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⚡️ VOTER GUIDE: School Board

Stacey Caskey and Jay Egolf during a light moment at School Board forum. Stacey Caskey and Jay Egolf during a light moment at School Board forum.

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 them 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.

Why are you running for Henderson County School Board?

Beddingfield: “Children First” is the reason I am running. I have the desire and motivation necessary to make the Henderson County School System the best it can be. I will bring a wealth of experience to the Board to accomplish this goal: Business, accounting, computers, human resources, cultural interaction, school system background, and military. With this wide ranging experience and dedication, I can provide the “Positive Leadership” to enable the Henderson County School System to serve each and every student and provide the foundation that each student needs to succeed.

Case: I would bring 47 years of teaching experience (all in Henderson County) to the Board. I have taught grades 7-12 and have volunteered in an elementary school since retirement in 2016. So, I am familiar with curriculum and the needs of students and teachers at many levels. I definitely want the school board to do everything possible to make our schools safe. I want our students, no matter what their learning level is to be challenged and prepared for the future and this will certainly include technology. I bring a passion for our students and their education.
Caskey: I’m running for a seat on the School Board because we have all of the raw materials to have a top school system in Henderson County. As a lifelong educator — twice named Teacher of the Year, with 28 years of teaching experience, National Board Certification, three master’s degrees and a strong grant-writing and business background — I have the educational knowledge to help prepare students for the 21st century job market. We must offer a comprehensive vocational education program, because we are not doing that right now, and we must better prepare our college-bound students for the rigors of college coursework.
Egolf: I currently have three children in the Henderson County Public Schools system and want them, and all other students, safe while at school and at the same time receiving the best education possible. I have lived in Henderson County and my family has operated successful businesses here since 1972. These years of experience have enabled me to learn to work with many different types of people. I love working with people. I love problem solving and negotiating. It’s what I do every day. I feel I would be an asset in promoting better collaboration between the other governing bodies of Henderson County, namely the Board of Commissioners and City Council members. Through all of this, I would hope to make a good school board, better.
Holt: I would like to be reelected to the board because I really enjoy it. I feel like we have done a lot in the last 8 years that I have been on the board to bring our district forward including bringing technology into the classroom and preparing our students for the 21st century. We have really expanded our Career and Technical Program and have really advanced our efforts to get our students ready to enter the workforce. Not every child wants to enter a college program and we need to make sure that we are preparing them for the workforce and secure a good paying job in their future.

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.

What is the most important thing the local School Board can do to increase the effectiveness of classroom teaching?

Holt: Board of Education members are a governing body, they oversee the school system and develop budgets and policies. This task really doesn’t rest on the shoulders of the board of education members. We can work with senior staff to plan professional development and support programs that are effective tools for our teachers to use in the classroom. Teacher collaboration is really effective in our system and I have seen a lot of teachers use that to tweak the way they teach and become more effective.

Egolf: I spent time with every principal of Henderson County’s 23 public schools. I did this so they could learn about me and what is important to me, and also, I could learn about them and their school. I found out each school has their own culture, wants and needs. This is determined by the different principals, teachers, other faculty and student body. What one school needs, another doesn’t, even though were in the same county. So my answer to this question is to continue visiting the schools, talking to the people involved and above all, LISTEN. That’s how you improve the effectiveness of classroom teaching.

Caskey: We have seen a recent shift in the N.C. General Assembly to prioritize public education, but there is a long way to go. North Carolina ranks 37th in teacher pay and 39th in per-pupil spending. Henderson County has some of the most dedicated and talented teachers in the state, but we must offer competitive salaries and incentivize post-graduate education. The more training and resources our teachers have, the better equipped they will be to help students succeed. Additionally, I know how to utilize creative methods of acquiring program funding. I delivered over $3 million in grants to my school systems.
Case: To increase the effectiveness of classroom teachers the school board should be wise in their money budgeting. They need to keep updating technology and curriculum needs. Classroom teachers use their own money to buy supplies for their classrooms. Money should be budgeted for each teacher to buy needed materials for their teaching. Teachers also need to feel safe in their classroom with their students. The school safety committee has a good plan for accomplishing this but it needs to be completed, especially with SROs in every school, which has been budgeted but not accomplished. Teachers need to know they are appreciated!
Beddingfield: Effectiveness in the classroom involves having qualified teachers, proper materials/equipment, good facilities, and the combination of all three to the betterment of the student. School System funding of teacher renewal and advanced learning opportunities, constant evaluation of facilities/equipment, removing of administrative work from the teacher, and strictly enforced discipline will greatly increase the effectiveness of classroom teaching. I will completely support all teachers by providing what the teachers need NOW, not LATER.

What other major priorities do you have for the Henderson County public schools?

Beddingfield: Major priorities are 1) Funding, whether it is on the state level to get a better funding system and for teacher salaries or on the Local level to get the proper funding for facilities, 2) Restoration of teacher assistant positions is a major priority, 3) All students should have the opportunity to enroll in any class offered without regard to class location or home school, 4) Annual reviews of future facility needs (current, 5yr, 10yr, and 20yr), thorough reviews of the budget vs the effectiveness of programs funded, 5) Completion of the Edneyville School project and the HHS project, and 6) Evaluating the success of the School Board in making “Children First” and preparing students for their future.
Case: 1. Balance between our objective of educating our students with the best education and keeping our students safe. 2. I want our students to be prepared to reach their potential whether college bound or vocation (career) oriented. To reach this we must continue to update technology and keep evaluating curriculum needs. 3. If teachers develop a new idea (out of the box thinking) for helping students learn, then that should be considered. 4. Show a great appreciation for teachers, staffs, administrative leaders, parents, and community. It not only takes “a village to raise a child,” it also takes “a village to educate a child.”
Caskey: Henderson County will never be among the top school systems in the state until they offer countywide pre-kindergarten. Pre-k is not daycare or preschool – it is an early literacy program designed for four-year-olds. Research concludes that by the time that students with a pre-k background reach 3rd grade, they outperform their classmates in every single subject. I will continue to advocate until each four-year-old child has access to pre-k. It’s easy to talk about things that you would like to see happen in Henderson County, but we need to elect someone who has a track record of getting things done.

Egolf: Schools in Henderson County, as a whole, are very good. I do see the need for added safety, especially in the high schools. Hendersonville (hopefully taken care of), West and East are too spread out with too many entrances and exits. I also think our culture as a whole believes that in order for a person to be successful, one needs to attend college. I do not believe this is true. Look at the automobile business, we always have ongoing training, but a 4-year degree is not necessary for a successful career. More work-based learning should occur at the high school level; Blue Ridge Community College does a great job with this.
Holt: First and foremost, we must make our campuses more secure. We have started a safety assessment of all our grounds and have begun to make our facilities safer for students. We have begun the process of installing magnetic locks on all our high school campuses. We have also begun an analysis of our processes and procedures, so we can make our schools safer. We need to update several of our high schools and some of our elementary schools as well. I am looking forward to having all SROs hired and in place full time at every school.