, there is more than just the risk of catching/spreading the virus that needs to be considered.  The virus not only jeopardizes the physical health of many but also the mental/emotional health of many, including children.  I work in a public school.  I see the invisible backpacks that children carry to school with them (neglect, abuse, nutrition, incarcerated parents, no parents, in foster care, suicidal thoughts/plans, clothing, shelter, etc). Schools provide more than just academics. Schools are life lines for many students and their families. I believe serving as an educator is a calling. A passion, not just a profession.  I choose to act in caution, but not live in fear. I want parents to have a choice to send their children physically to school or connect virtually at home. I want families to feel safe and secure knowing that extra precautions (extra cleaning, mask, social distancing, etc.) will probably be the norm but it’s because educators care and want to do what is best for each individual child.    

Whitney Riddle (challenger) 

Why: My heart has always been in helping kids, so running for school board is a great way for me to give back to the community.  We need to make sure our kids get the education they need to succeed.  The training and educational background employers look for changes so quickly now.  Our schools need to do a better job keeping pace with the new skill sets that are needed for a successful career.  I’m at a time in my life where I can look back at all of the hard work it took for my wife Sheri and I to help our own kids get started in their adult lives and be reflective and appreciative of those blessings our family has received along the way.  It’s tough raising a family in the world today.   So, I just want to be supportive of as many kids as possible in this environment.  We truly live in a great place, an area with so many wonderful opportunities for our young people.  It is essential to have people with a positive outlook on the school board, people who will encourage and love our kids in order for them to achieve their true potential. 

Background: I’m a 100% product of Washington County public schools as are my children.  Our kids attended Sulphur Springs and Daniel Boone.  Sheri and I both went to Jonesborough and David Crockett.  This means that I’m fairly balanced with my county school background and will resist the “us vs. them” mentality that we’ve seen sometimes between board members.  You can’t have one side of the county favored over the other and expect the outcome to be a good one!  All of our kids matter and I’ll do my best to put the kids first in every decision, no matter what part of the county they come from.

I’ve also been very involved with numerous sports programs over the years, having coached over 20 different boys and girls athletic teams.  The role of coach and mentor is something that defines who I am.  I feel called to continue that role (in a slightly different way) by offering myself for service on the school board.   We all need encouragers in life who are proud of each of us, who cheer us on, who have their eye on the bigger picture on our behalf.  That’s a role I feel comfortable in and hope to expand if elected to this position.

Main goal: When coaching, my goal has always been to help everyone improve themselves, not just the star players.  You have to believe in these kids and encourage each one to reach their potential.  The same goes for their education.  Our kids need to feel like the whole school system is behind them, from the school board on down.  Any infighting on the school board just takes away from the positive momentum we need to maintain progress and just negatively affects our kids, whether we know it or not.  Staying positive and focused on a great outcome for our students is definitely one of my main goals.

We also need to support our teachers so they can focus on being ready to give their best each day in the classroom.  I honestly can’t think of any profession more important in shaping the lives of future generations than that of a teacher. I still look back at the time when I was in school and remember the positive impact of so many teachers on my own life.  These folks were there doing their job because, just like the teachers we have today, they cared deeply about our kids and wanted to help them be successful in the future.  I owe a lot to the teachers I had in school.  I want to be supportive of our teachers today and never do anything as a board member to diminish their success in the classroom.

Specific goal: You see so much unproductive activity in government when the focus just needs to be on the task at hand.  If fortunate enough to be elected, I pledge to conduct myself in a very professional manner.  I will be respectful of others and will keep my focus on the kids. They need to come first. Helping to create a more positive environment during board meetings will be one of my main goals.  Negativity in any organization has a very demoralizing effect if left unchecked.  If elected I intend to be a deliberately positive school board member working for positive change.

Jonesborough: The great thing is that the Town of Jonesborough has stepped up as a partner with the county to make the Jonesborough school a reality.  Thank you to the residents of Jonesborough!  That kind of leadership is certainly appreciated in such challenging times.  

My goal is to be a great partner in the process already underway for building a new Jonesborough school and to help make sure it doesn’t get derailed by any unforeseen circumstances.  The kids of Jonesborough have waited long enough for these facilities and we have to make sure it is completed.

Thanks to a robust capital projects fund, county school maintenance needs are being addressed much sooner these days than they have previously.  I would like to maintain that momentum and make sure that we don’t let our schools deteriorate like Jonesborough did before basic needs are addressed.  I’m experienced in property management and maintenance and want to pay particular attention to this issue.  We can’t just pay attention to the new buildings and expect things to go smoothly.

COVID-19: We need to watch the infection rates and use common sense when opening schools this fall.  I think kids need to be back at school.  Mask use has been documented to help eliminate the spread of Covid-19, so obviously that should be a primary option for us.  We have the ability to allow kids to eat in the classroom and reduce the mass exposure by limiting gathering of the entire student body.  We are going to have to develop our skills as we go along , but the basics are in place for restarting school.  

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The general election and final day to vote will be held on Thursday, Aug. 6. 

For more information go to http://wcecoffice.com/.