Two Elkin City School Board seats were discussed at Thursday night’s candidate forum hosted by The Tribune and the town of Elkin. Those vying for the city district seat and the east district seat were asked questions submitted by readers previous to the event. After a one-minute opening statement, the candidates were then asked a series of questions in which they had one minute to respond. The question and answer period was then followed with a one-minute closing statement by each candidate.
Running for the city district seat, Dr. Richard Brinegar is the current chairman of the board who says he is, “living the American dream. We came home because Elkin has the best schools,” and he hopes to continue to be a part of their progression. His concerns for the school district start with the hiring of a new superintendent immediately followed by eliminating the drain on the fund balance.
He said he also would like to see the facilities themselves addressed, starting with the building of a new gymnasium. Brinegar is also concerned about local poverty. To eliminate some of the problems and balance the budget, he would like to increase the enrollment, investigate possible grants to help with funding, and scrutinize attrition within current spending.
When questioned about the lack of active time for kindergartners, Brinegar stated he would look to teacher initiative to get students outside more and to consider increasing the amount of days each week that they have physical education. Brinegar is also appreciative of the STEAM education program. In the future he hopes to see an increase in art programs, use of the system’s “maker spaces,” robotics and an increase in internships and integration.
One day while visiting Elkin, Taylor Gaddis thought, “This is the kind of town I’d like to settle down in, and I did,” leading him to run for the city district school board seat. As a teacher, Gaddis has a unique perspective on the possibilities of the school board. As the STEAM program continues to infiltrate from kindergarten through grade 12, he would like to see more Lego robotics because it “promotes self-discipline. It starts simple and grows until it is like running a business.”
He said he also would like to see the kindergartners become more vigorous, but understands the state regulations, believing more activity can be achieved through increased movement in the classroom and after school activities. Gaddis noted that budget concerns can be met by applying to the state funds those higher paid jobs within the system since there already exists such programs that may be better implemented. Gaddis has seen that teacher morale directly affects students, and in addition to addressing this concern, he would like to implement a better early reading program, perhaps by using high school seniors to help. Gaddis said he can’t wait to see his kids grow up in the Elkin schools and is eager to be an active part of the district.
The final candidate for the city district seat is Elkin native Levi Shore who believes, “a large part of who I am is because I had a great base (in the Elkin School district).” Shore is concerned that the people of Elkin want to feel like they have been listened to and in addition to updating the facilities, balancing the budget by restructuring at the Central office could contribute necessary funds.
In addition to incorporating more arts into the STEAM program, he said he would like to see more technology in the hands of the students. Like the other candidates he would like to see the kindergartners more active as well, but knows there are limitations as dictated by state law. A minor adjustment to the school day might be possible, but Shore thinks that having the teachers get the students outside more would help. Shore considers himself “quietly adept” however he doesn’t mind speaking up when the necessity arises.
Running for the east district school board seat is incumbent Haley Sullivan, who returned to Elkin after college specifically because of the schools. Having been a part of the school board, Sullivan has been a part of the team that has already been working on the budget. She said she hopes to continue not by making cuts, but by increasing revenue and decreasing expenditures.
In her opinion, the biggest problems faced by the school system is the lack of handicap-accessible facilities and the ability for the board to be accessible to hear the concerns of others and to then implement some of their ideas. Sullivan believes the STEAM program gives the students “real-world experience (which) only increases their success.” She thinks it’s important for the community to know what is going on pointing out that the kindergartners may only get 15 minutes of recess, but the school has implemented “minute movers” where students are encouraged to dance to educational songs between subjects and that the school has been turned down for grants because “the fund balance money was too high.”
Judy Walker, who between her children and grandchildren, has had 45 years of experience with Elkin City Schools, also is running for the east district seat. She stated her greatest concern for the school system is that the people of the district want to know they are being listened to. Walker states the budget needs to be looked at carefully for where the money is being spent and to make sure it is being used wisely without cutting from teachers and tools.
Walker would like the STEAM program to provide a project-based curriculum and thinks that the kindergarten teachers can best help decide how to incorporate more movement into their curriculum. From her experience with senior citizens as retired director of Parkwood Place, Walker said she is not only familiar with working with budgets, but “making positive changes out of difficulties.” She is looking forward to “guiding our schools in the direction we need for the future.”
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.