Three candidates vie for District 5 school board seat

Published 11:13 am Friday, April 26, 2024

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By Charlotte Reames

Three candidates faced off for the District 5 Troup County Board of Education seat during Wednesday’s forum.

Inetha Hatten, Dan McAlexander and Rachel “Raquel” Neal are the three candidates running for District 5 Troup County Board of Education.

Hatten is a case manager with a mental health outpatient clinic as well as the president of the Troup County NAACP. McAlexander, former president of LaGrange College, has worked in education on the collegiate level for many years and now volunteers in the LaGrange community. Neal has worked in real estate in LaGrange for 26 years.

The Troup County-LaGrange Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum. Each candidate was given 90 seconds to answer a series of questions, with two minutes for opening and closing remarks.

The full live stream of the forum can be found on the LaGrange Daily News Facebook page. Below are some of the questions asked and answered during the forum:


With a proposed system budget of $162 million and a shortfall deficit in operating funds projected for next year, how would you address the challenges in school funding and budgeting to ensure resources are allocated effectively and equitably?

“It is a matter of being able to balance competing interests, and looking at what is effective in the schools and what may not be,” McAlexander said. “I happen to believe that at fourth grade and fifth grade, students should find something in addition to basic subjects that they’re really excited about, keenly interested in — what we call in this strategic plan, ‘A place for every kid.’”

“You need to look at [the budget] line item by line item and trim the fat. We want a lean school system that operates with a lean budget, and make sure that the programs and services are available and our teachers’ and administrators’ salaries are not hurting in any way,” Neal said.

“I think that we need to look at the budget in its wholeness and see where we can cut, what we don’t necessarily need and where we can advocate for more funds in a strategic manner,” Hatten said.


What are the most pressing issues facing the school system today, and what steps would you propose to address them?

Neal said her top three priorities for the school system are classroom behavior problems, low math and reading scores and low parental involvement. She mentioned the “Handle with Care” program where TCSS partners with local law agencies to address children’s exposure to violence outside of school and help them get the resources for coping.

“My first and foremost job would be to help the teachers with this problem behavior, to work together with the sheriff’s department to give each child the support they need because of the behavior in the classrooms,” Neal said. “Then, we can address the second problem, which is the math and reading skills and the teacher’s ability to teach.”

Hatten agreed, saying that we need to meet every student where they are.

“We’ll go to a higher standard once we get some of the disciplinary problems set aside. I think there needs to be some innovative ways to teach,” Hatten said. “So like what Beth [Jackson] said some things I really liked, you can’t teach everybody the same.”

McAlexander said many problems arise out of deeper issues within the community like poverty and unhealthy home environments. He said the school system is addressing issues through programs like the Callaway Foundation-partnered early reading program.

“If you can get the students interested and engaged in their learning, a lot of those problems go away,” McAlexander said.


What are your thoughts on the Promise Scholarship Act?

The Promise Scholarship Act, which Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law this week, allocates funding for students to be sent to private schools if their current public school is low-performing.

“I disagree with school vouchers for private institutions, largely because it does rob the schools most in need — those over 25% performance —  usually in areas of high poverty, often in rural areas where there aren’t private schools for that amount of money,” McAlexander said. “… I believe that money that’s taxpayer money should go to taxpayer-supported public institutions.”

Neal has six children, two of whom graduated from a private school and four of whom graduated from Troup County.

“I have children who by our choice as parents graduated from the public school system and the private school system,” Neal said. “… And I’m not against that. I’m not even against the money following the child. But I’m running for the school board to ensure that I do my part as a citizen of America and a citizen of Troup County to ensure our public schools stay intact, offer a high level of education to our local students and that our budget is lean.”

“I think you should have the right to do what you want to do with your money. But I’m also saddened by the fact that sometimes our public schools are doing so poorly, that we look for another place to put the funds,” Hatten said. “And I think that, for me, the funds should go into the public school system to make it better.”