FCBoE District 4 candidates make their electoral cases

FCBoE District 4 candidates make their electoral cases

An audience of 50 people on April 15 heard from the four Republican candidates running for the District 4 seat on the Fayette County Board of Education. The candidates fielded questions on problems facing the school system, their position on the Common Core standards, their prior board experience, management style and problem resolution approach and their position on district voting.

Candidates for the Post 4 seat include Jane Owens, John Kimbell, Diane Basham and Mindy Fredrickson. Candidates were provided time for opening remarks.

Basham in her opening statement said she is a 30-year resident of Fayette County and had recently retired after 27 years of teaching in the Fayette school system. Prior to her time in education she worked in management and finance. Noting an aspect of the ongoing Fayette Visioning Initiative, Basham referenced the quality and impact of the local school system, both in the past and in the future.

“We’re at a crossroads and we have a number of issues,” Basham said. “As goes the school system, so goes the county.”

Up next, attorney Fredrickson centered her opening remarks on the federal Dept. of Education, with the third largest budget of all federal agencies, and its lack of interface with local school districts and students. Fredrickson said she would partner with state agencies to “prepare students for an excellent future.”

Fredrickson said school systems are big business.

“I have experience at that,” she said in reference to her current employment at Delta.

Also an attorney, Kimbell in his opening statements said he has a vested interest in education given that his wife is a local teacher and their children currently attend elementary, middle and high schools.

“I have the perspective of a small businessman,” Kimbell said, adding his belief that there are two key board priorities. One of those is fiscal responsibility while the other is a vision for the future where students can broaden their horizons by becoming lifelong learners and self-starters.

Owens, a 24-year Fayette resident, said she has taught in public, private schools and home school settings. As a school board member, Owens said she would be accountable to parents.

“I want to continue with what has been done right and move on from there,” she said.

The first of several questions asked candidates their opinion on the most significant problem facing public schools today.

Owens said the school board needs a solid foundation which requires continual review. Noting that much progress has been made in the school system over the years, Owens said, “The classroom is most important. What’s taught is most important.”

She said research on Common Core has opened her eyes on issues such as student testing.

Kimbell in his remarks said the school board should ensure the continuation of the programs which reinforce what has already been created, adding that the board should be judicious with tax dollars.

“The budget is key to service delivery,” Kimbell said. “We need to continue to be the draw we’ve been in the community, with like-minded people and goals.”

Fredrickson in her response said the most important factor facing public schools is academic excellence.

“Finances are also important, but academics are the key to creating an environment that encourages the involvement of parents and the county,’ she said.

Fredrickson said great academic options are also needed, as is having the best teachers and an accompanying compensation structure.

Basham said fiscal responsibility is the most significant problem facing public schools because it fuels the school system. She said the school board built a rainy day fund and committed to keeping it intact.

“With additional funds, they need to go back to the classroom. The goal is world-class education by retaining and recruiting quality teachers,” Basham said, adding the need to be creative in terms of students’ future educational needs.

Candidates in the second question were asked where they stand on Common Core and if they would fight it or support it.

Kimbell said after speaking with his local principal, board members and others he concluded that Common Core is a skeletal framework.

“The danger is not in the structure,” he said, adding the need to give students a similar basis across the county so they can compete in a competitive world. “The danger and the problem is if the skeleton is used by the federal government as a tool to seize power and take control of the education system.”

If that were the case, Kimbell said he would fight and resist it.

Fredrickson in her response said she was told that Fayette always teaches above the standard, though with Common Core “(students) are being evaluated on tests that are untested.”

Fredrickson said perhaps Common Core fits the academic bill, though that outcome is still unknown.

“I don’t want my kids to be lab rats and I will work to bring back local control,” she said.  

Basham said local control is the ideal, though it is not going to happen. The more fitting conversation pertains to difference in the Common Core standards and in the curriculum utilized in the classroom, she said.

“We control the curriculum. The curriculum is how we teach our kids,” Basham said. “Are there holes in the standards? Absolutely. Our coordinators are filling in those holes. To be accredited we have to do what the state says we have to do.”

Owens in her response on Common Core said, “When we take money from the federal government there are strings attached. We have to be strong enough to resist.”

Owens suggested that Georgia see what other states are doing and emulate the best of those.

Adding a comment from the audience at the conclusion of the Common Core responses, school board member Bob Todd said the Common Core standards would become an issue if the state “told us how to teach.”

The evening’s third question asked each candidate to comment on their past experience serving on boards and dealing with budgets and how that experience could benefit the school board.

Fredrickson said she had worked with budgets with her school’s PTO and in her home and her department’s budget at Delta.

Basham said she dealt with budget issues while serving on several school system committees, her home budget and, prior to her work in education, she was responsible for budgets in her time in the private sector.

Owens said, as a church staff member since college, she had responsibility for budgets that were modeled on the perspective of having no debt while keeping a sizable rainy day fund.

Kimbell in his response said he has worked with budgets in his church and home, in his Kiwanis organization and in the law practice he has owned since 1998.

The final question asked that candidates explain their management style and to provide an example of the way they resolve conflict.

Basham said though her approach is hard to define, she is a detail person who questions everything. Basham described herself as collaborative and a consensus-builder.

“I believe top-down management doesn’t work,” she said, adding that the people hired should be given the responsibility to help resolve issues.

Owens described herself as a consensus-builder, referencing her 35 years of involvement with children, church groups and volunteers. She said her management approach is one that helps people understand they are important and prompts them to be a part of the plan.

Owens in referencing conflict resolution used an issue that arose with two children.

“I listened to both of them (individually) then got them together. They changed their story and reached consensus,” she said, noting the outcome that can be obtained when people have the opportunity to work together.

Kimbell referencing his management style said he is a “big-picture kind of guy.”

“Policy makers (should not be) micro-managers,” he said, explaining that he does not see the role of a board member as having a day-to-day involvement in the school system. “I see the big picture and cast the vision.”

On conflict resolution, Kimbell said he gathers information and assesses the situation.

“You can get results by sitting down and talking to people. That leads to people building consensus,” he said.

Fredrickson also described herself as a consensus-builder. Her work in employee relations at Delta leads to her working with new hires and executives.

“In my organization, all voices have to be at the table with input,” she said, noting that she manages staff to help them find ways to succeed.

Fredrickson said she leads numerous groups of employees and others, including in mediation efforts, with the goal of organizational success.

A follow-up question from the audience asked if the candidates supported or opposed the recent change to district voting.

Owens said she wondered if district voting would accomplish its primary intention.

“The school board is to represent the whole county since its decisions affect the whole county,” she said. “I think every board member should represent every citizen.”

Basham said her belief is that district voting is a unity issue, not a voting rights issue, adding that school board decisions are made for everyone.

“I think it could create divisiveness and an animosity we don’t need,” Basham said. “(Districting) lends some to serve their district at the potential detriment of other districts by ‘bringing home the bacon.’”

Kimbell in his remarks said the “pork-barrel” in Washington is a way of getting elected.

“It scares me that we will become divided,” he said, noting that while diverse, Fayette County is made up of the same people with the same values in education, churches and youth sports.

“District voting is tinkering with our unity,” he said.

Fredrickson had the final response to the district voting question. Fredrickson said she did not want to put school against school and district against district.

“We need to respect all the people across all districts. School closings were divisiveness enough. Also, I want all your votes. I think you have the right to select all board members and (the federal court decision) has diminished your rights,” Fredrickson said while complimenting the school board on its recent decision to appeal in the district voting case.

The winner of the May 20 primary will face Democratic candidate Ogechi Oparah in the November election.

milton06
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Just my thoughts

I read with interest the article written above on the BOE forum and have also read the comments below and would like to weigh in on the discussion. I like to think of myself as a reasonable person, so here goes. First of all, Fayette County Schools exist to educate our children and that learning takes place for 180 days per year in every classroom throughout our county. I am absolutely positive that classrooms today are a lot different than when I was a student. I am also absolutely positive that I would not know how our educational system functions in this county by asking my own child when he/she comes home from school or ask my teacher spouse about her day at work? (My wife has been a nurse for many years and I would never attempt to treat a patient even though we have spent many hours discussing her job). I really appreciate that Mrs. Owens, Mrs. Fredrickson and Mr. Kimbell have expressed an interest in seeking a position on the School Board and I am sure they are fine people, but what real vision and understanding of our school system can they provide? Any professional educator experience here? From what I have read in the pages of this newspaper over the past several years and my own observations, we have our work cut out for us to get our school system back on track. I would think that that we need to cut through some of the “stuff” below and try to get the best qualified person running for this seat elected.
I have a number of friends, who are long time teachers in Fayette, and I have had many extended conversations with them about our schools and quite frankly, have noticed an increasing level of frustration. To me, this is very troubling. They know that every recommendation proposed by the Administration, and approved by the Board, ultimately affects their classroom, either in a positive or negative way. Oh, how often I have heard my friends say that the “County Office/School Board don’t really know what is going on in our classroom.” I take my responsibility as a voter very seriously and try to vote for the best qualified candidate based on my own criteria, but who better to ask what would be important qualifications for a member of the School Board than the people we entrust with educating our children? To a person, each sees the real need to have an educator who has recently left the classroom, occupying a seat on the School Board. They all see the advantage of viewing the decisions that the Board will face through an educator’s eye would be a huge asset for our School System. If you don’t believe this, befriend a teacher and have your own candid conversation. I don’t know Mrs. Basham personally, but have heard a lot of positive things about her and her over 25 year dedication to the students of Fayette County. To me, it just seems reasonable to have a professional educator as a member of the Board of Education. Who could be better qualified?

soundofm
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Diane Basham is best choice

There is always a "learning curve" when assuming a new position. We need to elect someone who can "jump into the saddle" quickly on our school board. Diane Basham has regularly attended school board meetings; taught for over 25 years in the school system; and her children are graduates of Fayette County Schools. That is the sort of experience we need.

Though the other candidates are respectable individuals, none has the background that Basham provides.

Jklmnop
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Election

I have watched all four of these candidates and the only one I have really been truly impressed by is Diane Basham. She has an energy that the school board desperately needs and she’s really smart. She isn’t running for the school board for any reason other than she sees a place where her knowledge and experience can be useful. She is a strong conservative, a former teacher, and a long time member of this community.
I attended this particular event as well as the Rotary event last week and have a few observations:
Jane Owens is quite committed to her opposition to the new Common Core standards. She also stated that she had been looking into the issue “for several weeks.” This really concerns me because I want a decision maker who spends more than “3 weeks” researching an issue before they form such a vehement opinion.
Mindy Fredrickson just seemed to parrot things the other candidates had already said. Perhaps we need the person who actually has ideas rather than the one who plagiarizes someone else’s. Later at the Rotary event, she touted how busy she is as well. While I can appreciate one whose time is valuable, I worry that she may not have the time and energy necessary to do what is best for our county. I want a decision maker who can spend the time doing the research and talking to the community to come up with solutions to persistent problems in this county.
Kimbell seemed uninspiring, but I looked at his website anyway. He does seem to have some developer friends and that was a red flag. But all of these candidates say the same things as the other candidates. Our votes should be based on who has the experience and knowledge to do a good job. I don't think that having a wife who teaches in the system truly qualifies one for being able to understand all of the issues. I'm also concerned that with a job that takes a lot of time and small children, John won't be able to fully commit to this position either.

concernedsince94
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Canidiates dedication to time....

I agree with the concern of the candidates time. Will Friedrickson be able to commit to attending board meetings, attending school functions at the minimum in her district and special sessions? She has stated she is a full time lawyer with Delta. She travels out of town for her full time job and to me, even though it states that the School Board position is part time, it should be treated as Pressberg has done, as a dedicated full time job.
On a side note, I have been reviewing the salaries of School Board members in surrounding counties and I cannot believe the very little pay Fayette County School Board Members receive for their time and commitment to this school system.

Husband and Fat...
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BOE pay

Based on the budget the BOE and Supt should be paid more then the BOC and county administrator.

I had this dialogue with Mr. Marchman on here about this and I remember his response was impressive in rejecting my statement.

Mr. Pressburg does indeed take his position seriously and provides full time attention to a part time position.

The Mole
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Candidates?

Where have all these folks been? All but one, Ms. Basham, have been to very few board meetings, if any. In order to function with the other board members and know the problems of this school system, you cannot just all of a sudden become a concerned candidate.

concernedsince94
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Flashback......is a canidiate tied to real estate developers?

I have been assessing the canidiates to determine the most qualified. I have attended the forum that the Fayette GOP hosted as well as the PTC Rotary Club Meet and Greet. I have a couple of major concerns about John Kimbell. One, he states that he is an "outsider", but how can that be the case when he has a child in every level of school in Fayette County? Also, he has a wife that teaches at a Elementary school in Fayette County.
The second concern and the most important is that I have followed all canidiates on their websites since they were launched. When you click on "friends of Kimbell", a large majority of his supporters are real estate and business products based. At one point he had Brent Scarborough listed. Also, I pay attention to sign placement and where candidates have their signs placed based on local support in the community. If you notice the hard to miss large signs of Kimbell including the large truck parked at Hwy 85 and 92 north in the Michaels parking lot, which has since been moved in the last three days, the property is owned by developer Bill Bonner. There is also a large sign at the Scarborough and Rolander Development on North Jeff Davis.
Some of you may recall the hard to forget reason why the FCBOE snowballed into debit in the past years. This was because of the lighting fast speed that the board was buying up real estate and building schools that were not needed. The main reason this occurred is because some board members were tied to real estates developers.
Kimbell is a real estate attorney and has stated that on several occasions. His ties to real estate and developers are listed plainly on his website. The concern I have is real. Do we want to have even have a slight doubt that we could fall back into the old ways of the Board?

heatjam
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Kimbell and Scarborough

I have no idea if the 2 men have done business together, but I do know for a fact that Mr. Kimbell is the Pack Leader in the Cub Scout pack that Mr. Scarborough's son has been involved with.

AtHomeGym
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Concerned, Kimbell, & the BOE

Remember, Kimbell would have ONE vote--which doesn't mean much unless there is a tie!

ginga1414
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concernedsince94, Extremely well said!

To your credit, you are a very observant voter.

Our school system was almost destroyed.

No one but a Fayette teacher could fully evaluate and understand what caused our school system to descend from a place of honor to struggling just to survive.

Ms. Basham is without a doubt the best choice for the 4th District school board position.

NeilSullivan
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Concerned - Blast from the past indeed

Which candidate do YOU support and why? I do not know Mr. Kimbell, but he has a stake in our system. Like me he has children in the schools and a wife who is one of our underappreciated teachers. One would think with that kind of frontline contact he would have a good idea of what is going on in our excellent Fayette County Public Schools and may be able to gather feedback from the unwashed parents of our fine system instead of just the connected few.

This is an interesting district voting race that has has drawn some good candidates. Lets debate their ideas and stop with the nonsense politics.

BTW I did not support Mr. Kimbell but might now....

Take Care,

Neil

not a developer, but a parent of a 4th grader at PCES, and husband to SCHS Social Studies teacher

ginga1414
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Mr. Sullivan- Jklmnop and concerned are right

The last person we need on our school board is someone who is involved with Scarborough, Rolader or any other developer/real estate person. We certainly don't need someone who is supported in their campaign by developers and real estate companies. I, also, have done a great deal of research into why our school system took a nose dive. I discovered that some of the same developers/real estate people who are supporting Mr. Kimbell's campaign were also involved in real estate dealings with former school board members.

We don't need an attorney.

We need someone who has been a teacher in the Fayette School System for the last 27 years. As a Fayette teacher, Diane Basham knows the system inside and out. She has been involved with school budgeting. She has seen our highly respected school system slide from a top ranking. She knows what caused that slide.

Diane Basham is the best candidate for the School Board seat in the 4th district.

NeilSullivan
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Hi Ginga Post 4

Hope you are well.

My point was more about hearing from the candidates. I agree that Diane's 27 years in our system is valuable. My wife taught with her for ten years at MHS. I know her to be passionate about our schools. She could be a valuable addition to our BOE.

I do not know Mr. Kimball, but do know his background as a current BOE parent and husband to one of our Fayette County teachers gives him a perspective that may also be valuable.

That is why I do not far the developer apocalypse. I believe these there is a lot to learn about the candidates and where they stand to benefit our excellent Fayette County schools.

I have had the opportunity to meet Md. Scarborough but once that I remember, but know he is an active parent in our schools and a friend to them. From my perspective, the overbuilt schools was driven more by faulty forecasts and the 2008 recession. In my neighborhood in PTC, houses are on the market about a week. People are buying again.

But there are two other factors that have effected or school operating cash in the past and will in the future if we are not careful. First to the point above, we are losing population both the aging and to some really good are private schools. Mr. Ross and his visioning tell us that we need" affordable housing" for young families. I worry what that really means but also where to put it. Will we put it near schools that have room or place it where the developers want it? That is a concern.

But the largest financial factor effecting our excellent Fayette County Public Schools is the failure by first Gov. Purdue and now Gov. Deal in concert with the legislature to properly fund our public schools in accordance with the QBE formula as prescribed by the state. This has resulted in $100M in funds properly earned by FCBOE to be held by the state beginning before the recession. At the same time these same people have expanded the private school tax credit program.

Given my wife is a teacher in the system and my involvement in school related issues, I do not endorse candidates in a forum such as the Citizen, but hope everyone asks questions and votes for who would be best for our excellent Fayette County public schools.

Take Care,

Neil

concernedsince94
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Reply to Neil Sullivan...my research has been done

I can assure you that I have taken to the time to review each candidates "ideas" and to me what qualifies them to be a school board member. I have also researched why the FCBOE got into trouble and was in massive debt in the past. My concerns are not "nonsense politics" but real concerns that parents have. The past debt resulted from purchase of land and development that effected everyone involved with the school system causing pay cuts, benefit cuts and redistricting. I am a longtime resident, graduate of Fayette County Schools, college graduate and have two children in Fayette County Schools. I also have friends that work in this school system. In my opinion, I am not going to support nor vote for anyone such as Kimbell with ties to real estate and Development because I simply do not want to worry that we may have to live the past mess the FCBOE was in. I want to move forward and I look forward to the board making smart decisions for the students, teachers, staff and administrators of this county.

G8rgirl
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So if John Kimbell is friends with a developer and that.....

makes him guilty by association, does that then mean that if a candidate is associated with someone who is unscrupulous, we should deem them guilty as well??

If so, I have a great story to tell you bloggers.

Smart Woman
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Concerned

You have a right to be concerned. That is exactly one of the reason the FCBOE got in trouble. Buying more land than needed then trying to flip excess land to the chosen developer. One board member even boasted that they, the FCBOE, came out well on certain deals.

Husband and Fat...
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Excuse me. Excuse me

Can you please tell me which one of you is a "free thinker" and what church you belong to. Signed Rev BOC.

Davids mom
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What communities look for

In a quality education system:

1. Excellent academic achievement
2. Welcomed parent participation
3. Cooperative, innovative instructors
4. Community support of teachers and administrators working in a safe,appropriate environment for all students.
5. Financial planning that insures excellence

Fayette County has it all! Even with innovative 'free thinkers' in leadership positions. Our public schools are open to all. There is no line for church affiliation on an application or registration. In our community we have Christian Churches, Mosques, Temples, etc.,, and some families who do not believe or support an organized religious organization. Their children are welcomed in public schools as is the input of their parents.

Husband and Fat...
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DM, it was a pot shot at Barlow

Prior to our esteemed commissioner being elected, he came to the BOE meeting and made a fool of himself demanding to know Mr. Preesburgs affiliation with free thinkers and his religion. Perhaps he will do it again, lol.

Davids mom
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H & F

Thanks for the clarification and information. Wow - 2014.

Husband and Fat...
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Stay informed DM

You probably voted for him. He loves everyone except those that offend him. Like free thinkers

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