School board candidates talk about candidacies

Published 1:26 am Friday, September 25, 2009

SELMA — Some Selma School Board candidates said they believe a new high school would help bring white students back to the public school system Thursday night at an education forum sponsored by the Coalition of Concerned Families.

Candidates also touched on at-risk students during the three-hour forum at the Performing Arts Center.

District 1 candidate Roderick West supported building the high school because he believed the costs may diminish as the economy changes. But he also stressed, “A building does not make a school.”

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His opponent, Dr. Kirit Chapatwala, an incumbent, said the building addition should be the first priority.

“We have to make we build the new building first,” he said. “Then we can make the renovations.”

David Cothran, a candidate in District 3, said getting white students to return to the public schools would be important for the city.

“We cannot move this city forward without diversified schools,” said Cothran, who added he has one child in private school and four in public school. “A new school will bring Selma a new beginning. White people have to stand up and say that they are a part of this community.”

Dr. Margaret Hardy, also in District 3, said, “A magnet school would be the beginning.”

Frank Chestnut, another District 3 candidate, said a new high school would be an incentive to bring in white students.

“Build it and they will come,” Chestnut said.

In District 4, Debra Reeves-Howard also said a new high school would have an effect. Dr. Udo F. Ufomadu said getting white students back in public schools goes deeper.

“It boils down to respect,” he said. “Where there is no love, there is not going to be peace. … You can attract me with respect and you must respect me too. The community must get together and respect each other.”

Frances Coles of District 4 said the students aren’t always the obstacle to diversified schools.

“Children can make our parents feel ashamed,” she said.

District 4 candidates also were asked if the white students didn’t return to the public schools, what would happen.

“We must teach whoever comes to the schools,” Coles said.

Ofamadu said he didn’t understand “why we are concerned with this issue.”

“Where treasure is, is where your heart is going to be,” he said.

Howard said, “All children should receive the best quality education that they can get.”