Challenger D’Andre Anderson and incumbent Hamilton County School Board member, Steve Highlander, went head-to-head in a debate moderated by Marcus Perez of UnifiEd at the Ooltewah High School Monday evening.
Mr. Perez posed a series of questions to both candidates. By alternating turns, each candidate presented his own answer followed by a rebuttal opportunity from the opponent. The audience got to see a contest between youthful exuberance and seasoned experience. Each did not hesitate to explain why his specific strength was what the Board now needs.
Toward the end, questions from the audience provided additional opportunities for each to make his points.
Mr. Anderson emphasized how he “...would bring new perspectives and youthful energy...” to the Board. Mr. Highlander reminded the audience of his long experience in education and how he develops a good understanding of community needs by initiating polls to test voter sentiment on important issues.
Both candidates expressed their strong support for the Camp-K program to improve readiness of children for kindergarten and the need to expand beyond the 300 children in the pilot program this summer.
Mr. Highlander made a strong case for expanding vocational training curricula for the many students who whom college is not the best post high school path and provided examples of how there were employers eager to help in that area.
Mr. Anderson, after citing his frustration with getting the school system to handle basic issues such as roof leaks that impaired learning at the Harrison school, asserted that his recent experience as a student would enable him to establish and "bring back a connection between students and teachers with the board".
The audience of approximately 70 applauded both candidates at the end.