Candidates for school board discuss system’s current state
Published 11:10 pm Monday, April 30, 2018
Three candidates for the district seven seat on the Troup County School Board discussed education Monday night during a forum at Del’avant Event Center.
Maiya Dowell, Tanya Katina Jones-Cameron and Elijah Kresses were asked about the overall state of the school system, early childhood education, bridging the gap between students of varying socioeconomic backgrounds and after-school programs as part of eight questions. Each candidate was given two minutes to answer each question. Each candidate was asked to grade the school system with a letter grade, ranging from A to F. Kresses and Dowell gave the Troup County School System a B-minus, while Jones-Cameron graded it as a C. Each candidate was asked how they’d improve that score.
Jones-Cameron said they key is more access to textbooks, especially at home.
“It’s a challenge to try to teach your children once they leave the school. Math for instance, we don’t have the textbooks as a guide. It’s impossible for parents to try to help their child with their homework,” Jones-Cameron said. “We are lost as parents.”
As part of his answer, Kresses said the school system needs to curb teacher turnover and said that exit interviews should become common practice, so administrators never truly know why teachers are leaving.
“We don’t have a way for teachers to anonymously and confidentially make suggestions so in order to make their voices heard, they open themselves up to retaliation,” Kresses said. “To solve a problem, you have to know what’s causing it, and we aren’t doing that.”
Dowell the school system and its staff as a whole need support to be successful. She discussed nonprofits that can help children with their school work.
“I feel if we support those groups, then Troup County School System will be able to connect with those nonprofits and make sure we boost that grade up because a B-minus is not going to attract employees when a business is [considering looking] in LaGrange, West Point or Hogansville,” Dowell said. “A B-minus is not going to attract them to move here.”
Here are other topics discussed Monday:
The candidates were asked if the schools have adequate technology in the classrooms. Kresses said it’s important to remember that some technologies have downsides as well, like making it more difficult for parents to help students do their homework.
“I don’t think every classroom has adequate technology,” Kresses said. “All schools don’t have equal resources, and that’s something that needs to be addressed … I think when we have technology moving into the classroom we have to make sure we integrate well with what we already have because if you have technology moving into the classrooms and students going to paperless books, it’s more difficult for parents to look at that and help them.”
Dowell talked about THINC Academy and its impact on helping children learn about new technology, and introducing satellite centers at the high schools.
“We put a lot of money into the athletic centers, football fields, football equipment, basketball equipment. We need to start putting the money into something actually viable,” Dowell said. “An athlete is not a student. It’s a student athlete first.”
Jones-Cameron said she believes there is adequate technology in the classroom but that when a child leaves the school, they might not have internet access at home.
“Every child is not fortunate to have internet service at their home so they’re lost,” Jones-Cameron said. “The classroom is fine but when they leave that building what do they have to refer back to?”
The candidates were asked about a recent national survey, which showed that 62 percent of employers believe public high schools aren’t doing enough to prepare students for postsecondary education or the workforce.
Dowell said the key is teaching soft skills and social skills.
“They no longer communicate. They text,” Dowell said.
“We have children that are unable to sit in an interview process and understand you may need a tie or a shirt that covers up your entire chest or a skirt that covers your knees. These are not covered in the classroom. We need to introduce life skills.”
Jones-Cameron agreed that children need to understand what it’s going to take to get the job they want. She said dressing for the job is a large part of that.
“It’s impossible to get a job nowadays with the dress I see our young men and our girls wear,” she said. “Common sense goes a long way, but I don’t think an employer is going to hire someone dressed in that fashion.”
Kresses agreed, but also noted that children should be taught how to save money, how insurance works and how to file taxes.
“Preparing students for life after graduation is important, and I’ve already mentioned making sure we help them going through the college education process, help them apply for fee waivers, help them deal with financial aid paperwork,” Kresses said. “A lot of parents don’t know how to do that, and they [students and parents] shouldn’t have to pay someone.”