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Our Questions for School Board Candidates

July 11, 2012

What’s the best way to decide how to cast your vote in the upcoming Shelby County Unified School Board (USB) commissioner elections on August 2?

KNOW YOUR CANDIDATES! (See, that was not a trick question.)

It will take more than  polished podium patter to be an effective member of the USB.  These commissioners  will lead during a time of constant and often difficult change. They will select the new superintendent of schools.  Many of  their collective actions will have huge impact.  Their interactions as a board will determine whether things get done or just argued about.

In addition to Eddie’s candidate interviews on Friday Viewpoint with Eddie Settles, we have provided our readers with their  responses to written questions posed by the Coalition for a Better Memphis (CBM). (Find the post for your district. Radio interviews are linked to each post. Search the links following each candidate’s profile to find his or her responses to the CBM questionnaire. Please note: some  candidates did not respond).

Today we are submitting our own list of questions to the candidates.  We will post their answers as soon as we receive them.

Here are the questions:

1. The Transition Planning Commission (TPC) and most Shelby Co. Unified School Board (USB) commissioner candidates are strongly in favor of heavy investment in universal Pre-K programs. Several research studies in other states have indicated that the student benefits of Pre-K programs do not last beyond third grade. How do you respond to the critics of such an investment?

2. Would you put any restraints on parental choice of schools? Do you support vouchers?

3. What responsibility do USB commissioners have to parents whose children are not educated in local public schools–i.e., children who are home schooled or who attend private schools?

4. The new USB commissioners will face numerous complex decisions requiring business acumen and managerial expertise. What business and professional experience do you bring to this role?

5. What are the skills and talents you think are important for a USB commissioner to possess? What particular skills do you feel you bring to the table?

6. What kind of measurable results should the taxpayers of the district expect from the USB? How do you feel you should be held accountable by the voters?

7. The perception of racial discrimination and/or geographical racial polarization has always shadowed the issue of consolidating Memphis and Shelby County school systems. The recent lawsuit filed by the Shelby County Commission to block the vote on separate municipal school districts employs the same argument. Ongoing race-based tensions and assumptions would hinder the effectiveness of the USB. If elected, how will you approach this challenge?

The responses to these questions and all of the other information collected on each candidate will be compiled into our Back in River City School Board Voters Guide, coming soon.  Watch for it!

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