Valdosta Daily Times

October 2, 2013

School board candidates speak at forum

Kristin Finney
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Community members were invited to the Valdosta State University Continuing Education building on Tuesday night to hear from their potential future elected officials. The Meet the Candidates event, which was hosted by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce, the Home Builders Association of South Georgia and the Valdosta Board of Realtors, gave each of the candidates a chance to meet their potential voters and also present their platforms in three minutes or less.

Four candidates running for election to the Valdosta School Board spoke during the Meet the Candidates event on Tuesday night.

Speaking as school board candidates for District 1 were Lizzie Shumphard and Edgar Cornelius Tooley. Speaking for District 2 were Vanassa L. Flucas, who currently serves on the board, and James L. Nelson.

Lizzie Shumphard, who is running for District 1, was the first school board candidate to speak. Shumphard, who is currently employed at Wiregrass Technical College, spoke about her previous employment with Valdosta City Schools. She explained that her past employment gives her a good understanding of what's going on in the schools. One of her areas of focus is the Foster Grandparent program. She wants to use that program to help students succeed.

The second candidate for District 1 was Edgar Cornelius Tooley. He began by explaining that he has worked as a substitute teacher and sees a need for change. Tooley shared several areas he will focus on if elected, including the low drop out rate, the law allowing 16 year olds to drop out of school, sidewalks and the term "at risk." Tooley is hoping to eliminate the term "at risk." His reasoning was that "all students are at risk." He is also hoping that the Valdosta Board of Education can work with the City of Valdosta to build new sidewalks around the city schools.

 Vanassa L. Flucas, incumbent for District 2, spoke of how being a mother of six helps her with her position as a School Board member. She explained that she hopes to "amp up" the college and career training classes at the schools because college might not be for every student and those students who do not want to go to college should be prepared for careers. She spoke of the many achievements and projects she has helped with during her time on the board. She concluded by saying that she feels the board is "trying to do the best we can with all of the changes coming from the Federal government and state issues."

The final school board speaker, also running for District 2, was James L. Nelson I. Nelson donned a cap and gown to give his speech, comparing it to a super hero's cape. His focus is on the high drop out rate. He cited a 47 percent drop out rate among the black community.

He also spoke about the achievement gap in CRCT scores, citing a total difference of 60.5 from those succeeding and those failing. He also hopes to revaluate how Title 1 funds are being spent to help lessen the achievement gap.

Warren "Sweet" Lee, who is currently serving as a Valdosta School Board member, is also running for election to serve District 3 on the Valdosta School Board. Lee was not present to speak during the Meet the Candidates event.

Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 5, with early voting beginning Monday, Oct. 14.