The Washington Court House City Schools (WCHCS) Board of Education candidates answered several more questions recently from the Record-Herald to help the community get to know them and their positions.
At the Tuesday, Nov. 5 general election this year, those within the WCHCS school district will need to decide on three of five candidates: Craig Copas and Jennifer Lynch seeking reelection and Leah Foster, Dennis Garrison and Janelle Teeters Mead challenging. Below are the next two of five questions asked of the candidates. The final question will be used in an article concerning the WCHCS tax levy, which will also be on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Why are you personally running for the position on school board?
Copas: This is my way of serving my community. I enjoy being a part of the decision making process regarding how to best prepare our children for their adult lives. Once the levy passes there are a few topics I would like for our district to take a closer look at: Career path readiness: A large majority of students will not go to college. I feel our students are missing many of the skills (administrative, trade, industrial, etc.) necessary to come in and make a positive impact to their employer. For the students who are going to go to college, I would love to see college classes taught on WCH campus. Currently, students have to go to Southern State to take college classes. I believe classes on campus would give more students the opportunity to take college classes. Finally, I would love to have students in our district to have computers. Currently, students in grades 9-12 have computers. Technology isn’t going away. Our students are surrounded by it and are expected to takes State tests on computers. It makes sense for the students to work with them on a daily basis.
Mead: I have two kids in the school district – my son Jack, is 15, and my daughter Jordan is 13. We made a decision to move back to Washington Court House when Jack was little and Jordan wasn’t even born because we wanted our children to grow up in the same small town environment that we did. We wanted our kids to be surrounded by our family and to know that incredible support system. At the same time, I want them to have the same opportunities that kids in larger districts have. I want our schools to be successful for them, their friends, and all of our students to prepare for their futures, whatever direction they choose to go. I want our parents to feel confident that our district is providing the best education and opportunities for their children. Sometimes, I think we do a great job – and other times I think we struggle to consistently put our kids first. I want to listen to the concerns of our kids and parents – and make sure that we hear their perspectives – but make the decisions that put our resources in the right place.
Foster: I have always had a passion to help others, sometimes to a fault. But truly, I migrate to our kids of the community. I would like to carry this passion into our School System and work as a team to improve our “Grade of Success,” in the Washington Court House Schools. I believe that this passion, combined with the business, communication and marketing experience I have acquired over the years, would be an asset to our school board.
Lynch: I am running for re-election to the Washington City School’s Board of Education because I believe in the importance of ensuring that every child receives a quality education in order to be successful. I believe I am able to serve the district as an ethical, compassionate, accountable and fair Board Member in order to meet the needs of the district. I am educated on the issues and understand the challenges that we face as a district in the next few years. I enjoy learning about the new programs and opportunities for our students and advocating for each and every child in our district. I want to continue serving the district and the people of Washington Court House, and see through the projects we have started or have been working on over the past couple of years.
Garrison: I am running because the school board should set the direction for our schools. Set a vision, advance policy, demonstrate accountability, maintain a leadership role in the community and develop consensus. My 40 years of experience as a business executive will help provide and restore the aforementioned. Complex budgets, government regulations, strategic planning and personnel management are all issues I deal with daily. If elected I will make sure that we have oversight and accountability.
Between academics, the arts and athletics, what improvements for each area would you like to see in the school district’s future?
Copas: Academically our State report card scores were not where we wanted to be. I know Mr. (Superintendent Tom) Bailey and his administrative team are addressing those concerns with a high sense of urgency. The one improvement I’m looking forward to in our Arts dept is to our historical auditorium. It needs a tremendous amount of work done to it. Mr Bailey has put together committees to help with its restoration. His vision for the auditorium is amazing. Once it is complete it will be something our entire community will be proud of. He would like to bring in bands and concerts to help fund its maintenance and upkeep. The best part of his vision is it will not cost the taxpayers any money. It will be funded completely through grant money and private donations.
Mead: In a perfect world I would like to create an environment our students can find successful careers right here in our community. I think we would all like to see our children go away to college or trade schools, and then come back here to Fayette County to raise their families. As for athletics and the arts – I am a fan. I love going to our middle and high school athletic games and plays – and seeing their amazing works of art. We have incredible talent in our students. But just as I am a fan of our academic programs, athletics and the arts – it would be inappropriate for me to suggest improvements in all of these areas without listening to the opinions of those with expertise. I want to be clear, if elected I wouldn’t immediately endorse these opinions, but it is always important that when making strategic decisions that many ideas and opinions are considered. It is also important that we consider the perspectives of our students. We have to recognize their thoughts are inexperienced – but it is important we understand how our work effects them and the people we want them to become.
Foster: I think one of our strongest attributes at Washington Court House Schools would be our arts program; we offer a large array of musical and visual options for our students to explore. Athletics is also a tremendous outlet for our students to test their talents and gain positive life lessons in teamwork, goal attainments and the art of winning and losing. I have always said that small town athletics are the best; community spirit is contagious and these kids would never have the variety of options to experience in a large metropolitan setting. A new scoreboard at the football stadium would be great and having a field that didn’t flood every spring would be nice, but it won’t make or break the outcome of the game or if our students will succeed in 10 years. A separately run community fundraiser to support these goals would be a direction to explore to #makethatdifference. Even though both of these outlets are vital for a well-rounded learning environment, academics will take our students in to the future and this is where the heart of our focus should be. As mentioned above, I would like to see additional emphasis on alternative career programs in addition to College Preparatory. Less than 25 percent of each graduating class will finish a 4-year-college degree; therefore, it is our responsibility as a school system to recognize that statistic and put pro-active measures into place.
Lynch: Academics – I don’t know that this is an improvement as much as it is an expansion of opportunities by allowing our students to receive credit for non-traditional classroom learning by adding the credit flex opportunities at the high school. This would give us the ability to form partnerships with businesses or other institutions to engage in high school activities that will translate into success after high school. Completing the “Portrait of a Graduate,” is another program that will identify 21st century competencies that are important and unique to Washington Court House. This will help guide our academic planning for all of our students to be more successful in the future, and I hope to be able to see that through if re-elected. Athletics – Continuing to support our administration’s efforts to ensure that we have safe equipment, facilities and activities for our students to enjoy, further develop their skills, and be successful. Arts – Continuing to support our administration’s efforts to ensure that we have enrichment activities that engage, encourage, challenge and support the growth and development of their skills in a way that allows them to be creative and successful. I would encourage and support the continued addition of STEM/STEAM activities.
Garrison: As I said earlier the district as a whole is a reflection of several moving parts. Overall performance in Academics, the Arts and Academics mirror access to favorable resources. Resources can come in the form of finances, facilities and personnel. Without a proper allocation from each we are doing a disservice to the students. The more balance provided the better the opportunities for all.
Stay with the Record-Herald for the final question in a future edition of the paper concerning the WCHCS Tax Levy and for more coverage of the 2019 General Election being held on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on that day.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.