School board elections will be held Sept. 17, with Alma being the only area school with two candidates for an open position.
Rinda Baker of Baker Law Firm and Chapen Rucker of Rucker Fine Homes have filed for the seat left open by Richard Craft. The following is a question and answer session with the two opponents.
Why are you running for the Alma Board of Education?
Baker - As a parent of two children currently enrolled in Alma School District, I believe that Alma has one of the best districts in the state. Current board members like, Richard Craft, Mike Higgins, Randy Coleman and Paul Winborn have done a fabulous job of managing the district for years. I would like to continue that quality of representation on the Board and bring the insight to the district that I have developed in my law practice advocating on behalf of children and as a parent of children ages ten and seventeen.
Rucker - As a young parent, I see a great opportunity to add a fresh perspective to the Alma Board of Education. Our daughter will enter the district during my first term. I think the impact of a parent laying the foundation for the next generation of Alma School District graduates would be of great value.
What issues do you feel are most important in education today?
Baker - The issue I feel is most important in education today revolves around school safety — ensuring that children are learning in a safe environment, whether that is from external or internal sources. It is important that our schools remove impediments to learning and equip our children to become active members of society. I believe that state funding of our schools and the availability of state funds due to anticipated restrictions and decreases of tax revenues will become of greater importance in the next few years. The overall Board’s focus should be on continuing to meet and exceed the academic and extracurricular standards and expectations of the community.
Rucker - I feel one of the most important issues facing education today is preparing graduates for post-secondary education. According to ACT, Inc., in 2012 over a quarter of high school graduates fell short of college readiness benchmarks in all four subjects, with 60% of students missing the mark in at least two. Another issue is the need for a proactive approach to school safety. I think common sense principles such as building security measures, defining classroom procedures, and raising student/faculty awareness could provide a cost effective short term solution. Finally, in today’s economy, funding of our education system must be continuously examined and carefully balanced. I feel it is the responsibility of our education system to make fiscally responsible decisions with the maximum benefit of our students in mind.
What issues do you see facing Alma Schools in the next few years?
Baker - The issues I see facing Alma schools in the next few years fall in line with the issues important in education as a whole I mentioned before. The largest safety concern I see for Alma students is the City’s completion of a railroad overpass downtown. As a City Council member, I have learned that Alma school buses cross the railroad on Fayetteville Road approximately 20,000 times each year. That number does not include the number of parents, students, and all other persons also driving to/from the high school each day during the school year or for PAC events, sporting events, or other extracurricular activities. It is only a matter of time before an accident occurs at this crossing.
Rucker - I think maintaining current enrollment levels while promoting and accurately predicting future growth is essential to our district. Implementing a fiscally responsible growth plan is essential. We can attain positive growth by creating, maintaining, and graduating a culture of success among students. We should be the envy of surrounding districts, and a place families choose to send their children. Procurement and retention of faculty who are committed to excellence is our most valuable asset. This coupled with proactive facilities maintenance and prudent expansion is essential to our district. Alma has always been known for its excellent school system, including the growth of academics, performing arts, competitive athletics, and other extra-curricular activities. These characteristics should continue to be a source of pride for the School District.