Funding, school safety, vouchers, improving technology and bettering academic achievement are some of the major issues facing Johnson City Schools, according to candidates in this year’s Board of Education race.
Early voting for the April 23 Municipal Election begins April 3 and will run through April 18.
Voters will elect four Board of Education members to four-year terms and one school board member to fill an unexpired two-year term.
This year’s race will see seven candidates seeking four four-year terms, and two candidates seeking the two-year unexpired term left by Jenny Brock, who is running for a seat on the City Commission.
Candidates for the four-year seats include incumbents Chairwoman Kathy Hall, Vice Chairman Richard Manahan and Tom Hager. Newcomers John Hunter, Jonathan Kinnick, Kenneth “Herb” Greenlee and Mahmood “Michael” Sabri also are seeking four-year terms.
Board Secretary Sheila Cox will be leaving her four-year seat and seeking the two-year term. Newcomer James Povlich also is running for that seat.
During her eight years with the board, Hall said the system has seen much progress and she hopes that will continue as she seeks a third term.
“I’m running again because I think we’ve made great progress in our schools and ... I want to make sure that continues and I’m passionate about education and I want to do anything I can do to help,” she said.
Manahan, who has served on the board for 12 years, said he has a commitment to education and wants to ensure the Johnson City system remains a great place for future generations.
“I have two grandchildren that are currently in the Johnson City school system and my daughter and son are both graduates of the Science Hill program, so we’re committed to the education and children of our school system and I support education. I just think that people need to serve and do what they can for their community and that’s one of the things I enjoy,” he said.
Hager, a veteran school board member of 30 years, said his reason for wanting to serve on the board hasn’t changed since his days working as a probation officer.
“I just saw in my line of work daily ... the importance of education and just decided I would try the school board, and I’ve been there ever since. When you do what I’ve done for all these years, you just see why it’s important,” he said.
Cox, who has served on the board for 12 years, said her experience on the board is something she values and she hopes to improve the system as she seeks a fourth term.
“I just want to continue to be a part of this. It’s a pleasure to serve my community in this capacity and there’s still more to do, and I want to be a guiding part of that future,” she said.
Hunter, a graduate of East Tennessee State University, believes his background in finance and banking can be an asset to the board, especially as funding remains one of the leading issues surrounding the system.
“One of the most important (issues) that I think we’re seeing is making sure that we’re fully funded and able to not only offer what we’ve been able to offer in the past but we need to strive and exceed beyond where we’re at in order to become No. 1 in the state,” he said.
Hunter also said he would like to see more synergy between public and private entities in relation to the school system and its relationship with Washington County Schools.
As someone with a background in technology and analysis, Kinnick, owner of Kinnick Consulting, said he believes his skill set would help the board as it faces the implementation of the state’s new Common Core Standards and the changes in technology utilized by students.
“There’s a lot of things that need to be taken into consideration, and I know we’ve got some good people with the Johnson City Schools to do that, but to help the school board understand what we’re looking at and help make really good decisions on that kind of stuff, I think I can be an asset to them in that regard with my background and experience with what I do for a living,” he said.
Sabri, an associate professor at Northeast State Community College, has worked in education for about 25 years. His experience with students and his four children working their way through the city school system is one of the things that drives him to want to see Johnson City Schools improve its already impressive standing in the state.
“If I’m on the school board, I would suggest that we have programs that let the children know at the outset what the goal is and the goal is to become a productive citizen. The way we become a productive citizen is if we have a good education and good education leads to a well-paying job and when we have a well-paying job we think of the other things, like charity work,” he said.
Greenlee, who has spent nearly 30 years running Carver Recreation Center, said his time with the students and families of Carver makes him a good candidate in order to help members of the community with a seat on the school board.
While a number of issues faces the system, Greenlee said the most important thing is to make sure the board continues to maintain what the system already has.
“Dealing with budgets here, I know we can manage our money a lot better and do a lot more with what we’ve got. We’ve got to maintain what we have instead of building more buildings. We’ve got to maintain and take care of what we’ve got in order for the kids to benefit and the schools to be productive,” he said.
Povlich, a father of three and a graduate of ETSU, said civic duty is important and can greatly impact a community. He believes his experience in urban and regional planing would help the board as the school system continues to grow.
“Having that background helps a lot when you’re looking at growth in your schools, growth in your cities and how a progressive school can help chart that economic impact that the city is looking for,” he said.
A school board forum will be held Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Towne Acres Elementary School. The event is sponsored by the Johnson City Council of PTAs and the Towne Acres PTA.
For voting information, visit www.wcecoffice.com or call 753-1688.