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LIGHTNING RECOMMENDS: Four for School Board

Mary Louise Corn answers a question during a candidate forum. Mary Louise Corn answers a question during a candidate forum.

The Henderson County School Board race produced the usual amount of sparks, which is to say not many.

It's a known and often lamented fact that School Board members have little authority to shape the way education really works.
If they want to be reformers, they'd be better off running for the state Legislature, which has kept the power to run schools even while publicly professing their belief in local control.
If they'd like newer schools or better athletics tracks or artificial turf, they'd be better off running for a seat on the Board of Commissioners, which controls spending for school construction and grants a fraction of the operating money.
The School Board we have now is realistic about their role and, thankfully, has resisted the sort of ideological warfare that plagues some larger school districts and occasionally our Board of Commissioners.
A steady hand is not the most exciting choice in politics but in this race the steady hand is the right choice. We believe incumbents Ervin W. Bazzle, Mary Louise Corn and Rick Wood merit re-election to the board.
Although no one is irreplaceable, chairman Bazzle has been close to indispensable during the past couple of years of budget fighting.
A South Carolina farm boy, Bazzle graduated from West Point and served on active duty and the reserves to the rank of lieutenant colonel. A trial lawyer, he doesn't shrink from combat with the proudly uninformed blowhards on the County Commission who have done so much to impede our school system's progress over the past two years.
He is seeking a remarkable fifth term on the board. We believe he would gladly step aside if he did not perceive the current behavior from Historic Courthouse Square and Jones Street in Raleigh as real threats to the schools. Now is the time that our county needs a strong advocate, unafraid of bullies, to fight for schools. Bazzle won't back down, and that's what the schoolchildren and their parents need.
Corn, a retired teacher and principal, and Wood, a retired teacher and coach, bring to the table long years of experience in the county schools. They know the schools' culture and the community's history, and they apply that knowledge in the best interest of the students.
Besides the three incumbents, five challengers are on the School Board ballot for four seats. Shannon Baldwin's decision not to seek re-election created one vacant seat.
The candidates are 23-year-old East Henderson High School graduate Michael Absher, past two-term board member Debbie Reemes Ford, Smart Start director Sonia Gironda, banker Josh Houston and retired school administrator Charles E. Thomas.
Of these candidates we believe Gironda is the best choice.
A native of the community — Thomas was her principal at East — Gironda seemed to have the strongest grasp of the School Board's role and its limitations. She knows she would get more done in Raleigh than at Central Office on Fourth Avenue and she vows to do just that as a School Board member.
Of the eight candidates on the ballot only Gironda and Houston are young parents with children in the public schools. We think that is a positive.
Houston seems earnest and well meaning but fails to articulate anything beyond a desire to direct more money to the classroom, which does not distinguish him from everyone else. The Henderson County Republican Party and Tea Party chapters have endorsed him. If he has a bold reform agenda that pleases conservative activists, he has not shared it with the public in any forum we have attended.
We very much like the enthusiasm and passion of young Mr. Absher, who works the early shift at McDonald's, runs a non-profit to help homeless students, attends Blue Ridge Community College and spends his spare time catching the School Board meetings on the web. Absher would bring a welcome perspective as a recently graduated student from the county schools.
While we appreciate that Ford has experience as a School Board member and Thomas 41 years as a teacher, coach, principal and superintendent, we also recognize that the current board already has an abundant supply of both board experience and retired educators.
Gironda would bring a fresh perspective. She has a bright and optimistic attitude about a child's potential. As director of Smart Start, she knows the importance of early childhood education. She has a master's degree in mental health counseling and in her day job she works with 4-year-olds. That's a couple of skill sets that have to be useful in dealing with the state Legislature and the Board of Commissioners.