District One’s school board battle pits the longtime incumbent Rhonda Thurman against the newcomer Stephen Vickers. The downtown Pachyderm Club hosted a forum between the two, an event moderated by Linda Moss Mines. The two candidates discussed their views on a wide range of topics pertaining to the education of District I's children. Both agreed that children should go back to school in the fall, but had different opinions on how the county should go about implementing a plan.
“If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask,” said Ms.
Thurman. “If you want your children to wear a mask, then have them wear a mask. This is where I get into personal responsibility. If this is what you want to do, then you can do it. But we did not postpone schools after 9/11, and we did not postpone schools after Pearl Harbor. So we can do this.”
Ms. Thurman said that if a family does not feel comfortable sending their child to school, then that family has the choice to do online schooling or homeschooling. Mr. Vickers advocated for a flexible approach, citing the varying circumstances each student finds themselves in.
“We have to take considerations since right now we’re in phase three of a four-phased approach,” said Mr. Vickers. “If you have that compromised person at home, or if the child is compromised, we have to take that into consideration. But I agree that our kids need to be outside and be active.”
Both Mr. Vickers and Ms. Thurman were in agreement that a tax increase would not be wise in a post-COVID world. Mr. Vickers said everyone has had to, and will continue to need to “live within our means,” as he said every “corporation and company has suffered in one way, shape, form or fashion.” He also said that plans could quickly change, and whoever is elected should need to be able to “move on a dime.” Ms. Thurman also opposed any sort of tax increase.
“There’s lots of things you have to consider other than someone just getting a raise,” said Ms. Thurman. “My thing has always been, if you get a raise, will that make you a better teacher? If it does, I don’t even know which one we should fire so someone can come in and take your place. You do your best job for the amount of money you’re being paid, and if there’s extra money left over, then maybe (teachers will get raises).”
Both candidates also agreed that investing in vocational training would be a fantastic idea. Ms. Thurman bemoaned the current push to get every high school graduate to go to college. She said the different vocational training sites are too spread out at the moment, and Ms. Thurman said she would like to see them all take place at a single campus or location.
“I started out and worked for 10 years as an electrician, so I started out digging ditches and wiring. I kept pushing myself and moving up and was a project manager,” said Mr. Vickers. “We have to have vocation, because we all need an oil change, a haircut. Not everyone needs to be in college and not everyone has the desire to do structured ideas in college.”
Ms. Thurman said, “I’m not afraid to state the obvious. Some people are so politically correct, they just try to appease this group or group. I don’t have anyone to appease. I don’t ask the teacher’s union what they want because I don’t care, and I don’t ask anyone else because I don’t care. When I got to the school board meetings, I have researched what I am going to vote on and have made the phone calls I’ve needed to make.”
Meanwhile, as a data analyst for T-Mobile, Mr. Vickers consistently referred to looking at information and data when making decisions. In addition to this, he told the Pachyderm Club he has a “vested interest” in District One’s schools, as he has a son who goes to Soddy Daisy Middle School.
Both school board candidates agreed that charging hundreds of dollars to play athletics in District One is not something they support.