The Moms For Liberty group on Monday held the first of two scheduled public forums for school board candidates at Red Bank High School.
The public submitted questions for school board candidates to answer. Steve McKinney and Virginia Anne Manson from District 11, Larry Grohn District 8 and Joe Smith District 3, were in attendance. Other candidates were invited but were not present.
The first question concerned the biggest problem for education in their districts.
Most of the candidates said school safety was the biggest issue. Ms. Manson said staying in touch with law enforcement is a concern, while Mr. Grohn said structure and discipline is important also.
The following question also concerned safety but more so on bullying and how it can be prevented.
“The Internet is destroying generations,” said Mr. Smith. “I always bring up the Code of Conduct but the problem is it's not being enforced and we need to hold kids and parents accountable.”
Mr. Grohn said he would like to see two police officers at schools and that it's an ongoing process to “harden” our schools. Mr. McKinney said communication between teachers and parents needs to be improved, which was another commonality among the candidates.
“Parents and teachers communicating makes better schools,” said Ms. Manson.
“The community is supposed to be an active part in the curriculum; get involved and get online and make comments about the curriculum,” said Mr. Grohn.
When discussing reduced testing, the candidates agreed it was necessary.
“We need to focus on getting back to the basics in education,” said Mr. Grohn.
“Testing is important and it gives accountability but if it interferes with teachers being able to teach, then it's a problem,” said Ms. Manson.
According to Mr. Smith, testing was one of the top three reasons teachers left their jobs. He said teacher pay was not even in the top three.
“One reason was student behavior and the other was testing,” said Mr. Smith. “Twenty five percent of teachers' time is spent on testing.”
Teacher shortages were addressed further when someone asked how the candidates would handle it and why it is happening. Mr. Smith said teacher shortages exist all over the country and kids should be encouraged to be lifelong educators. Ms. Manson said, "We need to give kids strong fundamentals to go into teaching."
“I think we need to put money back into the schools and give a three percent raise across the board,” said Mr. Grohn. Mr. McKinney responded to the question with a simple: “Let the teachers teach.”
“Every decision matters on this school board,” said Mr. Grohn.
The group was criticized for hosting the forums at a school from a different group called Moms for Social Justice.
The next Mom’s For Liberty public forum is Monday at Ooltewah High School.