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Three School Board Candidates Explain Reasons Behind Running As A Slate
Is running as a slate of candidates in a local election a good or bad idea? We’ll find out April 4th.
A few days ago. three of the candidates for the District #61 Decatur School Board in the April 4th Consolidated Election came to my office to discuss why they have joined together to run as a slate to capture three of the four seats that will be up for election.
Members of the slate are Beth Creighton, Kendall Briscoe and Beth Nolan and they have named their effort PLUS -- Parents in Leadership for Us.
Also running for the school board seats are incumbent board members B. A. Buttz and Alida Graham, featured recently in this column. Other candidates are Al Scheider, Courtney L. Carson and write-in candidate Janice Y. Gavin.
Running as a slate in a non-partisan election can be a two-edged sword and I mentioned in an earlier column I wasn’t too enthusiastic about “slates” of candidates.
As we sat around the conference table in my office, the three members of the slate spent some time explaining why they are running as a slate. It’s not only because their vision for the school district is shared -- but because, if all three are elected, they will have major impact on the direction of the board.
All had read the interview I had with present board members B. A. Buttz and Alida Graham and didn’t have much to say about it, except they believe the actions of the present board (including Buttz and Graham) have shown it is “dysfunctional”, with the former superintendent Lisa Taylor’s “experience” as one indication, and they feel it is time for a big change in leadership.
However, the three seemed reluctant to go back and rehash the reasons for the former superintendent’s exit and wanted to concentrate on the future of the district and having a definite vision of where the district should be heading.
They did agree that the reasons for the departure of former superintendent Taylor will impact to a degree on how some voters will choose the people they want serving on the board, but they also want to explain to people their ideas about moving the school district forward instead of having a board, they say, that is operating in the same way without getting results.
They accused the board of not having an effective vision for the district’s future.
They told me that a strong reason for the three of them running for the school board, in addition to their belief the present board is dysfunctional, is that no one currently on the school board has children or even grandchildren in the Decatur School system.
It’s the first point they list in campaign material about their qualifications listed here:
“• We have children in the district ranging from Kindergaten through high school.
• We are all alumni of the Decatur Public School district.
• We are all currently employed in the community in businesses ranging from large to small.
• We all have a pulse on the community due to our heavy involvement beyond our run for the school board.”
As far as their platform, they said they want to bring “professionalism” back to the board through knowing what the role of a board member encompasses.
That would include setting the vision and goals for the district that are “aspirational and trnasformational”.
They also want to hire and evaluate the superintendent, adopt and oversee the annual budget and manage the collective bargaining process.
They indicated their “agenda is to do the job of a board member and they have no other agenda”.
Beth Nolan termed the rationale of the present board to hire a new superintendent before the April 4th election, because the best superintendent candidates will have already made their choice of where to go, “bunk”.
She also mentioned that the best choice might not necessarily come from someone with a superintendent’s background, but maybe someone who has demonstrated great success in business in knowing how to lead and get things done in accordance with the vision of the board.
So, have I changed my mind on candidates running as a “slate” in non-partisan local elections?
Probably not, but the explanation of why they joined together because they share a desire for a different direction for the school board, is a stategy for them that I better understand.
I think it is very clear that, in order to have impact with their vision, they hope that, when the votes are counted on April 4th, incumbents Buttz and Graham will be defeated and the three of them will have a positive path to change the direction of the board.
If that happens, then the fourth candidate who is elected to fill the remaining seat will face the winning slate as the “outside member” who won on his own -- and will also be part of the new majority on the board.
So, as I wrote weeks ago, the school board election will come down to how people feel about the actions of the two incumbents who are running and who had lost confidence in the former superintendent.
It will be a referendum on that bit of unpleasant history for the district but it will be more about the direction of the board.
If Buttz and Graham are re-elected that will definitely send a message that, overall, the voters support the actions and direction of the present board.
If the slate of three wins and defeats both Buttz and Graham, it will send a message that the community wants a different board and direction.
If both of the incumbents win and two members of the slate -- we may have a stalemate on our hands with the board pulling in two different directions.
I do hope because of the sharp divide in vision between the incumbents and the slate that other challengers for the four seats are not lost in the race.
All of the candidates are worthy to be heard and given the opportunity to share their views.
We have six editions of the Trib between now and the April 4th election and, between the school board race and the mayoral/city council, I’m going to consume a lot of V8 juice!
Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY or visit our website at decaturtribune.net and find us on Facebook.
Central Park Fountain in Downtown Decatur