School superintendent candidates discuss issues

Published 1:23 pm Wednesday, May 2, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/Senior Staff Writer

Candidates for Chilton County Schools Superintendent Tommy Glasscock and Jason Griffin participated in a town hall forum on May 1.

Each candidate presented general information about why they were running for the position before taking turns answering 17 questions.

Glasscock has been superintendent since 2014. He said he has focused on “creating relevance to learning” and keeping students engaged. Glasscock said he implemented a Department of Teaching and Learning.

Griffin has worked for the school system for 20 years, serving in multiple positions from a teacher to overseeing the busses.

“I am a positive guy, so I try to find the positive. I am a rule follower, so whatever the policy and procedure says is what we are going to do.”

He said if elected, all of the decisions he made would be based on what is “in the best interest of the students within legal confines and financial constraints,” Griffin said.

The first question expressed concern about how limited access to internet in rural areas and students not being able to bring textbooks or Chromebooks home being detrimental to some students.

Griffin said there needs to be a balance between technology and having physical textbooks for those who do not have internet access at home.

Glasscock said the school system is working on allowing students to take Chromebooks home once the system meets a one-to-one ratio and students can work on homework on a Chromebook without internet access and then submit it through Google Classroom when they get to school. He said physical textbooks will probably not be an option five years from now.

Hiring local versus nonlocal employees was also discussed.

“Every position that comes available in this county we look really, really hard at local candidates,” Glasscock said.

However, he said the person who can most help student achievement is who should ultimately get the job.

Griffin said if elected, qualified local candidates would get priority in hiring decisions.

“As part of this initiative, if elected, I would like to start an administrator’s academy …for whoever is working in our school system to get training to foster a group of administrators who are ready to take those positions,” Griffin said.

He also proposed a Teacher’s Academy for students to get them interested in coming back to Chilton County to teach after college.

To address overcrowding in schools on the north end of the county, Griffin said he would consider an enrollment freeze, while Glasscock said he would not be in favor of one.

School consolidation was also a topic.

“I am opposed to consolidation in any form or fashion,” Griffin said. “The community schools are too important to the community.”

Glasscock said consolidation does not save as much money as people think because when a school closes the system loses the funding for those administrators. He said each high school needs to have a niche to draw students to it.

Multiple questions also related to the financial state of the school system. Glasscock said the school system is financially sound with two months operating budget in reserve. He said issues from the past with payroll taxes not being submitted in a timely manner have been corrected with new employees and more thorough training. The $197,000 penalty for paying the taxes late was offset by more than $200,000 in energy saving, Glasscock said. In the future, building a new high school will be a major decision.

Griffin said he is a “fiscal conservative” and would monitor finances on a daily basis.

“Transparency is going to be the key … I am going to be that guy that monitors every penny spent and be transparent so if when we spend money on something you will be aware of it,” Griffin said.

As a part of this transparency, Griffin said he would also be in favor of changing the public board meeting times to later in the afternoon, so that more people could attend. Griffin said he would also want to post the minutes of the meetings on the school system website.

Glasscock said the meetings are livestreamed now and when past boards have met later in the day it did not increase attendance.

More than one question focused on the 2016-2017 state report card for Chilton County Schools. On the report card, the school system was given a C overall, but did not reach the benchmark for proficiency for any of the subgroups of students (Hispanic, African-American, Special Needs.)

“I want teachers to know that we are behind them and support them and will provide every resource within reason as far as legal and financial constraints to assist teachers to help those students become the best they can be,” Griffin said.

He said students also have a responsibility to work hard to succeed.

Glasscock said the test used for that report card is not in use anymore.

He said the Department of Teaching Learning is also working to ensure all students are at the level they need to be.

School security was discussed. Both candidates expressed appreciation for recent action that put a police officer in each of the schools.

“Our No. 1 issue with security is our habits,” Glasscock said. “It does no good to have 10 police officers in the school if we have the door propped open.”

He said educating people is a key.

Both agreed that changes to the entrances are needed to make them more secure.

“We will have a zero-tolerance policy on bullying, drugs and violence,” Griffin said. “I don’t want those students endangering another student.”

He said counseling services is also something that needs to be offered.

The forum was hosted by the Chilton County High School PTO.

The Chilton County  General Primary, which includes the CCS Superintendent race, in June 5.