School board candidates face off in forum
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

April 24, 2004 -- Candidate stances on enforcement of stricter discipline policies, what they believe their duties are as board members and what areas should be the focus of facilities improvements addressed if a bond election is called were all concerns voiced by community members present for forum for school board members held Thursday night.

Sulphur Springs Independent School District board candidate Wade Johnston said that he wants to serve on the school board to "have an opportunity to impact others" the way the teachers, administrators and educators impacted his life while attending school in Sulphur Springs as a youth.

"I love kids and I love the education system," candidate Michael Moore said. "It's very important to me. ... I'd like to help the school system grow the community and just help it in any way I can."

Candidate Craig Roberts noted the school district to be one of the biggest industries in the community. He said that while education is important to him for that reason and his children, after speaking several members of the High School Leadership Class which visited his work earlier in the week and "hearing them talk about the people that teach them and affect them in a positive manner" he became even more committed to getting elected to the board to see that even more people are employed to continue positively impacting the students through education.

"Over the last three years I've served, the board had done a lot of positive things, but there's still a lot to do," said incumbent Norman Sanders. "I think I bring a unique view to the board. Everyday I see what happens when you don't have a good education in my line of work [as a sergeant with Sulphur Springs Police Department]. ... I see very night the result of not having a good education."

Carolyn Malone Thomas said she believes her 30 plus years experience in varied levels of education and experiences as a classroom educator, in the political and social arenas and in reformative roles working with a metropolitan police department also bring a unique perspective to the board. She said she believes life is a continued learning experience and she a "perpetual student."

"All students deserve a quality education," candidate Foy Williams said. "That education also includes how to be a law abiding citizen and should include a safe structured teaching environment. Sulphur Springs has always been noted to have that climate, which is why Sulphur Springs has always been a cut above the others surrounding us. I think with good facilities assessment is needed for our children to reach their potential. ... I will choose priorities with diligence."

Incumbent Tony Cook said education is a very important issue in his household, one he and his family are very committed to upholding and seeing is held to top standards for the best education of the students.

Candidate Andy Chester could not be present for the Thursday meeting due to a prior commitment made before the forum was scheduled.

Roberts said he believes each trustee's job is to "work as a team member and work for the taxpayers", while Johnston said board members should consider how their decisions will affect the children and teachers of the district as well as the taxpayers. Johnston also added that a board member's "job is to ask why and why not" when making decisions.

Sanders said that while the booklet of duties given to new board members states basically the board's job is to "evaluate the superintendent and review and approve a budget", a board members job is all that and "so much more than that." He said most simply put, a school trustee's job "is to ask the questions and question the answers."

"Norman is correct," Cook said. "Our first responsibility here is to hire a superintendent and evaluate that superintendent on a yearly basis. I wish we could say our duty involves everything that goes on in the district. The board is a liaison group between the community and the school district. We're here to take care of the finances, to make sure to set a budget and adopt a tax rate, to hear the public."

Williams said a board member's duty is to "determine what community policy expectations are, to hire staff to see that those expectations are met... The board is a meeting place between the community and the school."

Thomas said that in addition to those reasons cited by the other candidates, the school board should be held accountable fiscally, should be sensitive to all voices and needs and see that they are met. "When you put yourself into a child, it's the only thing that's really gonna last throughout time," she added.

Moore said he felt the board is fiscally responsible to the community, and is responsible for evaluating the school programs and "really support what works for the kids. The kids have really gotta come first in every decision you make here. It is your job to do for all the students to you should do as much as you can."

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