Three vie for south seat on school board

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 6, 2014

Three men want to represent Rowan County’s southern schools on the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education.
Incumbent L.A. Overcash will face Dean Hunter and Lawrence Helms in the Nov. 4 election.
Overcash was appointed to the board two years ago when member Mike Caskey was elected to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. Overcash was on the school board in the early 2000s. He ran against Caskey in 2010 and lost. Neither Hunter nor Helms has previously served in an elected government office.
“My goal is to provide conservative leadership, both economically and socially, in the Board of Education,” Hunter said, explaining why he believes he is the best choice to represent seat two on the school board.
He added that he feels the current board has “made some selfish decisions while neglecting the students, teachers and taxpayers that they were elected to serve.”
Helms said people should vote for him because of he’s “the only candidate in the south district that’s not beholden to a political party.”
“I am a truly independent voice,” he said. “I’m going to listen and do what the people of Rowan County want me to.”
Overcash said he wants “what’s best for Rowan County. I’m people-oriented. I don’t have any hidden agendas.”
He added that his previous experience makes him an asset to the board.
“I use common sense, along with the information and data, to make decisions,” he said.
Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody released the district’s 2014-17 strategic plan in May, and its top priority is literacy.
Helms said he would address the literacy issue through mentorship programs.
“I would try to organize mentoring programs district-wide. Plus, I would offer myself to any student who needed help to learn better,” he said.
Helms added that he wants to look for volunteers from outside of the community who could come and mentor Rowan-Salisbury children.
Overcash believes the district’s one-to-one digital conversion is key to improving literacy rates, as well as professional development for teachers.
He pointed out that there are a number of mobile applications that focus on reading.
But technology has its limits, he said. It’s “one-way.”
Literacy improvement will be achieved by “old fashioned work with teachers,” he said.
“They need to be able to teach it,” he said.
Hunter attended the Literacy Summit on Sept. 26, where Moody asked community and faith leaders from across the county to establish homework centers where students can receive tutoring and connect to wi-fi.
“It’s sobering to hear that only one-third of the students in Rowan County can read on grade level,” Hunter said.
He added that he’s asked his church to consider establishing a homework center of its own.
In April, the school board reached a $40.5 million agreement with county commissioners to fund a consolidated central office, renovations to Knox Middle School and a consolidated elementary school in the western part of the county.
The central office has been a point of contention in the community over the past 25 or so years. It was allotted $6.5 million and is currently slated to be built in the 500 block of North Main Street in downtown Salisbury.
“The need is great,” Overcash said, adding that the central office has been needed for more than 20 years.
“The location’s never been a priority for me. We just need a building — a consolidated building,” he said. “Once we get into a consolidated office, it’s going to save operating money.”
Hunter said he agrees the school system needs a central office. “However, I believe that making a central office a priority over existing school needs is contrary to the mission of the board of education which is provide excellence in education.”
“Not one student’s education or one teacher’s teaching environment will be enhanced by a new central office,” he added.
Helms said of a central office, he would “vote no, because I think there’s some schools in western Rowan County that need to be fixed up first. Once we do that, then we can consolidate.”

Contact reporter Jeanie Groh at 704-797-4222.