Candidate Responses

District 1

Below are questions community members submitted during the school board candidate debates. See what the candidates in your district had to say!

1. What will you do to protect the teachers that parents want at their school in a certain grade, who have been moved unwillingly to a different grade? Parents nor the teacher with tenure have any influence or voice. Our needs were not considered!

Jason Moses

I will be a voice for the teachers.

I want teachers to know I’m always going to be there for them. Since the union was taken away, school board members are more important than ever.

Patti Skates

I would like to see teachers, parents, and students do surveys about their school year as well as their administrator. Open communication is also important. Autotomy at the school level is necessary as well.  Parents and teachers should have input without repercussion.

Rhonda Thurman

The Board has no control over teacher placement. Those are a principal’s decisions. The Board has one employee and that is the Superintendent.

2. Do you think ISS teaches the students respect for teachers and proper behavior?

Jason Moses

I feel like ISS is an incredible opportunity. You have some one on one time with a troubled student. Let’s not waste it. This time should be spent having the student come to terms with the error of their ways that got them to ISS.

Patti Skates

Students who are in ISS can be involved in soft skills lessons as well as their regular work.  It is important that respect is shown and taught and that teachers provide work for the students to maintain their place in class and not just busy work.

Rhonda Thurman

ISS is more effective in some schools than in others. ISS is meant to keep students in school instead of giving them days off from school. Some schools do not have ISS and that is not fair because it takes one level of discipline away from the principal.

3. Do you consider substitute teachers babysitters? It seems we are always looking for new ones.

Jason Moses

In most cases substitute teachers are babysitters. If they felt they were part of something the turnover might not be as bad. The good subs are in high demand. Unfortunately, the norm is for the teacher to have the substitute hand out busy work. No real learning is achieved. This is an area where a great improvement can be achieved.

Patti Skates

Substitute teachers should be considered the “teacher” of record when the regular teacher is out. When a teacher knows that they are going to be out, proper lessons should be left that will involve the substitute and the student and not just busy work. In case of emergency, there should be planned activities so that the students can use the time for productive instruction.

Rhonda Thurman

I do not consider substitutes babysitters. Students should respect any adult in their school. The same amount of respect should be expected for a substitute as for the regular classroom teacher.

4. Would you consider buying back custodians to take care of buildings? I think the buildings would last longer and not need such repairs if we had dedications custodians.

Jason Moses

Currently our maintenance plan is absolutely horrible. We wait for it to break before addressing the problem. It cost less for maintenance as a rule of thumb than repairs. If you let the maintenance that is needed lapse, the cost of repairs increases exponentially. This is another opportunity to save money. It may be hard to fathom but we need to spend more on maintenance to save money on future repairs. Also, all of our empty buildings must be kept up until sold. It doesn’t do us a bit of good if the vacant properties depreciate in value from lack of maintenance. Sometimes pinching pennies cost dollars.

Patti Skates

I am very much in favor of custodians being on hand every day during the school year. Custodians who are assigned to a school tend to take pride in their school and are on hand as any emergency occurs.  Major repairs can be designated to the regular maintenance department. But many of the minor repairs can be handled in house.

Rhonda Thurman

I would love to see custodians brought back into each school. The custodians always took great pride in their schools and school buildings were a lot cleaner.

5. How will you work to mend the rift between HCDE and the County Commissioners?

Jason Moses

I will constantly work to build relationships with all the county commissioners, as well as all the school board members. People in general just want to make sure that there voices are heard. And above all, they want to be treated with respect. I treat others the way I would like to be treated.

Patti Skates

Each District Board member must work with their County Commissioner.  By working together, needs in that particular District can be made known and as upcoming budgets are created can be valuable for funding.  A working relationship is a MUST for success.

Rhonda Thurman

I have never had a rift with the Commission. I have always been able to talk to each one of them and have on many different issues. Not only do I call them, they call me.

6. How can you make sure that the teacher professional development and technology used in the classroom keeps up with the pace of development in the next four years as a school board official?

Jason Moses

Again another great opportunity to save money. Living in the digital age, technology is very important. I want to make sure we’ve got a seasoned veteran over our IT department. Not just a teacher that’s moved their way up the ranks into Central Office. A guy like Mike Holland at Sequoyah High School should be tapped for his value and experience in the IT field.

Patti Skates

There must be input from teachers as well as administration in the planning of professional development.  Ample time needs to be set aside as well as time for teachers to work in their classroom. Individual schools should be able to decide what they need and pursue that.  As far as technology, again the individual school should be able to assess their technology needs. Partnerships need to be established with those who can provide the school’s needs.

Rhonda Thurman

That is the superintendent’s job. He hires and puts into place the IT department. It is the superintendent’s job to make sure training is done and to let the board know what IT needs. It is not our job to micro manage.

7. Many programs already exist but are not being utilized. Do you support HCDE using two separate curriculums?

Jason Moses

I do support two curriculums and here is why. The state of Tennessee is practically giving away tuition at community colleges. I don’t feel comfortable handicapping someone who gets out in the real world, then decides they want to go to college a year or two after leaving high school. Then they find out they don’t have the courses required. Not everyone is cut out for college.

Patti Skates

HCDE should be using the approved curriculum – not sure what is being asked here.

Rhonda Thurman

I think each school should use the same curriculum so we are comparing apples to apples, unless you are talking about a specialized school like the STEM school that uses different programs.

8. Would you support a change in leadership at the special education office?

Jason Moses

I would certainly look at a change in leadership at all levels in the central office.

Patti Skates

If leadership is not providing the needs for those students who require services, then the superintendent must handle this situation.

Rhonda Thurman

Here again, that is the superintendent’s decision. When I have a problem that I cannot resolve with any department head I call or e-mail the superintendent. If he gets enough complaints from board members, he may decide there needs to be a change.

9. Do you support student based budgeting?

Jason Moses

I do not support student based budgeting.

 


Giving every Principal in the county free reign to their checkbook is fiscally irresponsible. Not to mention, it would be an accounting nightmare. What I hear when asked the question is that the school board nor central office are listening to the needs of the boots on the ground. Give the principals more input is the most logical solution.

Patti Skates

Yes.  If this is done, the schools will be able to receive funding based on needs for that particular site and just not a blanket grant of funds.

Rhonda Thurman

I support student based budgeting.

10. Where do you stand on professionalism being taught in schools?

Jason Moses

This in my opinion is the best question yet. We’ve got to prepare our kids for the future. We need to be focusing on professional skills and more importantly, character. Character is what employers are looking for, skills can be taught.

Patti Skates

Professionalism is a must in each school, and in each classroom. We have expectations of our students and we should be professional whether on the school board, in the classroom and as administration.

Rhonda Thurman

Not sure what is really being asked by this question. Do they want to know if professionalism should be taught as a subject, or do they want teachers to be treated more professionally by administration, students and parents? I certainly think that professionalism should be taught by action. Principals should show students professionalism by the way they treat their faculty and staff. Principals should also demand that students show teachers the proper respect.

11. Is it a goal for the majority of the board to be prior educators?? Who is to represent the taxpayer?

Jason Moses

I will represent the voter and my constituents. We all want to keep the tax rates low. We’ve got to spend the money more wisely. The tax payers will not go along with pouring good money after bad. We have to show an improvement with the funds we have first.

Patti Skates

No sure what this actually means.  Each member of the board despite of their background is responsible to the taxpayer. During their time on the school board, there should be transparency so that the taxpayer is very aware of how their money is being spent.

Rhonda Thurman

It should not be anyone’s goal for the entire board to be prior educators. Teachers have representation thru their different associations. Taxpayers who are not from the education field need a seat at the table.

12. Do you support giving principals more authority over their budgets?

Jason Moses

I support getting all the principals together, like a board of governors, and listening to their ideas. The principals are typically in meeting once a week taking them away from their duties at the school.

Patti Skates

Yes. They will need to be trained properly and there will need to be steps put into place that will insure transparency and accurate accounting for the school and administration.

Rhonda Thurman

I do think principals should have more authority over their budgets.

13. Will the lunch program ever come back?

Jason Moses

That’s a question for our congressional representative. We do need to make sure that it’s easy to navigate the application process for free and reduced lunch.

Patti Skates

I would like to see each of our schools be able to feed ALL students. We must educate the community in order to be able to receive the federal funding for the breakfast as well as lunch programs.  As grants become available we need to apply for them, but we must continue to educate in order to maintain our status to receive the proper funding. This is federal monies and we need to take advantage of the program.

Rhonda Thurman

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP,) the program providing free breakfast and lunch to all students in qualifying schools, is a federal program. Schools are eligible if 40% of the families attending their school qualify for food stamps. The federal government can change guidelines at any time. There is talk that the percent to qualify for CEP may increase to 60%. If that happens, many more schools will fall off the list. For the schools that were taken off of the list this year, the students can fill out an application to see if they qualify for free and reduced lunch on an individual basis.

Questions specifically for Rhonda Thurman:

1. Why did you vote against the budget with a pay increase for teachers?

Rhonda Thurman

I voted FOR the 2% increase for teachers as well as the $250.00 across the board bonus for everyone except administrators. I voted against the budget because it did not include an 8th grade Spanish or Algebra teacher for Sale Creek and it also eliminated the diesel mechanics class at Sequoyah. Until the board gets the votes to force the administration to eliminate programs that have proved ineffective and put that money back into the classroom, I will not vote for a budget.

2. How many events have you attended in your district?

Rhonda Thurman

Do you mean this year, last year, in the last 12 years? This is a very broad question. District 1 has 9 schools (at one time it had 11) each of those schools has softball games, baseball games, soccer games, fall festivals, band concerts, band competitions, PTA meetings, graduations, plays, choral programs, ROTC programs, car shows, welding competitions, engine assembly exhibitions and competitions, fundraisers and many more events. I have been at many events in the last 12 years. At some of those events I have never seen another elected official.

The school board meets the 2nd and 3rd Thursdays of each month. We also have Executive Sessions, committee meetings, budget meetings, special called sessions and various other meetings. So, just because you do not see me at your child’s event does not mean that I am not taking care of my job on the school board.

3. Is it true that you want to turn maintenance over to a private company?

Rhonda Thurman

I have never even thought about turning maintenance over to a private company. Why would I do that? This is a lie that was started to turn a group of HCDE maintenance workers against me. I have also heard the rumor that I thought all maintenance workers should make $10 an hour. This too, is a lie.  In the last 12 years, I have never discussed maintenance salaries with anyone.

4. What are your plans for district 1 should you be re-elected?

Rhonda Thurman

I plan to continue to ask for funds to add an addition onto Soddy-Daisy Middle School to get students out of portables. I would also like to proceed with the plans Commissioner Skillern and I had to reconfigure the student drop off and bus drop off at SD Middle. This would require moving the cafeteria to the back of the school and excavation work at the left side of the school. This would be about a $6-8 million project. I would also like to continue negotiations to purchase land adjacent to Sale Creek M/H. S/D High School needs the commons area air conditioned and the ceiling redone. I also plan to help Steve Henry do everything I can to make the track at S/D High a reality.

5. Years ago, when this position was appointed by the commissioner there was a rule about school system employees serving on the board. Do you remember what it was and why they made it?

Rhonda Thurman

When the Commission appointed the school board before it became an elected position, it was a state law that anyone who had worked in the school system and was appointed to the board, had to have been out of the school system for at least 5 years. This was to allow anyone who would be appointed to the board to cut personal and professional ties with those still in the system.

6. Can you clear up the rumor about that you are getting rid of Hamilton County maintenance?

Rhonda Thurman

This is ridiculous. I would refer you back to question #3.

7. Will the loss of the free lunch program (ex: Soddy Daisy Middle School, a title 1 school) affect title 1 funding?

Rhonda Thurman

Yes it will. Title 1 funding is based on free and reduced lunches.

8. Since you have served on the school board for 12 years and want to serve for 4 more, why is it that you did not send your daughter and now your grandchild to the public school system, but chose to send them to a private school? If the system is and was not good enough for them why should we send you back to serve again?

Rhonda Thurman

I DID send my daughter to public school in grades K-5. However, the Everyday and Connected Math programs that were implemented when she was in the 5th grade were a game changer. I started a group called Citizens Advancing Responsible Education to alert parents of curriculum and budget issues. CARE held meetings in every district in the county to warn parents what was getting ready to happen to their child’s math education hoping they could help us stop the “new math “ adoption ; but we could not. You should not only ask administrators about having their children in private schools but, CSAS, CSLA and Normal Park as well because these schools do not play by the same rules as “regular” schools. The administrators in the central office are the ones who pick curriculum for your child. While I know my grandchildren are smart, they are only 4 years old and 10 months old, so they are not in private schools.

9. Students do not need math? What about preparation for college? All technical and Stem courses require a strong math background. Also foreign language is required for college admissions as well as being a degree requirement for many degrees.

Rhonda Thurman

I did not say students did not need math. I said some students did not need 4 years of math. The only way some students can pass Trigonometry and Calculus is to make them where students CAN pass them. In doing that, you water the courses down for those who really need the more advanced math classes. Of course, those wanting to take STEM and other advanced courses can take as many math classes as they want. I am talking about REQUIRING all students to take 4 years of math. The same with 2 years of foreign language. If you plan to go to college it is a requirement. If you plan to go to a vocational school, it should not be required.