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Dawson-Bryant School Board hopefuls meet voters

COAL GROVE — Seven candidates seeking three open seats on the Dawson-Bryant Board of Education got an opportunity to pitch their case to voters on Tuesday night — albeit in a restrictive environment.

Hosted for the first time by the Dawson-Bryant High School Junior Advisory Program, their “Meet the Candidates Night” allowed hopefuls the opportunity to introduce themselves to voters while outlining their thoughts and ideas on education issues such as student and teacher objectives, public confidence and communications between board members.

Attending the discussion in the Dawson-Bryant High School cafetorium were current incumbents Debbie Drummond, Sadie Mulkey and Jamie Murphy along with hopefuls Gary Dutey, Michael Nourse, Denise Paulus and Timothy Stormes.

The candidates sat in alphabetical order, right to left, behind a table on the stage. About 125 people were in attendance.

An eighth candidate, Katy Ford was unable to attend the forum due to a prior out-of-town business commitment. However, in a letter read by moderator Gary Salyers, Ford said she is “eager to serve the children of the district.” Nearly all the candidates spoke about how serving the children of the district were the main reason they were seeking public office.

All questions asked were selected and screened by the Dawson-Bryant High School faculty and had been given to the candidates prior to the forum.

As a result, candidates read carefully-worded responses from pre-written index cards or notes when it was their turn to speak instead of ad-libbing.

No questions were taken from the audience during the nearly 70-minute forum.

Hopefuls were given three minutes for their opening statement and one minute to respond to questions. They were also given one minute for a closing statement.

Candidates spent much of the first 15 minutes touting themselves and their backgrounds and criteria for the position. Salyers piggybacked on that discussion by asking the panel about their civic and religious involvements within the community.

One question that caught the ears of many in the audience was when each candidate was asked to name their top objectives should they be elected to the Dawson-Bryant Board of Education.

Answers ranged from “continuing to offer the best education” and having “open communication in doing what’s right for the children,” by Jamie Murphy, to being “fair to the public” and having “no hidden agendas” by Michael Nourse, to “increasing parental and community support” and “challenging the way things have been getting done,” by Denise Paulus.

When asked how they would go about maintaining the public’s confidence in the school board, current member Debbie Drummond said taking the time to listen is important.

“We are always available to listen to the concerns of our citizens and our students,” Drummond said.

Current school board member Sadie Mulkey hinted that the district is sometimes shown in a bad light.

“We need the public to learn about the good things that come out of the district. The bad things are so easy to get out,” Mulkey said.

Other topics discussed included relationships with other board members, district budget development and how to provide a quality education for adverse student populations.

One topic many in attendance wanted to hear board members discuss was their individual thoughts on current Superintendent Dennis DeCamp, who came to the district late last year from a long-run at Sciotoville Community School in Portsmouth.

While questions specific to DeCamp or his current 16-month contract that is set to expire in April were not addressed, Salyers did ask each to expound on their thoughts on the most important role of a superintendent.

“A superintendent is to provide a safe environment of learning,” said Timothy Stormes.

“They should be able to communicate with the district,” Gary Dutey explained.

None of the seven candidates mentioned DeCamp by name during the entire forum. Dawson-Bryant’s current board has met in closed session in recent weeks to begin the process of evaluating its superintendent position.

The Board of Education “Meet the Candidates Night” followed an hour-long question-and-answer session for candidates seeking sports on Coal Grove Village Council.

Election Day is Nov. 3.