10/19/08 — School board hopefuls talk qualifications

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School board hopefuls talk qualifications

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 19, 2008 2:00 AM





Voters in District 3 are choosing between two Board of Education candidates, each of whom says he or she would be best for the job.

Charles Wright has thrown his hat into the ring, running against incumbent Thelma Smith, the current chairman of the school board.

Wright has long been very vocal about his dissatisfaction with the way some things have been done in the school district. But he said he also believes he can bring a "little bit of reasonableness" to the board.

"I think I bring my ideas that will not only help the children of District 3 but all of Wayne County, ideas that won't cost us anything, that will really modernize our education and what we offer our kids. I think I can bring to the table the ability to look at specific facts without emotions and look at where we are going, sit down and reasonably come to some type of plan that would be beneficial to all the children and at the same time make sure that we are not leaving out any of the kids."

Wright said he favors making sure every child has the same opportunities and experiences. He says he is interested in seeing what other communities are doing successfully, and is willing to "copy and adopt" programs and efforts that are working.

"I think I will be able to bring it up where it's a common solution that will benefit all the kids," he said.

Mrs. Smith said she is seeking re-election in order to continue the efforts to improve the county's schools that began while she was on the board, particularly working on unity between the school board and county commission.

"We are all leaders and I just hate to see us as leaders in the county going at it," she said. "I think we all want what's best for the citizens of Wayne County and for the children.

"People are looking at us, they're listening to us, and children are watching. We have got to be examples and models for the people we represent."

Everybody has their own reasons for serving, Mrs. Smith says, but hers stem from a desire to give back to the community that was so good to her.

"All of my life, all of my adult life, I was real happy to come back here to work" in the school system, she said. "I grew up in a community that supported each other and helped raise each other's children. ...

"My sole purpose (for running) is for supporting and educating children. That's my only reason for being on this board. I want to support them."

The at-large race

Two candidates are facing each other in the contest for the at-large Board of Education seat being vacated by Pete Gurley -- Ven Faulk and Eddie Radford.

Faulk said he had been asked several times to run in the past, and repeatedly turned down the notion.

"But I kept thinking about it, did a lot of praying and talking to folks," he said.

Part of the reason he began to consider it was his own five children who are, or soon will be, in the school system.

"As a parent and business owner, I consider myself a big volunteer in the community," he said. "I think I'm doing it for the right reasons. I want to add to the schools, I want to add to our community."

Watching his own children has already been an education, Faulk said.

"Just the one that's in fifth grade makes me see a lot," he said. "The homework she brings home, the problems that she has to solve, are the things that only the parents of a child in a school are going to see."

His business background also would be an advantage, Faulk says.

"I think we need some business sense and some common sense. We need a diverse school board," he said.

Radford has 35 years' experience in education, from classroom teacher to principal and administrator.

"I have a great idea of what the county needs. I know what it is to be in the classroom, problems teachers experience -- from discipline problems to lack of equipment they need," he said.

"I know kids better than most people do, from the kids that make straight A's to the kids that struggle," he said. "When I was a principal, I was a kids' principal."

Although he said that schools can, and should, be treated like a business, Radford contends it's a "different kind of business."

"These kids are products, but they're living products, and we have got to make sure they're prepared," he said.

Radford said he believes Wayne has a good education system, but he said he believes it can be better.

"I have a passion for education. I always have. I do feel like we have a good system and we do need to improve," he said.

Radford dismissed any notion of conflict of interest serving on the Board of Education. Although he has come out of retirement more than once to accept administrative roles, he said that will no longer be the case.

"If I'm elected to the school board, my position is I would do whatever I needed to do for the school board," he said. "My position now is I'm retired. I would be like any other private citizen."