Three candidates are vying for the one city district seat for the Elkin Board of Education on this year’s November ballot, and Joseph Taylor Gaddis hopes he can use his experience as a teacher and the spouse of a school system administrator to help lead Elkin City Schools if he’s elected.
Gaddis, a seventh-grade math teacher at Starmount Middle School, and his wife, Kristi Luffman Gaddis, who works as executive director of student support services for Yadkin County Schools, moved to Elkin in 2006. They now have two children, a 5-year-old son who is an Elkin Elementary School student, and a 2-year-old daughter.
“I came through [Elkin] one time when I was working at the Eckerd Youth Alternatives in Lowgap, and I stopped at Diana’s Bookstore for coffee,” Gaddis recalled, noting that he thought at the time he could see himself living in a quaint town like Elkin.
Gaddis said he decided to run for the school board for a couple of reasons — he said his priority is always on being a good parent and he wants to see Elkin City Schools maintained to benefit the students.
Also, he said those who work for a school system are unable to serve on the school board, so it limits the view points on the board. “I have a unique situation where I live in Elkin, but I work in a different district,” he said. “I want to be part of the community other than just living in it, so this was one way for me to do that and a good way because I can use the skill sets I have learned over the last 10 years.”
Budgeting is one of the areas Gaddis would like to see the school board work on, in particular restoring the fund balance to a higher amount in reserves. Also, he said he’d like to see morale grow among the system’s educators. “I think I have a good idea of what it takes to increase morale. When the teachers have good morale, the students are going to learn more,” said Gaddis.
“Without criticizing any past board decisions, I would like to figure out a way to get the teacher assistants back at the younger levels. That is something that affects my child’s education,” he said. “Being married to our [Yadkin’s] director of student services, I know there are ways of moving funds around to make things happen, and I can learn from her where other fund sources like grants are.
“The third piece is, I want to seek more funding,” Gaddis continued. “Just like superintendents, the board members have the responsibility to make relationships with state and federal officials, so those priorities are seen as something real and urgent.”
He said, “Another piece that complicates things, we’ve been sort of growing as an economy the last eight years or so, but it is not unlikely we might have financial difficulties ahead. Usually after eight or nine years, we are due for a correction or recession, and I think we need to prioritize our spending accordingly so it doesn’t catch us off guard.”
One of the ways Gaddis suggested to save money is through internal teacher training. In Yadkin County, “we offer most continuing education credits in-house,” he said. “If I’m an expert on something, I give the training and we don’t have to pay for outside leaders. It develops leadership skills within the staff, and we see each other as experts on things and lean on each other.”
But Gaddis said, “I’m not running to make sweeping changes. I want to maintain the excellence we have in the school system now. There are always improvements to be made. I will always be taking suggestions from people and accepting criticism. I’m a pragmatist, you have to be able to see things from all perspectives. The reality is, all people are involved, and all the people’s needs should be considered and respected.
“If I’m going to have someone in office to make a difficult choice, I want someone who can see all sides and can consider the consequences and deliberate before a decision is made,” Gaddis said.
As far as Gaddis’ experience, he served as an exceptional children’s teacher in Yadkin County from January 2007 through June 2014, and now serves as a middle-school math teacher. He is published as a Featured Teacher in the 11th edition of “Exceptional Children” by William L. Heward, Sheila Alber-Morgan and Moira Konrad, an introduction to special education textbook that is distributed to more than 350 colleges and universities.
Gaddis is a member of Yadkin County Schools’ Lego Robotics Steering Committee, and he coaches Starmount Middle’s robotics team each fall. He also has presented countywide on topics such as “Increasing active student response to accommodate diverse learners” and “The role of ratios and proportions in the vertical alignment of common core math.”
He received his Master of Arts in Teaching, Special Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2012 and became a National Board Certified teacher in special education in May 2013. Prior to that, he graduated with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts in sociology with a minor in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003.
Gaddis earned his Eagle Scout Award and worked at Philmont Scout Ranch as a ranger in the summers of 1999, 2001 and 2002. His wife’s family has been in the area for five generations.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.