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Candidates introduce themselves at Moms for America forum

Six of the 10 candidates for Henderson County School Board made their case for election during a forum sponsored by Moms for America at Thomas Auditorium at Blue Ridge Community College on Saturday.

The event included updates on parents’ rights, sexually explicit books in schools and school choice, and an appearance by Michelle Morrow, a homeschool-teacher mom from Cary and Republican candidate for state Superintendent of Public Instruction, followed by the hour-long candidate forum. Around 70 people turned out on a sub-freezing afternoon.

Attending the forum were Republicans Michael Absher, Robert Bridges, Tae Brown, Beth Campbell and Kathy G. Revis and Democrat Mary Ellen Kustin. Also running in the March 5 Republican primary is Amy Lynn Holt. Democrats Leslie Carey, Crystal Cauley and Rhonda Mountain join Kustin on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Here are the candidates’ opening remarks and introductions of themselves:

Mary Ellen Kustin: “I’m running for the Henderson County Board of Education by bringing to bear my experience as a mother, a youth sports coach, a math tutor and a public policy professional. My husband and I live in Hendersonville with our two young kids, and as a taxpaying mother of children who will be in our Henderson County Public Schools through 2037 I am invested in our schools…. I know my way around a budget. I know how to invest taxpayer dollars to get the biggest bang for your buck. And I get the importance of public education and its impact on our local economy. Study after study shows as I’m sure you all are aware that the return on investment in our public schools is positive. … I’ve been blessed to be able to live out my values through years of volunteer work and a career in the nonprofit sector. I am passionate about ensuring student success and that is why I’m putting kids, not politics, first. Henderson County wins when our schools win.”

Beth Campbell: “I have lived in Henderson County, worked in Henderson County, ran a business in Henderson County for many years. I have three daughters who are all in Henderson County schools. They are almost 17, 11 and 6. I have been fortunate to be able to volunteer throughout all of their education and all of their different schools that they’ve been in. I have been able to work within the schools on many different projects. I’ve been very active in our PTO for many years. I believe every student has the right to a quality education. Our teachers should absolutely be supported in everything that they do. Our children need to know that we are here for them and we are gonna fight for them. It’s about them and what they need and giving them everything that they need.”

Tae Brown: "I am a local product of Henderson County public schools. I went to Bruce Drysdale Elementary School, Hendersonville Middle School and then Flat Rock Middle School, graduated from East Henderson High School and went off to get my bachelor’s from UNC Chapel Hill, the first public university in the country.” He worked in health insurance and then as a substitute teacher in Henderson County, a Spanish teacher at North Henderson High School and in the Migrant Education department of the Henderson County school system. "After that, I picked up a second job with Children and Family Resource Center working with children up to 5 years old. I now came to Blue Ridge Community College where I work as a success coach. I work with adult learners 25 and up to ensure the success whatever it may be, whatever it may entail. I want to focus on programs to help combat that mental health and substance abuse crisis."

Robert Bridges: "I’m running for a second term and have thoroughly enjoyed serving this county students. My wife and I have lived in Henderson County for 65 years. She is a 30-year school teacher in Henderson County. I have 30 years in Henderson County so it’s a total of 60 that we’ve put together to serve Henderson County students.” He has been an elementary and middle school teacher, guidance counselor and assistant principal, served as a deacon at First Baptist Church and a volunteer visiting homebound seniors. “I’m thrilled to be running again for school board. It’s such a wonderful job. If you have an opportunity to visit any of our schools please do so. They are just wonderful. And our staff and our schools are so dedicated.”

Michael Absher: “I am a product of Henderson County public schools. I graduated in 2009 (from EHHS) and since then I have graduated from Blue Ridge Community College with my public administration degree and leadership degree, and then just in December I graduated with from Western Carolina University with my business administration degree. I think I’ve been a proven community servant by creating the first nonprofit in the Southeast that is helping homeless and at risk youth with no federal or state dollars. We do it all local and we have served over 4,300 kids since we started this work 15 years ago.” He has served on the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Council and is chair of the Library, Board of Trustees. “I want to continue to serve our kids and advocate for them.”

Kathy Revis: “I’ve been an educator for over 45 years, so if I tried to tell you everything that I’ve done, I couldn’t squeeze it in two minutes.” She has been a high school math teacher, assistant principal and principal in high school and as assistant superintendent for curriculum for the school district for 17 years. I’m very proud of that because what I was able to do with curriculum instruction. The last five years what I saw was our children thriving and growing. My last school year our students scored the fourth highest performance (testing) composite in the state. After I retired, I’ve worked for WCCA for two years, so I really got familiar with the world of pre-K.” She currently is a professor at Gardner-Webb teaching in the master’s program for school administrators.

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NOTE: Return to and see the Lightning's Jan. 24 print issue for the candidates’ responses on their priorities if elected, parents’ rights, sexually explicit books in schools and school choice.