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Q&A with 2 school board candidates looking to fill unexpired term

Brandon Paykamian • Oct 16, 2018 at 10:41 PM

The Johnson City Press reached out to the candidates running for the Johnson City Board of Education in the Nov. 6 election to ask about their thoughts on local education policies and the future of the district.

The ballot features two races: one regular election for four full, four-year terms, and a special election to fill the vacancy left by the midterm resignation of Stacie Torbett.

The candidates for the two-year seat are Kenneth “Herb” Greenlee and Paula Treece. The winner will serve the remainder of the Torbett’s term until December 2020. 

First off, tell us about your background and how it will be helpful to your position on the board, as well as how it sets you apart from other candidates.

Greenlee: “I have worked with children most of my life. I started at an early age working with the directors at Carver Recreation Center. I helped organize and coach basketball teams for Carver. As I grew older, I worked in the Johnson City Schools System as a security guard and for many years I was, and still am, a school bus driver for the school system. I have held the position as the supervisor at Carver Recreation Center for many years. I feel I could be most helpful as a member of the school board.”

P. Treece: “I am a parent with kids in the Johnson City School System so I have a vested interest in our schools continuing to be good. I have served on PTA boards throughout Johnson City for 14 years, including the last three years as the Johnson City Council president. In that position, I have worked closely with our school board and staff throughout the city. I have also worked closely with the Tennessee PTA in advocating at the state level.”

What do you think Johnson City Schools is doing right as of now, and what changes do you think need to be made to local education policy? Explain.

Greenlee: “I think the Johnson City Schools are doing a great job as of now, there will need to be some necessary changes after the midterm elections depending on what changes are made by the director of schools. I think the truancy policy should be looked at and some changes made.”

P. Treece: “I think the most important thing that Johnson City Schools is doing right at this time is the resolution to the Tennessee Department of Education to minimize the amount of time our students are spending in standardized testing. We need to maximize time for teaching in our schools and not for testing. The school board reviews local education policy on a yearly basis. I am impressed with the amount of time that they spend reviewing each policy each year. I think that is an area they are good at and not much needs to change there.”

With the gubernatorial elections coming up, there will likely be some big changes in state education policy. What are your main concerns when it comes to education in Tennessee and why?

Greenlee: “My concern is the welfare and safety of all students, teachers and personnel. I think it only fair that our teachers are treated with the utmost respect and appreciation, and receive a fair salary for jobs well done.”

P. Treece: “With groups like our school board and several others across the state questioning the validity of the tests for the last several years, it would be good to know where each gubernatorial candidate stands on this issue. We have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on unsuccessful standardized tests that take a lot of time away from teacher instruction over the last few years. It would be great if the new governor would listen to our superintendents and school boards on a change in testing policy.”

What do you think local schools should do to ensure school safety? 

Greenlee: “I think the school system has and is doing a wonderful job keeping our schools safe. The SROs are doing great. There is no need for guns in the hands of our teachers; their job is to teach our children.”

P. Treece: “I think the Johnson City schools have been very proactive in the school safety department over the last 10 years. We were one of the first districts in the state to push for a partnership with the police department and have SROs in each of our schools. We have invited Frontier Health into our schools to help discern problems that may arise and get students help. As a school district, we need to stay focused on the safety of our students by looking at each school individually to see where the vulnerable spots might be and working towards securing any vulnerabilities.”

How do you plan to help maintain Johnson City Schools standing as a top district in the region and state?

Greenlee: “I will work with the school board members as well as the local government officials to keep our school system in top standing in the state. We should be diligent in keeping a check on other school systems and do whatever is necessary to maintain our top standing status.”

P. Treece: “The most important thing we can do as a school district to maintain our standing as a top district is to always remember to keep the focus on our students. When we look at the schools from that perspective, we will continue to hire the best teachers and staff and to implement the best programs to give our students the best education.”

Early voting begins Wednesday, and Election Day is Nov. 6.

The candidates for four-year terms are incumbents Tom Hager and Kathy Hall newcomers Michelle Treece and Robert Williams. Their answers to the Press’ questionnaire were printed in a separate story.

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