I have compiled a list of ten questions for the Muhlenberg County school board candidates running for election (or re-election) next month. I am mailing the list to each candidate with a request for a response to be shared on this blog. I have no idea if any candidates will respond, but I hope that some will, because as far as I can tell, no one else is asking most of these questions.
If you are a local reader with different questions, I encourage you to contact the candidates yourself. They are listed at the bottom of this post.
Questions for Candidates:
- Do you support continuing the district’s drug testing program, which requires all high school students to submit to random drug testing in order to participate in extra-curricular activities and to park on campus? If so, what do you make of a large-scale national study showing no difference in drug use between schools that use drug testing and those that do not?
- The current school board recently voted against videotaping its meetings, which would allow citizens to view meetings on cable access. Given the fact that it is difficult for many people to attend the five p.m. meetings, and considering that meeting minutes include only board decisions and not complete discussions of issues, should the meetings be videotaped?
- Do you support the district's continued use of programs like Character Counts! and PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports), given that these programs have been widely criticized for promoting unquestioning obedience to authority as the ultimate value? (See, for example, Alfie Kohn's "How Not to Teach Values" and Chris Liebig's "Sacrificing Thought for 'Good Behavior.'")
- Our district's school board meetings are opened with prayer. Do you think our school board should continue this practice, given the fact that the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, in Coles Coles v. Cleveland Board of Education (1999), found beginning school board meetings with prayer to be a violation of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause? If you support continuing the prayers, do you think local taxpayers should be willing to pay plaintiffs' legal fees should the practice be successfully challenged in the courts? (Note: Kentucky is in the sixth circuit.)
- Do you approve of the current school board’s recent decision to create a limited public forum that allows all non-profit groups to distribute literature at official afterschool functions? Should religious organizations such as the Gideons be allowed to distribute bibles at these events if that requires the district to allow all groups--including those representing Muslim, pagan, and atheist viewpoints, among others--to distribute literature to students?
- Of a case in which a New Jersey public school teacher claimed that evolution and the Big Bang are not scientific, the famous American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said, "This case is not about the need to separate church and state; it's about the need to separate ignorant, scientifically illiterate people from the ranks of teachers." Does the teaching of creationism have any place in our district’s classrooms?
- What stance would you like to see the school board take on school policies that reward perfect student attendance with special picnics, pizza parties, etc., considering that such policies encourage parents to send their children to school sick in order to avoid missing out on these events?
- Many parents are concerned that the increasing use of high-stakes standardized testing (to evaluate students, teachers, and schools) is compromising important educational values. Would you support a policy that would allow parents in the district to opt their children out of such testing?
- Parents in our district who homeschool their children provide tax support for our schools, and may be the kind of involved, supportive parents who can make positive contributions to the school district. As such, do you support allowing homeschooled students in our district to participate in extra-curricular activities?
- Our district’s schools are very different from the schools most of us attended as children. Students are surrounded by armed security personnel and security cameras that record their every move, and subjected to unprecedented amounts of standardized testing. What can be done to make the schools in our district more humane environments for our students?
Muhlenberg County Board of Education Candidates:
Kevin Rice, 2nd district
Margaret Ann Williams, 2nd district
Sylvester "Sly" Johnson, 3rd district
Dr. Kelly Tarter, 3rd district
Scott Bivins, 3rd district
Darrell Bowers, 5th district
Jerry Winters, 5th district