Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Christenberry vs. Schrubbe: 10 Candidate Questions

Fairhope, Alabama


The two Republican Party candidates for the Baldwin County Board of Education, District 6 -- Miranda Schrubbe and Cecil Christenberry -- answered some questions the Times political reporter has heard mentioned by citizens.

Election day is next Tuesday, June 3rd;  a new law requires a photo ID to vote, with some exceptions.

A candidate forum is scheduled for the night before at 7PM,  June 2nd, at the Fairhope Baptist Church on S. Section St.

Both candidates have expressed concern about the expected low voter turnout.

The winner will face no Democratic Party opposition in the general election, Nov. 4th.

1. What motivated you to run ... ?

Mrs. Schrubbe: "Having been involved in the schools through FEEF and the Baldwin County Education Coalition, and as a parent I knew how important it would be that our next District 6 school board member have a strong working knowledge of the school system and the issues specific to Fairhope. At the time I decided to run, no other candidate had come forward so I was compelled to step up.I knew i could be a good representative to the school board because of my record as a volunteer and advocate for the schools both in Fairhope and at the county level."

Mr. Christenberry: "Early on in the process of studying District 6 possible candidates, I felt the right person, whom I would totally support, had decided to run.  I felt very good about our situation and moved onward to other things of life. Toward the end of January, it came to my attention that this person had decided not to run and I began to talk to a number of people about the race. Let me be clear, these conversations were not about me becoming a candidate, but rather about others that may run. It was on the Ground Hogs Day (Sunday February 2nd) in the midst of knowing who was not in the race that I heard for the second time in my life that still small voice from within, encouraging me to be a candidate. (The first time was 1996, concerning City Council and it took me four years to answer that time). I knew unless i committed as a candidate, I would miserable in the land of what if."

2. Do you have any special "vision" for District 6?  The system as a whole?

Mrs. Schrubbe: "For the system as a whole, I want to look for ways to build on strengths and investments, such as digital learning, to insure that students are getting effective instruction that is relevant and challenging and will prepare them for the future. To take full advantage of our resources, I think we must hire (and keep) the best teachers, provide them with meaningful professional development, and support new teachers through mentoring.

In District 6, I want to maximize resources unique to Fairhope to make arts education a priority and find ways to provide career technical training options in health care through our strong medical community. there may be the potential for becoming "academies" in both these areas.

Mr. Christenberry: "We are so very fortunate in our District to have tremendous support for our schools. I see this coming from our City Leaders ($75,000 per school), from experts in many fields of study and able to donate time and talents to work toward a special excellence for not only students, but the entire County system and from the many older citizens who realize the value of schools to the community and are willing to support education through taxes and car tags.

 My vision is to tap into all these sources to insure top quality, top performing schools with everything they need to succeed.

3. What are the 2 biggest problems facing District 6?

Mrs. Schrubbe: "Classroom space and class size (teacher/student ratio)."

Mr. Christenberry: "Our District is certainly not immune to the two biggest problems facing the entire county system -- Growth and Finances. These two go hand in hand and we must work very hard to understand what  is truly at stake here. Baldwin County is growing at the rate to require a new school each year! How do we finance such growth? Being frugal, being open and honest, and working together for the greater good of the entire entity. (And perhaps a lot of prayer!)"

4. Are there any problems specific to each of the 5 schools in the District?

Mrs. Schrubbe; "Although I have talked with each principal about what they see as problems specific to their school, the dominant ones are those mentioned above. Space is a problem at each school, especially the elementary and high school. Class size is a particular concern at the intermediate school.

Mr. Christenberry: "Our Elementary School was over crowded the day it opened, the High School requires portable buildings for sufficient classroom space and I am quite sure each of the other schools have unique issues that I am very anxious to discuss with each principal."

5. Are you satisfied with Dr. Lee's performance? The current School Board's?

Mrs Schrubbe: "Dr. Lee has taken some bold steps to move our schools forward and real progress has been made to prepare students for the future. However, the ultimate success of many of his initiatives will depend on stepping back and refocusing on the implementation. Teachers and other staff need more preparation, training, and support to be able to better utilize the tools and resources that have been provided such as the digital devices and software. If I had been on the board as some of these programs were being rolled out, I would have strongly urged more piloting and phasing in the implementation. I hope the board will monitor this and hold the superintendent accountable for a better strategy going forward."

Mr. Christenberry: "Dr. Lee has a very tough job that is getting tougher each year. I hear very many negative remarks about performance and other issues, but I have also spoken to people who have the utmost respect for his leadership skills.  I do not believe the rumor mill and I require proof of any negative allegations concerning anyone. The superintendent does work for the Board and I believe respect and review are very important. The Board must always remember that they are elected to represent the people in their district and their job is to set policy, communicate with each other and with the administration. These areas can always stand some improvement."

6. Can you envision any circumstances where the City of Fairhope  may want to consider forming its own school system again?

Mrs. Schrubbe: "Because there is strong support for education in Fairhope, this will come up again. I have not been a supporter of the idea of a city-run system for several reasons, the biggest being the fact that half of our population lives outside the city boundaries. A separate school system would likely be considered again if the quality of education being provided in Baldwin County  deteriorated significantly and and city officials were compelled to pursue it."

Mr. Christenberry: "I imagine that the question of a city school system will resurface at some point. I am running for Baldwin County School Board to ensure the very best education possible for every student in the district, as well as the entire county. My biggest concern about city schools would be the students not included. As I recall, over half of our 4400 students would be outside the lines which would split our community and this is just unacceptable."

7. In 2007, a non-binding "memorandum of understanding" was signed to keep the K-1 site an "education facility" of some kind.  Should the memorandum be adhered to? Or have circumstances changed?

Mrs. Schrubbe: "As I recall the MOU was signed just as state and local funding went into significant decline. The new elementary school had been built and could accommodate the students from the K-1 school with room to spare at the time so to me it was a prudent decision in light of the budget situation. Although it was a great school with a wonderful faculty, the facility was in need of very expensive upgrades to maintain it as a safe and healthy place for children. The city is interested in the facility as a potential performing arts center so it is possible that the city and BCBE may be able to partner to make it a viable facility again, perhaps with an educational component."

Mr. Christenberry: "I am in favor of the K-1 being sold, hopefully historically preserved, and turned into a performing arts center or some other, perhaps a public/private venture to help downtown. This would also provide money for capital expenditures to help our other district schools. There are many possible uses for the wonderful old site and I hate to see it deteriorate down to ruins before something is done."

8. Are the Board of Education's finances transparent enough? How would you improve the situation?

Mrs. Schrubbe: "Financial reports and budgets, as well as Board agendas and meeting minutes, are available on the school system's website, so anyone interested in accessing this information can do so. However, because school funding and finances are complex, access to the information may not always be helpful since it can be difficult to interpret.  The school system should be more pro-active in providing up-to-date, understandable financial information to the public, on a regular basis, in addition to just making it available."

Mr. Christenberry: "I'm really not sure they are. I know meetings are held and reports are given, but I believe if we are going to ask for more money to fund our system, our citizens are going to have to have very easy access to where and how the money is spent. Our County Commissioners have put the county's check book online for review, perhaps this needs to be studied very soon."

9. What should happen to the 2 other vacant school buildings in town (besides the K-1)?

Mrs. Schrubbe: "The old alternative and the old intermediate schools both seem to have deteriorated to a point that they are liabilities and would not be worth renovating in the future. If a professional assessment could verify that, demolition would be the most likely scenario. I hesitate to speculate any further, since the BCBE is currently studying growth issues in each community and will likely do a comprehensive analysis of facilities/properties  as it develops a building plan going forward."

Mr. Christenberry: "I hope that a long term plan exists already on those properties, but I am not sure that it does. I believe the vacant school on Bishop Rd. and Fairhope Ave. is a prime location for a new school in the years to come. Centrally located, old existing buildings not so historically significant  and a huge contiguous property , lend to a growth area to generate some relief."

10. The School Board's demographer predicts almost no student growth for the District in the next 5 years. Do you agree? Should another independent demographer be consulted?

Mrs. Schrubbe: "The projections I have seen don't seem realistic, based on current trends. It will be very important to have solid, reliable projections in order to plan for any additions or new construction that may be needed in the next 5-10 years. Perhaps an independent demographer could be consulted, but at whose expense? There are other entities in the county that make projections, such as the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization (address transportation needs along the Eastern Shore) whose data might be considered.

Mr. Christenberry: "I respect the demographer and he has the charts and graphs; but I find it very hard to believe that we will see almost no growth in the next 5 years. Just ride around and see all the new subdivisions  filling up. Go to Kindergarten enrollment or ride by the soccer fields. I don't think we need an independent demographer, I think we need to watch very closely and keep up with all trends to know right where we actually are day by day."


Anonymous said...

No questions about taxes or Common Core?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone really trust the school board with our money?

Anonymous said...

Obviously, neither understands the city schools proposal, it would have included everyone in the feeder pattern whether they live inside the city limits or not ...

Anonymous said...

Ms. Schrubbe fully understands the city school proposal and it would not have included all of the students in the feeder pattern.

Mr. Christenberry supported the separate school system proposal until he realized there was not enough community support for that poorly conceived idea. He them proceeded to lie about his connections with the Good2Great group during an interview with