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April 26, 2013

AISD board hopefuls talk qualifications at first candidate forum

ATHENS — Candidates for the Athens Independent School District Board of Trustees responded to a flurry of questions at a Parent-Teacher Organization forum Thursday night.

Seven of the eight candidates on the May 11 ballot were present at Athens High School auditorium for the two-hour session. Incumbent Raymond Williams of Place 5 was not present, but challengers Vance Vaughn and Blu Nicholson participated. Place 6 Incumbent David Freeman was present, along with contenders MaryAnn Tyner and Niki Killingsworth. In Place 7, incumbent Bob Spears participated along with his opponent, Jackie Solomon.

After a two-minute opening statement from each candidate, moderator Mark Allen — pastor of Life Church in Athens — asked each participant 17 questions that they were given one minute to answer. One question asked the candidates what recent experience qualified them to be a school board member.

“Because I am an associate professor at the university and train principals and superintendents in graduate programs,” Vaughn said. “We’ve done research on what it takes to be a good leader in a school district. We train superintendents on how to improve school board and superintendent relations. That in itself gives me the knowledge about how school systems and school boards ought to be run.”

Vaughn, who has spent more than 36 years in education, said he has also spent time tutoring students at the middle school, high school and intermediate school levels.

Nicholson, a Henderson County Juvenile Probation officer, said he is on campus in the school district two or more times a week.

“At any given time I’m working with 20 to 30 youths on these campuses because I’m involved with them in the court system,” Nicholson said. “I talk to the teachers. I talk to the administrators to see if I can offer them any assistance.”

Freeman said the question was hard to answer because he is already serving as a trustee.

“I think what we have shown coming to board meetings, being involved in the schools, trying to get new facilities built and trying to make education better (qualifies me),” Freeman said “I think my record shows that I care about kids and care about the school district and this community.”

Tyner pointed to her 31 years as a school teacher as a qualification for the job.

“I talk to kids all the time. I talk to parents all the time,” she said. “I think we can all do more to get the parents involved and we can all do more to help the kids.”

Killingsworth, a registered nurse at East Texas Medical Center, noted that he doesn’t have a career in education, but makes up for it with his passion for kids and education.

“I work with kids. I love kids. I was a kid and I have kids,” he said. “I see kids hurting in the world and I see them hurting in our community. I see kids that can do better and will do better with the right  effort from us.”

Spears said he has been a team player in his years on the board.

“I think that’s a critical thing for any functional board to be effective,” Spears said. “You have a collaboration and individuals coming together. They have no power individually, only collectively.”

Solomon believes she has earned the experience she needs for the board in a 37-year career that has included teaching and counseling.

“I bring the ability to be a good team player. I bring trustworthiness, kindness and patience,” Solomon said. “I’m an effective communicator. I know how to work with people.”

Early voting in the school board election begins Monday. Ballots can be case at the District Support Building at 104 Hawn Street.

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