School board candidates make pitches at forum

Published 1:01 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In the last forum prior to the school board run-off election on Dec. 8, candidates answered final questions and reminded voters of their platforms Monday evening.

The Delta Pi Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. hosted the forum at the Larry D. Striplin Performing Arts Center. Questions were offered by the mediator and from the audience.

According to the first question, there has been some controversy over the Selma Early College program, and candidates were asked how they might deal with this issue. The program is in cooperation with Wallace Community College, Alabama State University, Tuskegee University, SECME, Inc. It rewards students with a high school degree and two years college credit at Alabama State University or Tuskegee University or an Associate of Arts degree in advanced science, mathematics or technology discipline.

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“We need to rethink and rewrite the program,” said Brenda Randolph-Obomanu, District 2 candidate. “I feel that it shouldn’t be limited to a child who will be the first generation in their family to go to college.”

District 3 candidate Margaret Hardy believes the board should follow the foundations set by the Gates Foundation. “If we have some license to go in and change some of the rules, then that’s something we can consider as a board,” Hardy said.

The community needs to give more positive attention to the program, according to

Udo Ufomadu, District 4 candidate. “I think Early College is one of the best things going on in our community,” Ufomadu said.

The career tech program as part of the new Selma High School was also mentioned. “We need to upgrade them and improve what we’re offering and bring them up to date,” said Anne Fitts, presidential candidate. Fitts also wants to see that the program has a connection to the main building so students do not have to walk in the rain to get to class.

According to Debra Reeves-Howard, District 4 candidate, “we’re not ready for charter schools” because students do not yet have vouchers to go to another school. Candidates are concerned about how the addition of charter schools will affect the current public schools system.

The incoming board will have to find ways to use funding in the light of the continuation of proration. “We need to look for new and alternate sources of funding,” because some processes may be a wasteful uses of funding, said Frank Chestnut, District 3 candidate.

Questions were then offered from the audience. The first topic was the safety within the schools. Fitts knows many schools lock doors to the schools, but “I think the new high school will be more secure and that will help,” Fitts said.

Kimesha “Sunshine” Alvarado, District 4 candidate, is most concerned about child predators. “My son walks to school and I think as they walk to school they should have safe trails,” Alvarado said.

Henry Hicks, presidential candidate, asks that parents should be responsible for the actions of their children. “We need to know what’s in their backpacks and pockets,” Hicks said.

Candidates were then asked to evaluate this campaign and consider if this has been a good example for the city of the schools. “Individuals that have been in support of the candidates have been very viscous,” Alvarado said. “We need to educate people in our community to vote based on their conscious.”

Board members will have to examine at risk programs and ways to hold these programs responsible for spending funding correctly. “We have to be more accountable for our at risk funds,” because program have not be checked on after receiving funding, said Reeves-Howard.

Candidates closed with a question asking to highlight positive things about the school system. “I think our kids do a great job,” Hicks said. “Dr. Obasohan needs to be commended. He is working to turn our schools system around.”

Chestnut finds the election to be one of the most positive things about the school system, a point Austin Obasohan, superintendent, also believes. “One thing I’m happy about is the voice of the people matters,” said Obasohan. “Whatever the people’s choice is, is my choice. I’ll walk with anyone as long as the focus is on the children.”

Candidates for the presidency position are Anne Fitts and Henry Hicks. District candidates are: District 1, composed of Wards 1 and 2, Holland Powell and Roderick West; District 2, composed of Wards 4 and 5, Kimesha “Sunshine” Alvarado and Brenda Randolph-Obomanu; District 3, composed of Wards 3 and 8, Frank Chestnut and Margaret Hardy; District 4, composed of Wards 6 and 7, Debra Reeves-Howard and Udo Ufomadu.

Polling locations will open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Dec. 8 for voting.