The candidates running to fill the open District 3 School Board seat will face off in the Republican Primary on May 20, when a total of four Board of Education seats will be up for a vote. The winner faces no Democratic opposition in November.
Candidates John Harmon of Woodstock and Brett Ladd of Canton agreed the most beneficial action taken by the sitting school board in the past year was the restoration of a full, 180-day calendar for students.
Harmon, 41, said restoring furlough days and hiring teachers were the most valuable things the board did for students during the last year.
“In my opinion, the most beneficial decision our school board made this past year was to restore the furlough days to return the students to a full calendar of 180 days,” Harmon said. “I was also pleased to see that our school board recently agreed to hire additional teachers in order to reduce the large class sizes our students have faced this year.”
Ladd, 54, agreed, and said eliminating teacher furlough days and increasing class time are the two most beneficial things done for students in the past year.
“Anything that can be done to increase teacher morale will have a positive ripple effect throughout the system,” Ladd said. “Our students have shown a great rate of achievement, but we needed to make both our students and teachers know that their efforts are appreciated. As we move forward from the economic difficulties and other distractions of the past few years, those two steps provide the most bang for the buck for our students.”
In his vision statement, Harmon said he understands the importance of making every dollar count, and with his experience as a conservative business owner and a member of various organizations at his children’s schools, he can advocate for teaching and learning.
Harmon said large class size is the most pressing issue the school district faces, and commended the school board for budgeting additional teachers for elementary school to begin addressing the problem.
“The school board recently addressed this for the younger classes,” Harmon said. “As additional funding becomes available, I would like to reduce class size for all grades.”
Harmon added students need more opportunities, other than college after graduation, and said adding options is one way he’d like to help improve the graduation rate.
“We need to add more vocational education opportunities so that the students that are not inclined to attend college will be able to learn skills that will help them to be prepared to join the work force when they graduate. I believe we will achieve an important goal of improving our graduation rates once we are able to offer our students additional choices,” he said.
Ladd said in his vision statement the school system has a history of infighting and a problem gaining public trust. Ladd said he plans to build bridges to the state delegation and advocate for proper funding.
Ladd said despite student’s academic achievements, the school system’s biggest weakness is still public trust, “or perhaps, a lack thereof.”
“For that reason, I intend to advocate for open government; to build bridges between the often conflicting interests of taxpayers, educators and students; to encourage the board to take steps to bring ‘sunshine’ to the process and quell the concerns of various concerned parties,” Ladd said.
Ladd added he wants to work to improve bridges between the school board and state lawmakers if elected.
“I also intend to build bridges to the state legislative delegation, to advocate for proper funding and other issues from the ‘powers that be,’” Ladd said.
When it came to the possibility of selecting a new superintendent, Ladd and Harmon knew exactly what they would look for in possible candidates.
Harmon said he would want to find possible superintendent options from locally and abroad.
“I would certainly give strong consideration to applicants from current administrators within Cherokee County School District, but I would want to conduct a national search as well,” He said. “I would look for people that have worked as teachers and as administrators.”
Ladd said many characteristics are important in a superintendent.
“If the matter should arise during my term on the board, the areas which I consider important in the selection of a new superintendent include educational achievement, financial acumen, educational philosophy and interpersonal skills,” Ladd said.
“Obviously, it is important for the superintendent to have excelled at his or her educational efforts. Being able to effectively work with limited financial resources is desired. Valuing character education, school choice and parental involvement are positives attributes. Being able to work with often conflicting interests in a positive and meaningful way can help build bridges and bring about positive results.”
Harmon added he would want a well-rounded candidate for the job.
“They should have experience working with budgets as well as the curriculum. I feel that it would be important that we select someone that has experience in a metropolitan/suburban school district similar to our district here in Cherokee County,” Harmon said.