Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Early voting for the Aug. 2 state primary and county general election begins Friday, July 13 and runs until Saturday, July 28.
In addition to voting on Hamilton County mayor, assessor of property and General Sessions Court judge, North Hamilton residents in districts 1 and 2 will select who will represent them on the School Board.
The following is a summary of those candidates’ answers to the following questions:
- What do you feel qualifies you to serve as a school board representative?
- Do you now or have you ever had a child enrolled in a school in the district you seek to represent?
- Have you ever volunteered in a local public school? If so, in which school, for how many hours and what did you do?
- What goals do you hope to accomplish if elected?
- What is your plan of action to accomplish the aforementioned goals?
District 1 — Katherine Benefield
- My technology expertise is probably the most important difference I bring to this campaign. I have served as a districtwide site support administrator since 1997. I taught technology under the vocational education department for two years and served as one of three supervisory network engineers who wired the schools, set up ... servers, established an online presence and configured, set up and maintained classroom and office computers throughout our entire county. I have a dual degree in education and special education, have certifications in educational technology, hold a master’s degree from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in writing (rhetoric) and have been a private computer, network and security contractor in the community. I’ve completed the Public Education Foundation’s Leadership Fellows yearlong training, and in that capacity I spent a week in Washington, D.C., studying “turnaround schools.”
- I had four biological children and two stepchildren who attended District 1 schools.
- I served at Chattanooga Center for Creative Arts in addition to working countywide. While I had sons playing drums in the Soddy-Daisy High School band I was a band booster and worked with other band parents in concessions and during special events. I also served as home room mother for my children, went on local school field trips when possible and helped raise money for “away trips.”
- It is my goal to stem the loss of quality teachers and establish a tone of respect for their profession as we meet the challenges of an evaluation model in its formative stages, work toward online staff development to save time in the building and reduce lost instruction time, and assure staff that the board will be responsive to issues that impact them.
- I will foster a more positive and productive team atmosphere on the board, with Central Office administration, with principals, parents and our community partners. Through appreciation of business efforts and partnerships like the Public Education Foundation, I hope to re-ignite a favorable view of North Hamilton County and achieve more recognition of the critical need for the upgrade of Sale Creek, materials and technology for Falling Water, and enlargement of the vocational options.
Rhonda Thurman (incumbent)
- I can balance a checkbook and know you cannot spend more than you have. I also realize I have to be accountable to taxpayers for spending their money. Hamilton County Department of Education receives well over half of the entire county budget, so I take my position on the school board very seriously.
- No. My daughter, who is now 23, attended Wallace Smith Elementary even though we lived in Falling Water. This was convenient for my husband and me because I worked on 58 Highway and Wallace Smith was also close to her Nana. I support open enrollment. If a parent wants their child to attend a school that is not overcrowded outside of their zone and they are willing to provide transportation, they should be able to attend the school of their choice.
- I volunteered every Wednesday for six years at Wallace Smith. I was once chosen as the Volunteer of the Year. I ran copies, put up bulletin boards, helped with craft projects, made costumes, drilled students with flash cards, watched students when teachers had to leave their classroom, swept the sidewalk, pulled weeds, picked up trash and anything else I was asked to do.
- I will continue to push for a [Sale Creek Middle] school building. Sale Creek also needs a football field for its newly formed football team. Falling Water ... students deserve a new building with the new technology most of the other elementary schools have. I plan to talk with the [Falling Water] parents on Montlake to see if they want their children at the newly combined [Falling Water and Ganns Middle Valley Elementary] school or at Soddy Elementary. Another thing I have been working on is an entrance to Daisy Elementary off Sequoyah Road. I would also love to see a new track and tennis courts at Soddy-Daisy High so they do not have to leave campus for all their meets and practices.
- I will continue to keep the needs of District 1 schools before the board. I have talked [to various officials] about each of these projects. When money becomes available, I will continue to fight for the students in District 1 to get their fair share.
District 2 — Jonathan Welch
- I have a broad experience in education, business and community involvement from which to draw. Having been through dental school I value education and understand the importance that K-12 education has on lifelong learning. I have served on both the Founders Fund and Mountain Education Fund boards, which gave me insight into how the county opens schools and provides for them. With my small business I am always aware of budgets and the importance of maintaining and prioritizing needs within that budget.
- I have three children enrolled at Thrasher Elementary [on Signal Mountain] next year; in kindergarten, first and third grades.
- I have volunteered at Nolan, Thrasher and Red Bank elementaries. At Nolan and Red Bank I spoke with the kindergarten students regarding dental health month. At Thrasher I have volunteered in my children’s kindergarten classes helping with reading skills.
- The community needs to know when decisions are coming up to voice input. Broadly we need to make sure resources available in the budget are making a direct impact in the classroom and decisions made focus on the students’ best interest. We need to promote programs that are proven to work and prepare our students for whatever career they choose to pursue. To fully educate our children we need to make sure that they are exposed to the arts and can pursue them as far as they choose. [I want to] emphasize many of the positive things occurring in our schools. Our students and teachers work hard and when that work leads to achievement we should celebrate.
- Educating myself on the needs of individual schools and communication with fellow board members and the County Commission are the broad ways to accomplish these goals. It will take collaboration with other board members with the focus maintained on the students to achieve any goal.
Mike Harvey (write-in candidate)
- I have experience serving on numerous boards for the last 31 years. I was appointed by the governor to serve a four-year term on the Tennessee Board of Nursing. I have served on the board of the Tennessee Association of Nurse Anesthetists as well as serving on various medical and hospital boards. I have also served on a church finance board. I am also a clinical instructor with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga School of Anesthesia.
- I have two sons, Cody and Taylor, educated in District 2 schools for the entirety of their educational years. I attended District 2 schools in my elementary, middle and high school years and graduated from Red Bank High School.
- I have volunteered throughout my children’s tenure in the public school system in District 2. I continue to serve on the SMHS football committee as the community PR coordinator as well as on the homecoming committee along with my wife, Yvonne. I presented a program at RBHS for career day, and also volunteered at career day at elementary schools in District 2. I served on the Founders Fund committee and on the special needs planning committee for SMMHS. My wife Yvonne and I are currently volunteering on the planning team sponsored by the Knights of Columbus to raise money that will be donated to the Hamilton County Department of Education for special needs classes. I am a contributor to the Mountain Education Foundation. I and my family are excited about the RBHS extreme makeover and will be rolling up our sleeves to paint the classrooms. I have 12-plus years experience in volunteering!
- A few of my goals I wish to see accomplished are to re-establish trust in the public school system, help balance the budget, support a strong School Resource Officer program, promote effective and qualified teachers and staff, encourage parent involvement and communicate openly with every school, parent, student and staff member.
- The best way to achieve these goals is to work closely with the HCDE staff and school board. I will make myself available to listen to every parent, student and staff’s concerns and issues.