School board candidates turn out
LaGRANGE — With less than a month before early voting begins May 2, two contested races for the Troup County Board of Education are heating up.
Four of the board’s seven seats are up for election this cycle. Voters in two districts — 5 and 6 — will choose between three candidates in each race. Districts 2 and 3 are also up for election, but only one candidate is running in each race.
During a forum Tuesday at the Active Life recreation center on Ragland Street, the six candidates in contested races laid out their platforms and visions for Troup County’s public schools and third largest employer.
District 5, which encompasses northeastern LaGrange and the central part of Troup County, has educator Catherine S. Hunt, accounts manager John Asbell and real estate agent Kendall Butler vying for the seat vacated by retiring board member Debbie Burdette.
Hunt, a LaGrange College graduate who taught English in Troup County schools for 29 years, told forum attendees her experience in the classroom would provide real-world experience to help guide her decision-making, if elected.
“I have been, for most of my adult life, deeply immersed in Troup County schools,” she said. “What I believe I offer, therefore, is the experience and knowledge to know what it’s really like to be a teacher and work in our school system.”
Asbell, a Georgia Power employee and past chairman of the THINC College and Career Academy, said his experience with THINC would serve him as a board of education member.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work and serve along with some of our leaders in education with the THINC College and Career Academy,” he said. It is a “tremendous asset of our school system, a very innovative way of teaching and educating, bringing together college and career.”
Butler, a former chemical engineer who founded a real-estate firm, reiterated a point she made during a similar forum last month and said she is concerned about a “crisis” in Troup County schools regarding graduation rates.
“We are graduating 71 percent of our students, but only 59.8 percent of our economically disadvantaged students,” she said. “We are failing a significant number of our families, and it’s just unacceptable.”
Candidates for District 6, which includes parts of west LaGrange and southwestern Troup County, has funeral home agent Dorothy C. Jennings, maintenance planner Joe Franklin and retiree Rodell Poole seeking a seat vacated by board member Ashley Adams, who is not seeking re-election.
Jennings spoke of students’ learning environments in a technologically changing world and her fondness for Troup County.
“Everyone has been very kind to me here,” she said. “That’s why I keep coming back. I’m here to say.”
Franklin, who works for Kimberly-Clark, said his experience in the private sector would help him properly budget the school system.
“A huge amount of money goes into this, and we have to make sure it goes right and it’s done right,” he said. “It takes big dollars (that are) well allocated to get the most bang for the buck.”
Poole, a retired manager, said he is concerned about the amount of bureaucracy involved in education and wants teachers to have more face time with students.
“Our teachers are being overcrowded with paperwork,” he said. “They need that time to spend teaching our children. When we have times when we have to take them (teachers) out of school because of budgets, because of money … that’s a problem.”
Full video recordings of each candidate’s speech are available at www.lagrangenews.com/election2016.
Two other districts are up for election, but Kirk Hancock of LaGrange and Brandon Brooks of Hogansville are running unopposed for districts 2 and 3, respectively. Hancock is slated to replace board member Sheila Rowe, and Brooks is set to replace board member Diane Matthews, both of whom are not seeking re-election.
The Troup County Board of Education election will be held in the May 24 primary and will appear on all Republican, Democratic and nonpartisan ballots. All school board seats are nonpartisan.
Early voting will be held during weekdays from May 2 to May 20 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Troup County Government Center, 100 Ridley Ave. Saturday voting will be held May 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., also at the government center.
The deadline to register to vote in the election is April 26.
Area residents can register to vote at the government center during weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Georgians can also register to vote online through the secretary of state’s secure website at https://registertovote.sos.ga.gov.