Next, Penn asked the school board candidates, “How would you improve the drop-out rate?”
Nelson said, “It starts with the parents.” He attends the education meetings provided to parents, and notices too many empty spaces in the room. Nelson has advised the current board to attend churches in an effort to get more parents involved in their children's school work because “When parents get involved, the children do better.".
Edgar Tooley said the best way to reduce the drop-out rate is to work with the state to change the drop-out age from 16 to 18. “It is odd when a student can drop out of high school before they can even vote,” Tooley said.
Shumphard said the drop-out rate is major problem, but she sees many students attaining their GED from Wiregrass.
Henderson asked the city council candidates if they supported SPLOST VII. All of the candidates except Jackson answered at this forum, but Jackson has stated before that he supports SPLOST VII.
For the candidates who did answer, all of them support SPLOST VII, except Wheeler.
Panel member Penn asked the school board candidates, “How would you prevent crimes, such as the Kendrick Johnson situation, in our schools?”
Edgar Tooley approached the podium first because KJ was his little cousin. He recommended that teachers be trained better to spot problems amongst students.
Shumphard recommended a stronger law-enforcement presence in our schools.
Nelson said, “The KJ case has touched all of us differently. I have studied the case, and all I can say is that when kids are better educated, the crime rates drop.”
SPLOST Chairman Suzan Prince spoke in favor of the SPLOST VII referendum. Prince has lived in Valdosta for 10 years, but since she moved here she has been active in the community. "SPLOST has been around since 1987, and this one cent sales tax has helped this community grow tremendously, and if passed it will roll over, and continue to grow Valdosta," Prince said.
She pointed out that SPLOST VII funds will also pay to fix the wastewater treatment issues, and it will construct sidewalks in the community.
Finally, Copeland thanked the Thirty Club for hosting the event, the audience for attending, and for Valdosta Fire Chief J.D. Rice for his service to the community.