District 4 BOE candidates tout experience

Published 9:14 pm Sunday, May 30, 2010

With the primary election just days away, candidates are gearing up for an interesting race.

In the race for the Escambia County School Board District 4 seat, two Republicans will face off for the party nomination, while three Democrats are hoping to win their party’s nomination. The winners in the primary race will face each other in the November general election.

Republicans on the June 1 ballot include Cindy Jackson and Monica Shockley.

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Democratic candidates on Tuesday’s ballot include Stephanie Agerton, A.G. “Bo” Brantley and Joseph Hutchcraft.

Cindy Jackson has been an employee with the Escambia County School System for many years and believes the knowledge she has gained during that time qualifies her for the position.

“My knowledge and hands-on experience received while working with the Escambia County school system for the past 28 years,” Jackson said. “I believe my practical experience serving on numerous county-wide local school and education committees – along with mentoring many teachers and students and possessing a keen understanding of school administrative challenges faced by each of my four principals I served and their many school staff members qualifies me for the county school board. My understanding and hard-earned proficiency in the accurate budgeting and accounting for federal, state and local school funding sources and my desire to remain active in our local education issues along with my commitment to being a fair and caring representative for all people.”

Stephanie Agerton has also served in the field of education as teacher with 25 years of classroom experience. Her education and experience qualifies her for the position, she said.

“I have a double master’s degree in education, the first in elementary education and the second in educational leadership,” Agerton said. “To obtain a degree in educational leadership one must learn the laws that govern education, which will be of value when making decisions that affect District 4. After 25 years of teaching grades K-9th, I also have the experience needed to know how these decisions will influence the students and teachers in the classroom. I’ve seen thousands of classroom situations over the years, which gives me a better understanding of the tools needed for our students to become successful citizens. Although head knowledge is very important I feel I also possess a ‘heart for students,’ which is the key ingredient when meeting the needs of all students.

A.G. “Bo” Brantley has been a business owner for many years and believes his experience with budgets and personnel management has equipped him for the position.

“I am a business administration graduate and successful business owner,” Brantley said. “I have experience in budget and personnel management as well as business management. I am currently involved in the schools and in the community and have the trust of the current school officials. I have the time, resources and enthusiasm (for this job).”

Joseph “Joey” Hutchcraft has spent 22 years as part of the school system as a student and as a parent — experiences he believes qualify him for the position.

“Along with meeting the required qualifications for the office, I have invested 22 years in the Escambia County School System,” Hutchcraft said. “The first 12 as being a student at Pollard-McCall and Flomaton High, and the last 10 years watching my son doing the same all while volunteering for various activities from coaching Little League baseball and Pee-wee basketball to serving five years on the P.T.O. Board.”

Each candidate agreed funding issues were among the biggest problems facing the school system.

“The main engine that school systems run on is money,” Jackson said. “Our schools must run on a budget. When the state and federal education funding levels are inconsistent or significantly reduced by proration measures directed by the governor, then teaching units and local programs must be cut or else find alternative funding sources in order to complete the school year. Otherwise, popular course elections and extra-curricular activities possibly have to be cut. Discipline within our schools is also an issue. Principals and teachers are restricted in their scope of disciplining students. When a teacher has to leave the classroom and take time to handle a discipline problem it takes away from instruction time. This situation results to losses in instructional time and everyone suffers.”

Agerton said funding is the biggest concern facing the school system today.

“Having more needs than funds to supply those needs is probably the biggest concern at the present,” Agerton said.

Brantley agreed with funding issues but also feels other important issues are facing the county’s school systems.

“Some of the issues are space in the schools and the classrooms,” Brantley said. “Budgets, the lack of resources and drop outs are also issues.”

Hutchcraft’s idea of an issue of concern is also budgeting problems.

“Proration would be one of the biggest issues that is faced almost yearly,” Hutchcraft said.

Candidates easily identified the problems facing the school systems and fine-tuning budgets is one way to handle the issue.

“Until such time that the school system escapes proration, money will be very tight,” Jackson said. “One possible solution would be to seek grants for classroom supplies, professional development for teachers and to sustain popular elective classes, tutoring programs and widely participated in extra-curricular activities. To handle problems with discipline, setting up a program that would require parents and problem students to jointly attend in order to determine not only the source of the problem, but also the best solution to permanently resolve the discipline problem.”

Agerton addressed the issue of revenue for the school systems saying available funds should be used directly for students.

“Since it appears that our revenue is not increasing at the rate we all hoped for, I think it is vital to use our educational funds in a way that will directly impact the learning of our students,” Agerton said. “Over the years I’ve served on every budget committee in our schools. I’ve written several budgets and have a clear understanding of needs versus available funds and because of my classroom experience, as well as my business experience, I believe I can be helpful in directing our funds toward avenues that will have the greatest positive impact on our students.”

Brantley said making the most of funding available is one way to ease problems.

“Fine tuning budgets and considering other income opportunities is one way to handle the issue,” Brantley said. “Working very closely with the current officials, from the parents and teachers up, to get their suggestions on the best and most feasible places to put the money where it will be most beneficial to all is needed. Offering additional training and cross-training of all personnel would be of benefit.”

Hutchcraft believes hard work by members of the school board is necessary to handle tough issues.

“In the matter of handling the issue or proration, will be vital for all members of the board to work diligently together in order to come up with the best outcome available,” Hutchcraft said.

Candidate Monica Shockley did not respond to the questionnaire presented by The Brewton Standard.

Polls will be open at locations across the county Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Results of the election will be available on The Brewton Standard Website at www.brewtonstandard.com and in the Wednesday edition.