Tuesday, September 13, 2011

TOP STORY >> School candidates in Cabot state views

Before Cabot’s school board election Tuesday, The Leader asked the candidates to share their views on the direction of the growing district and how they could contribute to its success.

Early voting is under way and will continue from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until Friday and again Monday in the Cabot City Annex at 208 N. First St.

On Tuesday, voting will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 204 North Third St., and Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 163 Mt. Carmel Road.

For Position 2, the candidates are Brian Evans, Lonnie Lane and Helen Teffer.

Donna Nash is unopposed for Position 6 after Terrance Townsend dropped out of the race, though too late for his name to be removed from the ballot.

Evans, 42, is a division manager at Addison Transportation, a Cabot-based trucking company. He has lived in Cabot for 10 years.

He and his wife have two children, third-grader Laina, 9, and first-grader Landon, 6. They attend Southside Elementary.

Evans was salutatorian at McCrory High School in 1986. He studied business management and communications at Arkansas State University in 1991.

Lane, 40, is an insurance adjuster for Safeco Insurance. He has lived in Cabot since 1978. He graduated from Cabot High School in 1989. He has three children, Jackson, 10, a fifth-grader at Cabot Middle School South; Abigail, 5, a kindergartener at Eastside Elementary, and Maddox, 2, who attends the Child Development Center at Cabot United Methodist Church.

Teffer retired from the Cabot School District in 2010 after a 20-year career. She was the superintendent’s and school board’s administrative assistant for 10 years. Prior to that, she was a school office manager, a substitute teacher and an office clerk.

She and her husband have lived in Cabot for more than 21 years. Their children are grown and now live out of state. She considers all Cabot students as her children and the key to the city’s future.

Nash is a retired teacher. She taught for 28 years, 23 of which were in the Cabot School District. Both of her children, Brooklynn and Mike, are graduates of Cabot High School.

Her son and his wife teach in the district. She has lived in Cabot for more than 30 years.

Why would you make a good school board member?

Evans: Throughout my career, I have been noted as having the ability to work well within a team and being able to support group decisions. I understand that the board sets a climate for the entire district. In my career as an intermediary, I have to work hard toward keeping a strong relationship between two separate entities.

The same philosophy applies to the relationship between the district and the public it serves. I am a professional who believes in giving respect for diverse points of view, while holding strong in my beliefs that we have a responsibility to meet the needs of every student, regardless of their abilities and backgrounds.

Lane: I would be a good member of the school board because of my concern for my children and others’ children in our schools. This is my hometown and my school district, and I want it to continue to progress as it has during my lifetime.

Teffer: I believe my broad knowledge of our school district makes me an ideal candidate. I had the privilege of working with four superintendents and many, many board members over a 10- year period and more than 100 school board meetings.

I saw firsthand what it takes to be an effective board member. I had a front-row seat for where we were and how we accomplished the great changes that have taken place. In addition, because of my experience, I have worked with parents and community leaders as well as all department heads in the district.

You can’t ask pertinent questions unless you know what you are talking about. Although we are a large “business” we are not about making a profit unless you are talking about our students’ achievements.

On a personal level, I am ethical. Follow the written rules. Do not make your own interpretation to suit yourself.

Nash: After 28 years as a classroom teacher, I understand how a school district should work. I know what students need to be successful. In addition, I know what administrators and faculty need to assist students in their success.

How much time will you be able to give to the job? 

Evans: I am committed and have the support of my company to give as much time as needed to this position. We are a family-comes-first type company. Our company is built on family values. Being in management at a local office, I have the ability to utilize the time and energy required each week for meetings, conversations, visits to schools and professional-development seminars as needed.

Lane: I work from home and my boss is in Indianapolis, so I have quite a bit of freedom in my day. There is good and bad when working from a laptop and cell phone. The flexibility is great, but work is on my desk after office hours.

Teffer: I’m retired so my time is my own. Serving on the board will always be a priority. My telephone number, website and e-mail will be available to everyone.

Nash: I am retired and have ample time to devote to my school board position.

What are the district’s strengths?

Evans: Without a doubt, our strength is the staff of the Cabot School District. We are led by a great administrative staff and have great principals and faculty at each of our schools. As a parent of Cabot students, I see firsthand the incredible teachers that we have, and how they continually go beyond their normal duties to make a difference with our children. If you want to experience true love for a child and dedication to their futures, spend the day in a Cabot classroom.

Lane: The district’s strengths are its leadership and its faculty. Dr. Thurman is doing a great job leading the ever-growing district. The faculty, some who were teaching when I was in school and some who were in school with me, are great and very self-sufficient.

I was very surprised by how much the teachers had to purchase themselves when my oldest started school at Eastside (the elementary school I attended). Whether it is things they want for their classroom or supplies for those who can’t afford them, the faculty provides what they can. Parents chip in as well. We are all a team.

Teffer: Each of CSD’s 1,300 employees, the parents, students and the community contribute to the high-quality education for which Cabot is well known. Everyone working together to reach a common goal, which is to prepare our kids for the future.

Nash: The district has many strengths, but its most important strengths are the employees in the district. We continue to recruit and train the best possible employees. Our reputation on a state and national level proves this.

Are there problems with the district you would like to correct or programs you would like to implement?

Evans: School districts are complex corporations. For Cabot, the district is the largest employer in our community. The decisions that are made by our board affect jobs, resources and most importantly, the education of all our children.

Because of tremendous growth in student population, we have the good problem of the ability to grow in infrastructure and staff to meet our student needs. This doesn’t stop within the walls of the school. It must be a joint cooperative with the city. Tough decisions will have to be made by our elected officials to ensure that we continue to meet the needs of every student in our district.

Our children are faced with many challenges today that generations before were never witness to. Being a parent of Cabot students and a volunteer in our school and city youth programs, I see this first hand. To truly adopt the “It’s About Kids” mentality, we have to be able to always put aside personal agendas and operate for the greater good, our children.

Lane: There are problems in any district, but none that can’t be overcome. Some of our schools are overcrowded, some have too few students to justify the number of teachers in a certain grade. I know that was the case last year for fourth- grade at Eastside. We were given the option to move our child to Stagecoach due to one of the fourth-grade teachers being moved to Stagecoach because the fourth-grade numbers were higher there. Of course we stayed at Eastside. My kids get a kick out of the fact they attend the same school I did.

Teffer: Better communications within the district, but also with the parents and community. Even if it is only a suggestion box where people can voice a concern anonymously. Then have a link on the district website where these questions are posted and answered. Start somewhere.

I see an even greater future for our district, and I want to be a part of making that happen. I would appreciate your vote.

Nash: Facing the challenges of continued growth is a major problem. Unfortunately, growth is beyond our control. That is the price we pay for a good school system. I would work with the system’s administration and other board members to make solid decisions in regard to the allocation of funds.

Compiled by Leader staff writer Joan McCoy and Leader editor Jonathan Feldman.