Candidates answers students' questions at NDHS forum
By Deneesha Edwards
Published: Monday, October 18, 2010 at 11:43 p.m.
Candidates running for offices in the upcoming
November election had the chance to respond to questions Monday evening
asked by North Davidson High School students.
The school's chapter of the Junior State of America club hosted a forum in
the auditorium where more than 50 students and community members attended.
“We decided we wanted to do a forum,” said senior Maggie Thomasson,
president of the club. “Why not pose the questions we wanted to know? So
many young people can vote and don't understand they have a say in what's
going on. We want them to get excited about voting,”
Ten candidates filled the stage to share their reasons why residents should
vote for them in the Nov. 2 General Election. Candidates attending the forum
are running for the Davidson County Board of Education, Davidson County
Board of Commissioners and Davidson County Sheriff offices.
Candidates were given the opportunity to introduce themselves and explain
why they decided to run before answering questions prepared by students and
staff members at the high school.
“We wanted to bring the process here for our children to understand how
important the election is,” said Lori Redmond, faculty advisor of the club
and a teacher at NDHS. “Through the North Carolina civics curriculum they
talk about government. We're hoping to bring out the community.”
School board candidates in attendance included incumbent Carol Crouse and
newcomer Chris Hackett. Kenny Meredith, another incumbent, and Jeannie M.
Leonard were both unable to attend. Questions posed to the pair dealt with
justifying why the graduation project was still required by the system
although the state doesn't require it.
Crouse said the project provides real-work experience that incorporates the
state's curriculum course of study because students have to write term
papers and hold presentations in front of others. She said a committee has
reviewed the concerns students and parents had about the project.
“These are all components needed to live and work in the world,” she said.
“This gives them the opportunity to stand before a group and speak and learn
to make presentations.”
Hackett said he was against the project. He understood that technology is
needed for students, but suggested getting the community more involved in
deciding if students should have to complete a project.
“Seniors have enough on them with trying to get out of school,” he said.
“Parents have to be willing to help. I'd like to see some kind of vote to
see what the community would like to do about it. If I'm in that position I
will do what the majority wants.”
Each candidate was also asked to explain what they thought a school board
member's most important duty is.
Crouse said the safety of each and every student and staff in the system is
the most important. She also said implementing policies and looking forward
to see what could be done to better prepare students for the future was also
Hackett said he would be an ambassador for parents, students and staff,
while also making himself available to talk anytime.
Six of the eight candidates running for the four open seats on the
commissioners board were in attendance. Incumbents Don Truell, Billy Joe
Kepley and Sam Watford, all Republicans were joined by fellow GOP
candidate Todd Yates and Democratic challengers Jason Hedrick and Jeff
Switzer. Democratic candidates Ronald Swicegood and Kevin Williams were not
Questions proposed to commissioner candidates were about community problems
relating to jobs, the unemployment rate and their thoughts on incentives to
attract new businesses. Commissioners were also asked how they would
encourage young people to return to the county after they graduate from
Hedrick said the county needs more jobs and also suggested getting small
businesses the help they need to be successful. He also said the town needs
to have retail, entertainment and restaurant growth.
“We need to look for new businesses that are up and coming,” he said. “Look
for the next best thing.”
Switzer said the county needed to give a reason for the young people to
return, He suggested developing parks, recreation and other things for them
to do. He believes there's a lot of jobs here involving technology and
health care, just to name a few.
“We can do what we need to do,” Switzer said. “Davidson County is a strong
community. I hate incentives. If we have to play it, we have to play it
better than everybody else.”
Kepley said there are jobs here and students need to find a service that is
in demand to go to school for. He said they might have to search a little
bit to find a job, but he said the biggest attraction is still the county's
quality of life.
“We'll never roll over and play dead,” he said. “We're going to defend and
Truell said to get students to come back, there's going to have to be lots
of things addressed including retraining the people that are already here
for future jobs. That will lead to attracting businesses here because
residents will be ready for them.
“I don't care for incentives, it's part of the game,” he said. “We have to
be a big player to attract.”
Watford also thought there are plenty of opportunities for somebody to
leave and return after getting a postsecondary education.
“There's always something here for you to do,” he said.
Yates said the county has not changed a lot within the last 15 years and
suggested developing ways to improve the quality of life.
“We've got to have incentives right now to lure some businesses,” he said.
“We have the lowest tax rate, we need to keep them. I'm against incentives.”
Both Grice, Republican incumbent seeking another term as sheriff and his
opponent, Tommy Evans Jr., a Democrat, answered law enforcement questions
including one on how would they deal with substance abuse by teenagers in
Evans responded that beyond the school system, he would ensure there would
be School Resource Officers present in the community and he would continue
with the D.A.R.E. programs. He also suggested cutting off the source of
“Awareness, recognition and intervention,” he said. “It starts with groups,
friends and family. Early recognition means everything.”
Grice, pointing to the death of a North Davidson High School student in
August and the subsequent charge of a young man in the girl's murder, said
that is what happens when people don't follow the law. He stressed he would
continue with D.A.R.E. programs, stress the importance of the Crimestoppers
tip line and staff SROs at the schools.
“We have to educate young people and adults,” he said.
Another question posed asked about diversity and language barriers as the
Evans said he didn't think Americans should have to adapt or become another
culture because of the cultural changes.
“I don't mind opening doors if that's needed,” he said.
Grice said the deputies are dealing with the language barrier by hiring
Hispanic deputies, when available. He has also sent officers to training and
the sheriff's office has interpreters available.
“We can't change our entire county,” he said. “We can see what we can do to
assist them. We have to deal with it as best as we can.”
The Junior State of America is a nationwide, nonprofit, nonpartisan
political organization for high school students to engage in political
issues that challenge the nation. Thomason told the crowd the Junior State
of America club is filled with students who are interested in politics,
government and debate. She realizes there have been forums all over the town
that went well, but there needed to be one that involved the students.
“This is so we'll know what's going on, we get to hear it straight from
them,” she said.
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