Savannah-Chatham school board presidential candidates discussed their top issues at the Georgia Southern University Armstrong campus during a forum Tuesday hosted by WSAV.
Candidates Roger Moss, Todd Rhodes and Tye Whitely answered questions submitted in advance by the public as well as faculty and students from the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and the College of Education. Topics ranged from bus transportation for choice schools, public discourse at school board meetings and teacher retention.
Presidential candidates:Roger Moss announces run for Savannah-Chatham County school board president
Presidential candidates:Tye Whitely announces another bid for Savannah-Chatham school board president
Presidential candidates:Community leader Todd Rhodes announces run for Savannah-Chatham schools board president
Current president:Joe Buck will not seek re-election as Savannah-Chatham school board president after health scare
Questions and answers have been modified for clarification.
What role should the public have at public meetings, and how should the board deal with antagonistic or even abusive behavior from the public?
Moss: “Yes, they may shout at us, but we must have respect for parents and the community.”
Rhodes: “If you want to keep respect and decency and any order, you should be able to express yourself without getting kicked out and getting put out.”
Whitely: “I will not tolerate disrespect in our boardroom. I believe that everyone should have their fair say, however, we are all adults.”
How will you help schools academically?
Moss: “Before, I stated that our kids in third grade were not a grade level, somehow magically by the time they got to high school – I’m sorry, by the time they got to 12th grade, they were ready for graduation. That’s a conundrum for me. I think that’s a conundrum for all of us. Yes, some of the kids are going into trades. I’m very happy for that, but one of our jobs is accountability, and the person that we hold accountable is our superintendent. The only thing the board does is set policy, a budget and hold the superintendent accountable. ”
Rhodes: “I believe we need to get to the root of the problem and really find out what’s really going on with the drop in communication when it comes down to the learning of our high school students. I believe it’s way too late by high school “So, we need to start early in getting our kids involved in STEM programs and get them involved in math at an early age.”
Whitely: “We need to make sure that we are investing in early education, and the district has already started to do things like that, but we should also follow these children through their educational experience. What are the reasons why you’ve seen a disparity and sometimes students are passed along? So, I believe that we need to let teachers close their doors, grade their students accordingly, and give students support if they are not meeting standards. We can remediate and give them the help that they need. “
How would you recruit and retain teachers?
Moss: “In order to have a culture of excellence, we have to have excellent teachers. In order to have excellent teachers and retain excellent teachers, we have to have an environment that teachers want to work in. We need to actually hear from our teachers as to why they’re leaving, and I’m not saying listen to them as they’re in their exit interview, but as they go along.
“We need to stay in touch with these teachers and make sure not only that they’re getting encouragement or counseling, but they are allowed to do what they love to do – teach – not bogged down by paperwork and bogged down by someone looking over their shoulder. That’s how we establish a culture of excellence with excellent teachers. “
Rhodes: “For teachers. It’s so important that we as people, that we consider them, their thoughts, their ideas, whatever they have to say and let them have a voice. If the teachers are happy, I guarantee you, they will spread the word. “
Whitley: “They like to have support, and we need to listen to our teachers. We need to make sure that teachers are just doing simple things like taking breaks and are not standing up and eating their lunch. We need to make sure that we are investing in our teachers, that we have policies that recruit and maintain. It’s important to staff. “
How will you address busing and transportation issues among specialty schools?
Moss: “Children that go to choice schools, a lot of these children have worked very hard to get into these choice schools. They have every right to be able to get to school by the transportation provided by the district. If I’m elected, one of the first things we’re going to do, we’re going to sit down and we’re going to find a solution to this transportation problem, because it’s not transportation, it’s a mobility problem. And we have to be creative.
“We can not start a school year by saying, if you go to this school, you’re not having a bus.”
Rhodes: “Transportation is important and our kids are very important. So it’s very important that we be able to provide the resources for our kids because of parents having to go from here. It’s putting a bind on them and they do not need more to what they already have. ”
Whitely: “So, I was personally affected by the decision to stop transportation to choice schools. We have three children and they all go to choice schools. I think that if your child goes to a public school that needs public transportation. I know it is not a simple solution to this problem, but as a board, we need to collectively look at how we can provide that transportation whether it’s partnering with our local municipalities to use resources against students across the district, or whether it’s looking at our own resources to see how we can provide buses. I know that my husband and I have had to juggle our own schedule to make sure our kids are at one school at one time and another school at another time. It’s undue pressure on our parents to try to provide those services for our kids. “
Bianca Moorman is the education reporter. Reach her at [email protected] or 912-239-7706. Find here on Twitter @biancarmoorman.