All eight candidates vying for four seats on the Cherokee County Board of Education were in attendance to answer questions on various issues Tuesday at the forum put on by the Cherokee Council of PTAs.
With the May 20 Republican primary election approaching, the candidates got a chance to explain their views on important issues.
More than 100 people attended the forum, where the candidates had one minute to answer each question.
School Board member Rick Steiner and challenger Robert Strozier discussed everything from transparency and cost cuts, to technical education and school involvement.
When it came to the Common Core Standards, Strozier and Steiner had slight similarities but overall opposing views.
Strozier said he was not in favor of Common Core because of the financial ties it has to federal tax dollars.
“I realize that the district has received money for Common Core,” Strozier said. “But my bigger concern is what comes down the road — the costs that are associated. We already have a tight school budget, we don’t need a federal program that mandates costs that we can’t afford in the future.”
Steiner, however, said he supports the standards — which the state and local school district have already implemented.
“The reason Common Core was implemented is to make sure that all of our kids are on the same playing field,” Steiner said. “Right now there’s only math and language arts … when our kids enter college, whether they’re from Georgia or Massachusetts, there has to be a standard for these kids to go on.”
Steiner and Strozier agreed technical education options are important for students in the county.
Steiner said, despite the state law needing to change to allow a technical diploma option for students, the district is already offering some career programs for students, such as the Career Pathways programs.
“As a county, we now are proactive in striving to fulfill some of those needs,” he said.
Strozier said adding technical diplomas should be a priority for the state legislators.
“We have to go our state delegation to do that,” he said. “We’re already on our way toward addressing the technical issue. Now what we need is the final step … the infrastructure is already in place, the school system has already put it in place.”
Both candidates have been involved in local schools over the years, but in different ways.
Steiner said he’s a member of the PTA, and supports both the PTA members and their functions.
“It plays a big role in helping some of these students, who otherwise might not have the chance to get involved in some of their schools,” Steiner said. “I think the PTA plays a big, big role in the function of some of these underprivileged kids.”
Strozier, while not a member of the PTA, said he was involved in other ways.
“I spent eight years as a … basketball couch for the youth and children of our county,” Strozier said. “I spent one day a week, for four years, at a psycho-educational center working with special needs individuals, and I served on the school council.”
Each candidate had their own view on the district’s budget.
Steiner said the school system manages its money well, and works efficiently.
“I don’t like to go into a system and right away look for ways to cut it,” Steiner said. “I like to look for ways to teach and protect my constituents, students and teachers.”
Strozier, on the other hand, offered specific examples where he thought the district could save some money, explaining that saving money is his “cup of tea.”
Strozier gave the example of buyout contracts for teachers who want to retire and have been with the system for more than 25 years.
“Not as a way to force them out, because they’re good teachers,” Strozier said. “But because they want to retire.”
Strozier also recommended saving money on standardized testing, by allowing Advanced Placement students to exempt the tests.
Strozier said taxpayers should have more time to ask questions about the school system’s budgets.
“I was in favor of (state Rep.) Michael Caldwell’s transparency bill for open hearings,” Strozier said. “I don’t believe taxpayers should be limited to two or three minutes for questions … As taxpayers, I think we should not be limited.”
Steiner said transparency is important to the district, and it has implemented many measures to ensure transparency around the budget and audit process.
“The system already does implemented transparency,” Steiner said. “We have two meetings a year, and anybody can come to these meetings. I think last year, there were two people that showed up. The budget is online, you can go online and look at it. And I’m here as a board member, you can call me anytime.”
Both candidates agreed that teamwork is crucial, saying that board members should be able to discuss topics and differing viewpoints, while remaining civil and professional.