Asheville – School board meetings have become a hot topic across the country, and Buncombe County is no different. Parents are more involved than ever in their kids’ educations because of the pandemic, and seeing what their children are being taught, both in remote learning and in school learning, has created a lot of backlash from a lot of parents. With three of the seven school board members stepping down, there are opportunities for change.
On August 12th, three of the candidates running for those positions, Kenneth Greg Parks, Kim Poteat, and Sara Disher Ratliff, held a Meet the Candidates event at the Leicester Community Center to share their ideas on the problems we have, their platforms, and to answer questions.
The Buncombe board of education is elected by voters countywide, meaning anyone from any district can vote in all of the school board races. These candidates are asking the voters of Buncombe County to vote for all three districts: Enka, Erwin, and Reynolds.
Is It Time to Overhaul the Current School Board?
These candidates are all parents with concerns, which is why they are running for the school board seats. Ratliff said, “If you were a parent during COVID, you came to understand very quickly that things were very wrong. I have four boys, in 10th grade, 8th grade, 5th grade, and 1st grade, across three schools. I love my schools, but I learned very quickly after dealing with almost 2 years of remote learning that my kids don’t have the experience that I had. ” Ratliff continued, “I have an IED child and a 504 child, which means that I have two children with special needs qualifications and accommodation requirements. When they were in the classroom, they had accommodations that were very specific to their needs based on their disabilities. Under COVID, that didn’t exist. I was lucky to have teachers that were teaching my children that went above and beyond to make sure that my kids got as much accommodation as they could, but the county didn’t care. There’s a video of me crying in front of the school board, begging them to put my kids back in a classroom, and not a single person on that board even looked at me. ”
This lack of any response to the parents’ needs and concerns from our current school board members was voiced by both candidates and parents in attendance. Another issue brought up is the school board doing business behind closed doors. At one meeting, the board members were over an hour and a half late. They were to present policy changes, but all the school board chair, Ann Franklin, did was to list the 7 policies and call for a vote, with no discussion or comments from parents. The entire meeting was over in 25 minutes, and worse, none of the links to the policies worked, so no one could see the redline changes that were made by the board.
All of the candidates expressed a desire for more transparency, more respect for parents, and more open communication from the board.
Meet The Candidates
Kenneth Greg Parks, a quality manager by profession, wants to bring that quality system to our school system. His platform includes school safety, both from the outside and within our schools. Parks said, “We’ve got to make sure we take care of our outside school safety, but it goes a lot deeper than that. I hope it goes inside the schools, it goes to the bullying and the disruptions in the classrooms. That’s not a very safe environment to be in. Kids are scared to go to school. Kids are scared to go into the bathroom, so they try to hold off on going to the restroom all day until they get home. Unfortunately, we have a lot of that here in Buncombe County. Just doing some drills and adding cameras is not enough; we need to get more in depth and to resolve this.
Parks also wants to address staffing issues and teacher appreciation. He spoke with a friend who is a teacher and is leaving. This teacher said, “I’ve been teaching for a long time, and I like being involved in the kids’ lives. But I’m just going to have to hang it up. It gets to a point where you just can’t stand there and have a kid stand up and cuss you right in the face, and our policy is that we’ve got to try to understand why that kid’s doing that. ”
In addition to the above, Parks also wants to work toward a positive environment and curriculum.
Parks is running for the Erwin seat. Read more about Parks at https://www.parks4bcs2022.com/.
Sara Disher Ratliff is a passionate advocate for both students and parents. Having two special-needs kids, Ratliff is proposing creating a pathway for parents to easily locate resources, staff, and both internal and external sources of information, assistance, and guidance when dealing with a special-needs child.
Ratliff also has an idea for overhauling the school nutrition program. “I would like to partner with the Greenville, SC, school system. They offer free training to any school system willing to take it, and they utilize only USDA funds. They feed their children things that I would drive to Greenville to eat for lunch. I have already reached out to contact them. They will teach you how to do it, and they do this with less money per student than we do. ” In fact, they receive over $1,000 less per student per year.
Ratliff wants to go back to roving school board meetings, using the school gyms and auditoriums for the meetings so it’s easier for the parents to attend. She also wants to make sure that parents are heard and acknowledged. Currently, if the parent isn’t there by 5:15 pm, they cannot comment. Since many parents work, they have to leave work early.
Ratliff also explained the problem with school supplies. She had to buy 14 composition notebooks and 8 rolls of tape for one class, because there are no text books. The teacher literally copied one book, and the students had to tape all of the pages into the 14 notebooks. In a school that receives over $10,000 per student, that makes no sense. Ratliff put that in perspective when she said, “Buncombe County spent $188,000 to put non-armed security guards at five or six schools. What is the point? I don’t understand why we would spend almost $200,000 to put non-armed people who are not trained.”
Ratliff is running for the Reynolds seat. Learn more about Sara Disher Ratliff at https://sdrforacr.com/
Kim Poteat might know more about kids and our school system than any candidate. Kim and Mike have nine children, have fostered over 30 children, four of whom they adopted, and have 17 grandchildren. Eight of their children, 30+ foster children, and seven grandchildren have attended or are attending Buncombe County schools, from 1987 to present.
Kim is the quiet one. She said, “I do more listening to people and problem-solving than I do talking. I have served as a strong advocate for children, youth, and their families my whole adult life.
Poteat’s credentials include: Substitute Teacher, Buncombe County Schools 8+ years; Homeschool Educator, 2001 to Present; President and CEO, Home of New Beginnings WNC., Inc.; Youth Ministry 15+ years; Religious Education 30+ years; Bachelor of Ministry, Summa Cum Laude; and Associate of Religious Education, Magna Cum Laude.
“I decided to run for the seat to put reasonable, conservative thinking back into our administration system while being a true voice for our parents and our students,” said Poteat. “I will listen. I will hear your concerns and your questions, and I will get back to you with what can be done, instead of you feeling like you’re talking to air.” Her pledge is to listen impartially to all sides and be answerable to parents in the Enka School District. Learn more about Kim Poteat at https://poteatmk5.wixsite.com/my-site
The Tribune Papers welcomes comments from current school board members and other candidates. Email the firstname.lastname@example.org