Three seek two seats for District 3 school board
Murphy – The three Republican candidates for the Cherokee County Board of Education’s two seats in District 3 engaged in a debate on April 11 in advance of the Tuesday, May 8, primary.
The candidates include two-term school board member Paul Brown, along with political newcomers Mark Patterson and Joe Wood. The debate was co-hosted by the Cherokee Scout and WKRK radio.
The candidates, who will vie to represent the western part of Cherokee County, said technology and ability to use the internet are major issues for students in that area. All three have deep roots in the community and expressed a desire to give back by serving on the board, which will have some new faces this year with longtime members leaving.
The candidates talked about several issues during the debate, and they are listed here in alphabetical order.
Brown is director of radiology at Erlanger Murphy Medical Center in Peachtree, where he has worked for 25 years. He is hoping for a third term on the school board, which would make him one of the most senior members.
Consolidation has been a major issue in the latter part of his current term, especially after the closing of Marble Elementary School last year, for which Brown voted in favor.
“We have had excellent support from our county commissioners and legislators … but you can only do so much with so much money,” he said. “A lot of the community – can’t say the majority, but it seems like it a lot of the time – likes it the way it is. … We have to fight for what we can.”
Brown said he wants to see a long-term solution that starts with the construction of a new school for Tri-County Early College High School, The Oaks Academy and trade school programs.
“If you are going to have a long-term plan, you have to start somewhere,” he said. “At some point we have to build something new, and this is our chance to shoot for $20 million.”
Brown said a lot of regulations on teacher pay come from Raleigh, which does not consider being next door to Georgia or Tennessee when it makes policies.
“I like the thought of hiring locals who went off to college and want to come back here, but those are the ones who know they can get a better deal down in Georgia,” he said.
Brown said pressure on the General Assembly would be the best way to try and get more funding for more resource officers, nurses and counselors.
Working as administrator of the Cherokee County Detention Center in Murphy, Patterson is well aware of the importance of school security.
“I don’t think security is something we can compromise on,” he said. “What’s happened down in Florida and these other schools can happen in Cherokee County very easily. We only have four SROs now for 13 campuses. … I think the schools have some good policies, but there could be a little tightening up on it.”
Patterson also said he wanted to be a true representative of Hiwassee Dam and Ranger if elected, fighting for the needs of areas that sometimes feel relegated as secondary status compared to Andrews and Murphy.
Patterson weighed in on the consolidation issue that has been prevalent in local schools the last two years.
“It would be great for a kid to have a brand-new school to go to school in. However, I don’t like the idea of closing some of these schools that have been in these communities for several years,” he said. “Those schools are what helps hold those communities together, and I would hate to see them closed. But economics is going to play a huge role in that.
“The cost of building these schools, and consolidating them is tremendous. I don’t see where the money is going to come from without raising taxes, and I don’t think anybody wants to see taxes raised.”
Patterson also mentioned long bus rides for students in Unaka, Violet and other outlying communities could get worse if schools are consolidated. He thought the focus should be on the schools we have rather than a new Early College facility, assuming the repairs will last.
“You have to look at cost of repair of some of these older buildings, though,” he said. “Are these repairs going to be a long-term fix, or are they just going to a be patch you are going to put on and have to do it five years down the road again?”
Patterson cited teacher pay as a major issue, with the county losing teachers to Georgia and Tennessee, where they pay more.
Wood, a lieutenant at the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, has been involved in the community for many years.
“There’s no way to pay for (consolidation) right now, and it’s a bad idea to begin with,” he said. “We need to focus on what we have and how we can improve on that. The commissioners have told me that our schools are their top priority.”
Wood said he would like to see the county find a way to have both a new campus for Tri-County Early College High School as well as renovate older community schools.
“If that grant is there, we should go after that money,” he said. “In that same sense, let’s be fiscally responsible and see if we can make both work.”
Being a sheriff’s deputy, security is an issue close to Wood’s heart.
“In these times, security is everything, and in several schools we need SROs,” he said. “We want to have SROs at every school, and we need to train these people to be self-sufficient. We need locks on the doors and monitored cameras at each school.
“As for nursing, a lot of these kids don’t have health care, and some of the medical care they get is from that school nurse.”
Wood said guidance counselors are important, saying his children were helped tremendously while seeking admission to college. He also would like to see recreational upgrades at some of the ball fields in Hiwassee Dam and Ranger.