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Candidates for superintendent square off

The four candidates for Chilton County superintendent of education participated in an hour-long debate Tuesday at Chilton County High School.

Tommy Glasscock, Jason Griffin, Dave Hayden and Larry Raines found common ground on several issues, but still used the debate to point out differences in their campaigns.

One of the debate’s first questions focused on how to get schools to meet federal No Child Left Behind requirements.

Griffin said parental involvement is important, but that the law is “very difficult … to adhere to.”

“As you know, every child is different,” said Griffin.

Glasscock described the laws as a chokehold and that education in Chilton County should be what fits best for local students, parents and teachers.

Hayden said that while he thinks the law has its problem but that “we can’t throw it aside.” He suggested expanded tutoring programs as a means to reach Adequate Yearly Progress goals.

Raines said every child doesn’t learn at the same rate, which doesn’t make him a big fan of No Child Left Behind, but he did comment on the system’s progress the last five years or so under the laws.

The next question focused on how to bring more cohesion to a system that often has different policies on everything from handbooks to uniforms and, until recently, students’ cell phone usage.

Glasscock said while it might not be popular at first that it’s important to set standards across the county.

“I want it to be fair across the board. We have to bring everyone together,” Glasscock said.

Hayden said it’s still important to allow schools to keep their unique identities.

“We don’t want our schools to be clones of each other. We do need a little bit more cohesiveness and unity,” Hayden said.

Raines said it was important to set short-term and long-term goals countywide — goals that “everyone has input on” — including a schedule and curriculum.

Griffin said using common sense would be the right way to go, acknowledging that every school has a different personality and you “don’t want to destroy that.”

The candidates also addressed how the system and schools could lower the high school dropout rate.

Hayden said schools must start working with at-risk students at a young age and get parents involved.

“Maybe we can save some (by doing that),” Hayden said.

He said a student who has failed one grade is 24 percent less likely to graduate than a student who hasn’t.

Raines said the system must make education something students deem necessary for their futures. It should also be enjoyable, he said.

“Education must be meaningful and real to the students and parents,” Raines said.

Griffin said graduation rates are a problem across the nation and that fixing that starts at home.

“The parents have to be involved,” Griffin said.

Glasscock said teachers need to invest more time with their students and that parents must be involved in the process.

“You can’t teach a student if you don’t know them,” Glasscock said.

In closing, Glasscock said his wife, Anne Glasscock, would resign her seat on the Chilton County Board of Education if he is elected superintendent.

The Chilton County Education Association and Education Support Professionals hosted Tuesday’s debate.