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Curriculum, budget hot topics at school board forum

POSTED: April 11, 2014 6:09 p.m.

Common core, board transparency and fiscal accountability were the main topics discussed during a Thursday education forum for Board of Education candidates hosted by the Lanier Tea Party Patriots.

About 50 people attended the forum at the Spout Springs Library in Flowery Branch. Post 2 incumbent Brian Sloan faced challengers Mark Pettitt and Traci McBride.

At-large incumbent Bill Thompson did not attend, but his challenger Paul Godfrey did. Post 1 incumbent Sam Chapman is running unopposed and did not attend. All candidates are Republicans and will be on the May 20 primary ballot. The deadline to register to vote that day is April 21.

All candidates expressed disdain for Common Core standards, math and English/language arts curriculum that has been adopted in Georgia and most states.

Sloan questioned its priority among topics at the debate because it is a state mandate.

“That ship has already sailed,” he said.

“I see it as a definite step backwards,” said McBride.

Pettitt agreed with McBride, saying it is a “dumbing down” of education and that he is opposed “any time the federal government gets involved.” Pettitt also said he would like to see more emphasis placed on teaching technical skills for today’s market, instead of such a heavy focus on pushing college degrees.

Godfrey said he is “violently opposed” to Common Core, likening it to what could be found in the Soviet Union. He said he would consider rejecting it even if the “state says you got to (adopt it).”

He also said he would prefer “to see a course plotted that is very visible,” not just based on test results.

No candidates gave a definitive answer on what form they would prefer standards to take, but they said they would like to see the responsibility returned to the local level as well as include definitive, measurable mechanisms.

A second topic that was highly debated was funding, including an audience member’s question about the candidates’ positions on tax  allocation district funding. A TAD is a specified area where improvements can be made; as property values in that area increase, the extra funds can be set aside for specified projects.

“I think in the long run, TADs are good,” said Godfrey, “if they are evaluated.”

McBride noted the funds should be specific to needs.

As for millage rates in general, Pettitt said he wants more fiscal responsibility and doesn’t support any increases.

The Hall County School District’s millage rate is 19.25. One mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in property value, which is assessed at 40 percent.

“We’ve got the second-highest administrative rate in the state of Georgia,” he said. He touted zero-based budgeting, which starts “from scratch.”

Pettit offered figures on the per-pupil rate spent on administration, but Sloan said the numbers were wrong.  

“We voted to cut board pay” as well as cuts for administration, staff and Superintendent Will Schofield, he said.

“We legally owe William Schofield $30,000 of performance bonuses that he would not take,” he added.

All the challengers agreed on more board transparency, offering a variety of technology-driven ideas to more conveniently bring board meeting actions to the community, including posting video or a live-feed of meetings on Hall County’s website.

The Hall County Board of Education holds its regular monthly meeting at 5 p.m. on the fourth Mondays of each month at the district’s central office on Green Street. Meetings are open to the public, as are the work sessions held on the second Mondays. There is an open forum after the meeting for public input.As for millage rates in general, Pettitt said he wants more fiscal responsibility and doesn’t support any increases.

“We’ve got the second-highest administrative rate in the state of Georgia,” he said. He touted zero-based budgeting, which starts “from scratch.”

Pettit offered figures on the per-pupil rate spent on administration, but Sloan said the numbers were wrong.
“We voted to cut board pay” as well as cuts for administration, staff and Superintendent William Schofield, he said.

“We legally owe William Schofield $30,000 of performance bonuses that he would not take,” he added.

All the challengers agreed on more board transparency, offering a variety of technology-driven ideas to more conveniently bring board meeting actions to the community, including posting video or a live-feed of meetings on Hall County’s website.

The Hall County Board of Education holds its regular monthly meeting at 5 p.m. on the fourth Mondays of each month at the district’s central office on Green Street. Meetings are open to the public, as are the work sessions held on the second Mondays. There is an open forum after the meeting for public input.


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