PHOTO: Candidates for DeKalb County Superintendent, Jason Barnett and Bill Monroe, took the stage at Sylvania High School to answer questions on issues important to voters. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)
By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor
SYLVANIA, Ala. — Two weeks ago, candidates for DeKalb County Superintendent of Education, Dr. Jason Barnett (R) and Bill Monroe (D) took part in a forum moderated by students of Sylvania High School.
The two will be on the ballot for most of DeKalb County on Tuesday (excluding Fort Payne). After qualifying last year, both candidates have been out beating the pavement and campaigning for a year.
Here are some of the responses on key issues from the Forum:
As the new Superintendent, please describe your plans, actions, and goals for the first six months or 100 days of your term in office.
- “As Superintendent of Education, you start January, in the middle of the school year, so a lot of things are already in place. My goal in the first six weeks, which some call a little ambitious, is to be in every classroom in the county introducing myself to the teachers. I want them to make sure they know that anything they need, I’m here for them. Technology is one area where we are lacking, and I plan on addressing that issue.”
- “First thing we are going to focus on is how to improve technology in our classrooms. We want to get those devices into the student’s hands. We’re living in a 21st century, but sometimes we’re still using 20th century methods. We also have to make sure our teachers are ready with professional development. Keeping an open line of communication is also very important.”
How will you, as superintendent, determine how to distribute resources throughout the DeKalb County School System?
- “I see discrepancies and disparities at many of our schools. But that being said, not all schools have the same needs. One thing we need to be doing is talking to our principals, setting priority list, and making sure we achieve those priority list. We also need to have priority lists for the whole district, but each school needs to have their own priority lists. Fair, does not always mean the same.”
- “First thing we need to do is a needs assessment at each school, and then look at setting the priorities, and do what’s best for our district. Sometimes the needs at one are not the same at another (school). Every school is different. You have to look at immediate needs, and long term needs. I don’t think we have a long term building plan for our school system.”
What actions would you take to get more members of the community in DeKalb County more involved in the school system?
- “If you want to get people more involved, you have to go to them. We’ve had meet and greets from the far north of the county down to the the southern end. We’ve been fortunate to have great turnout at these events. We had a board meeting last year right here in Sylvania and at Collinsville we held an open house and let all the parents see the school and the classrooms. In the board meeting, held right after, parents were able to hear what was going on.”
- “I believe that you need to do more community meetings. You need to attend all the PTO meetings or I think you get a lot of feedback at athletic events, band events, and other school events. You can find out whatever you need there, people will tell you what they need. If you attend the meetings, you’ll find out what the needs of each school is.”
What are your opinions on consolidation?
- “Every school community takes great pride in their school. A lot of times, the smaller schools have as much involvement as the larger schools. Typically schools, the size of Sylvania and can offer more than our smaller schools. Consolidation had been mentioned in the past, and their wasn’t board support for it. Their would be a lot of people involved in that decision, it wouldn’t just fall on the superintendent, but it’s the superintendent that has to decide what’s best for all students in DeKalb County, not just one community. That would be something that would have to be decided on in a case-by-case basis.”
- “I feel like with consolidation, we have small schools that are supported the same way as larger schools. I don’t think we need to take away that identity from these community. I’m not a big fan of consolidation. I’m principal at a small school, and I wouldn’t change our situation for nothing, and I know we have parents that feel the same way. I don’t think the board would support consolidation. If consolidation comes, it will come from the state level, because I don’t plan on recommending consolidation in my term in office.”
What do you believe is the number one concern facing our students of our school system today?
- “Preparing our kids for college and career readiness is one of the biggest challenge we have. We’ve got a great vocational school that has many programs and they are at capacity, but their is many opportunities and options that we aren’t providing our students that need to be added to the tech school. We need more academic offerings, such as art. We need to be educating well rounded students that are prepared for life.”
- “I believe that technology is the main thing we need to be looking at. We need to try to put devices in the hands of our students when at all possible. We are doing that at Valley Head through grants. We’ve got a 21st Century Grant, and we are in the 9th year. We need to be looking at 21st Century Grants at all our schools. We need to also look at other funding sources to buy more technology, because technology should be the biggest priority when we start the coming administration.”