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School Board candidates largely agree on saving Stillwell, arming teachers

School Board candidates are broadly in agreement on the major issues the elected leaders will face in the months ahead, including support for saving the historic classroom building as part of the Hendersonville High School and opposition to allowing teachers to carry firearms.

The Lightning asked the candidates about those issues and others.
The candidates responding were:
• Ted Beddingfield, 71, a Hendersonville native and Vietnam veteran who is retired after 28 years at the DuPont plant in Brevard and from International Missions and human resources.
• Dot Case, 70, a Henderson County native and retired civics and history teacher at North Henderson High School.
• Stacey Caskey, 53, a teacher for 28 years who now runs a tutoring business with her husband, Brian.
• Jay Egolf, 48, owner of Egolf Ford in Brevard.
• Amy Lynn Holt, 45, the current School Board chair and an executive with her family’s Champion Comfort Experts heating and A/C company.
Candidate Randy Ward did not respond to the Lightning questionnaire.

The future of Hendersonville High School has been debated for five years now. Do you favor a Stillwell renovation/new construction option, all-new construction or something else?

Holt: I have always favored a renovation of the Stillwell building with a combination of new construction for the rest of the campus. I feel like that is what most of that community wants and if we can stick within budget and listen to the community then it is a win/win situation for everyone. The budget is the budget and we need to do our best to stick to that figure.

Egolf: Buildings don’t educate children. Teachers, administrators, processes and technology is what does. Having said this, the county has been working on this for over six years (the county first purchased the old Boyd dealership property in 2012). All stones needed to be uncovered before moving forward. I am 100 percent in favor of the current school board trying to solve this, and I think they will. I believe the answer lies in the current Stillwell renovation combined with new construction, this should be the most cost effective option. The overall construction bidding process is better. I believe, if you have people competing for your business, you typically get better results.

Caskey: It is clear to all of those familiar with Hendersonville High School that the facility must be modernized and expanded. Given the historic nature of the Stillwell Building, its importance to the HHS community and the renovations that have already taken place to that structure, the most practical approach is to completely renovate that building and to construct a new school using Stillwell as the centerpiece. For this to happen, the School Board must start reading contracts, they must interface better with both the County Commissioners and the architects, and they must stop wasting taxpayer money.

Case: I heard the PFA/LS3P presentation and I am excited. I like the blended plan because the school will be modern but will keep some of their traditions and construction will be within designated financial limits. I think the current varsity gym will be a great auxiliary facility. The renovated Stillwell Building can be used for school and community. If I am a school board member, I want a signed contract stating finances, planned completion dates and a blueprint of what is included. Open communication between school board, county commissioners, architects, construction company is a must.

Beddingfield: I favor a combination of Stillwell renovation and new construction for the other buildings. Economically and environmentally, this is the best path forward. Why waste a building that can be renovated and used for school purposes? This results in lower total cost, less waste to be landfilled, and less new material to be bought for a new building. The plan presented by PFA/LS3P accomplishes all of this by renovating Stillwell and then adding the necessary new construction to make a complete HHS campus. I will work hard to makes sure this project is successful and also apply the techniques to future facility improvements for the entire School System.

Some people have said they favor allowing teachers, if properly trained, to have guns in the classroom. Are you in favor of or against allowing teachers to have firearms in classrooms?

Beddingfield: I am against allowing teachers or other school staff to have firearms in the classrooms. Being trained to handle a firearm is not the same as being trained to engage and confront a hostile situation. Instead, everyone should be trained to work as a team to accomplish the task of confronting the problem (person or material) and securing all students and staff safely. Not everyone on this team needs a firearm, only the designated individual(s). In a volatile situation, it is hard to determine the good from the bad. I have been in that situation. Not everyone will ever have the necessary experience or proper training to handle a critical situation.

Case: The key words in this question are “properly trained”. How much training does our law enforcement need to be prepared for a school disaster? Teachers are trained to teach and do not have the time to be trained to be a “campus policeman.” Watch the news and see how difficult it is for a trained policemen to know when to use their firearm. How would the public react if a teacher accidentally shot an innocent student (who was in the wrong place) thinking the student was the shooter? I am not in favor of teachers having guns in their classrooms.

Caskey: I am completely against teachers carrying firearms in the classroom. We already have a clear and present danger to our students’ safety without introducing more weapons to the equation. West Henderson High, for instance, has roughly 24 separate entrances. Common sense solutions include trained SROs, more social workers, single entry systems, and metal detectors, not the knee-jerk response of arming teachers. We should also follow the Secret Service’s advice and stop school lockdowns! 92% of those killed in school shootings have been ‘sitting and waiting.’ I will work with experts to keep students safe with a well-organized, high-speed exit plan.

Egolf: Proper fire arm training should include, clearing stoppages with either hand, drills that simulate malfunctions, emergency tactical reloading with either hand, manipulation of safeties and de-cocking levers with either hand. As well as range topics like low-light and judgmental (decision-making) shooting, shooting while moving to cover, one-handed firing, giving verbal challenges, firing and clearing malfunctions from various “officer down” positions and finally, engaging multiple targets. I personally don’t think teachers have time for the necessary training with all of their other responsibilities.
Holt: I am not in favor of letting every teacher who has a concealed carry permit bring a gun to class. I think that there are certain individuals who have been properly trained who would be able to, but it isn’t for everyone. We do have someone in our school system who is a retired police officer, I think he would be the perfect candidate to allow to conceal carry. It isn’t for everyone, though and if we allowed this it would have to carefully orchestrated so that we have ongoing training for these individuals. It is worth exploring and looking into.


For the the rest of the Lightning Q&A with School Board candidates and for Q&As with candidates for the Board of Commissioners and state Legislature pick up a copy of the Lightning and our Voter Guide this week.