Candidates debate in forum again

Candidates for superintendent of the Chilton County school system met in a forum Thursday for the second time this week.

Jason Griffin, Dave Hayden and Louise Pitts answered questions from moderators Von McQueen, Charlotte Kelley and Jerry Jones on a variety of topics — including budget concerns, uniforms and school accreditation.

A good crowd attended the event that was held at Thorsby High School and kept on pace by radio personality “Dollar” Bill Lawson. Parents, students, teachers and people in attendance submitted questions.

The three candidates said earning SACS accreditation for every school should be a priority.
“Accreditation simply means, ‘This school is where it should be,’” Hayden said. “That (earning accreditation) would be a goal of mine — all schools should be accredited.”

The candidates also talked about ways to save money in tough economic times by making simple changes.

“We’ll just make sure the lights are turned off when they need to be,” Griffin said. “We’ll save money where we can, but not at the expense of our children’s education.”

Despite the economy, classroom sizes must be kept low and manageable, the candidates said.

“Children cannot learn if you have 40 children piled on top of one another,” Pitts said.

Concerning a question about adopting a “uniform” uniform policy across the county, Pitts said she thinks uniforms have worked well where implemented and she would look into the idea but that “each school has a different culture.”

Griffin and Hayden said whatever the BOE decides to do, everyone across the county needs to do the same thing.

“We all need to be on the same page,” Griffin said. “We’ll all do it or we won’t.”

Hayden’s comments were similar: “I believe in consistency. Going to uniforms or not going to uniforms, is something we all need to do.”

All three candidates said they also would never consider consolidation.

Pitts suggested that instead the system should strengthen its ACCESS distance learning and other similar programs to provide more opportunities to students.

“The schools are being very successful,” Pitts said.

Hayden said every school is important to its community.

“We have communities, and the schools are the backbone of those communities,” Hayden said.

Griffin said he would never propose consolidation.

“These are community schools and part of the community identity,” Griffin said.