Two of the four candidates in Tuesday’s runoff races for Houston County Board of Education made their cases to voters Friday night at City Hall.
It was billed as a debate, but the two candidates who showed up, Sheila Ashley and Tannya Duncan, are in different races. Ashley’s opponent, Hoke Morrow, and Duncan’s opponent, Bryan Upshaw, did not attend.
The debate was put on by the Middle Georgia Democratic Women’s Club and the Houston County Democratic Committee. Women’s Club President Wilhelmina Sibley said the event originally was intended to be Thursday, but Morrow and Upshaw both said Friday would be better for them, so the date was changed.
However, she said both of them told her Friday they wouldn’t be in attendance. She said she notified them of the debate Monday.
Sibley read an email from Upshaw that expressed regrets that he couldn’t come. He said he had prior commitments, and he included a statement about himself that Sibley read to the audience of about 30 people.
Ashley and Morrow are running for the Post 6 seat. Ashley is a pastor and certified parent advocate, and Morrow is owner of Hoke’s Heating and Air in Perry.
Upshaw and Duncan are running for the Post 7 seat, which was vacated when Dave McMahan resigned in February. Upshaw is a general contractor, and Duncan is a retired school administrator.
Both of the candidates at Friday’s event promised to be accessible to the public if elected.
“I think it’s important to let our parents know that we want them to be involved,” Duncan said.
She advocated having a night when parents could speak to school board members in an informal setting as opposed to a school board meeting.
Ashley said she has a child with Asperger’s syndrome so special education is a priority for her.
“I am very passionate about students with special needs and disabilities,” she said. “But just as much as I am passionate about those things, I am passionate about the students of Houston County in general.”
Asked how to improve underperforming schools, Duncan said it’s important to look at data from each school to pinpoint the problems.
“When you do that, it’s really important that you have teachers in those classrooms who can meet the needs of those students,” she said. “It’s important that whatever teachers need to educate students in that building, we need to make sure that’s what we provide for them.”
Duncan said she and Ashley have been campaigning together because there had been a misconception that the two were running against each other.
“We have become a team, and we are working for the same goal,” Duncan said. “It’s a very, very important runoff election. I don’t know if there is anything else Sheila and I can do to make this happen.”
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.