Houston County candidates make pitches at forum

alopez@macon.comApril 26, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- As moderators, Kathy Shelton and Wilhelmina Sibley challenged the school board candidates to respond to specific policy questions. They generated discussion of school dress codes, common core standards and parent involvement.

When Sibley asked the five District 7 candidates whether the school district should allow teachers to carry guns in schools, a few chuckled and all of them were in agreement against the idea.

“I don’t think, as much as I love to hunt and fish and have grown up with a gun and own several fire arms, that I would absolutely say that a teacher can bring a gun to the classroom,” Bryan Upshaw said.

Robbin Jackson delivered a more politically charged answer.

“I don’t think it’s right,” he said, referring to arming teachers. “We need to stop kneeling to the NRA.”

Few people not affiliated with a local or statewide campaign attended Saturday’s candidate forum organized by the Houston County Democratic Committee and the Middle Georgia Democratic Women’s Club at the Wellston Center on Maple Street. But a self-described hardcore Democrat, Frank Gadbois, said the event helped him decide on the front-runners for his vote on May 20.

“I think it’s really worthwhile,” he said of the forum.

The most pressing issues for Houston County schools, according to District 6 candidates Hoke Morrow and Griff Clements, have to do with the economy and uncertainty in state funding.

In his time allotted, Clements focused on his experience and accomplishments as a former school board member. Morrow, the small business owner, focused on his Houston County pedigree and his desire to provide a “common sense” approach and a calming influence to the board.

But Gadbois said he was most impressed with Ashley, the pastor and certified parent advocate, because he appreciated Ashley’s perspective as the mother of children with special needs.

Of the five District 7 candidates, Gadbois said he was most impressed by retired vice principal Tannya Duncan.

Andy Rodriguez was the most animated candidate at the forum. When asked why he chose to serve in support of public education, Rodriguez presented a sheet of paper with a large dollar sign drawn on it.

“I’m interested in the public school system because I invest in the public school system,” Rodriguez said, presenting E-SPLOST money as an example.

Finally, one of the more specific policy questions asked to District 7 candidates involved common core standards, which all five said they support to varying degrees.

“In my field of work, accounting and finance, we all have standards,” Douglas Wechsler said. “Accounting is the language of business so we have a set standard for how we do things. Education should be the same way.”

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 478-256-9751.

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