Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

School Board candidates discuss their top priorities

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

Attending the forum were Republicans Michael Absher, Tae Brown, Beth Campbell and Kathy G. Revis and Democrat Mary Ellen Kustin. Also running are Republican Amy Lynn Holt and Democrats Leslie Carey, Crystal Cauley and Rhonda Mountain. Here are the candidates’ responses on their top priorities:

What are your top two priorities that you would like to accomplish on the School Board?

Campbell: “One of the main things that I would really like to see our district focus on is tackling this issue of overtesting our kids. I have seen, especially this last year, the impact that testing has had particularly on fifth graders. I have a first grader and a fifth grader and a junior in high school and I have watched not only my fifth grader but other fifth graders coming into school day in and day out frustrated. … These kids spent two years fighting to get back in the classroom and to learn.”

Brown: “The first one would be working with mental health and substance abuse and the second one would be working with disconnected youth. I’m a big advocate of getting very good technology, artificial intelligence, ChatGPT. There’s a lot of mental health problems running through our county right now. We can focus on some of the most marginalized people regardless of color, regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity … and on mental health and the substance abuse crisis right now.

Bridges: “No 1 is to increase our reading and math scores in the lower grades. No. 2 is keeping and recruiting qualified teachers and teacher assistants … and increasing salaries and increasing supplements.”

Absher: “One is increasing our student support services and making sure that have all the resources available and also get the support services to our teachers and help them to understand more of what is needed. We have to work to advocate with our state legislators to make effective educational change. We can’t do that if we don’t have a good relationship with our state legislators.”

Revis: “One of the things I’d like to see us work on is restoring the public trust and confidence in our public schools. I don’t think we have that big of a lack of trust here, necessarily, but when I see it statewide and nationally I think there is truly a lack of confidence and trust in what we’re doing. I’m all about transparency. We welcome the community, parents specifically, into our schools at any time to engage them with the work of our children. The other thing I’d like to see us address is teacher and staff shortages.”

Kustin: “I think the first one is teaching kids to think for themselves. They are bombarded with disinformation and misinformation like the rest of us. And we need to empower them to tell fact from fiction. I think about my dad used to tell me when I was in school, which was do your absolute best and the grades will follow. Giving kids permission to fail, to learn, to grow is so important. Secondly, I think kids need more school, not less school” to avoid harmful activities outside of school.