On Nov. 6, voters will determine who will move to the head of the class in the Walton County School District.
This important choice will be between Democratic candidate Rosemary Ragle and incumbent Superintendent Carlene Anderson. Anderson beat hopeful Trisha Hutchison in the primary election to secure her spot on the ballot.
The Sun caught up with the candidates before the election to inquire about their motivations for running and each woman’s best advice to students.
For the pre-election take on the Mosquito Board, CLICK HERE.
For the pre-election take on the Dist. 1 Commission race, CLICK HERE.
Below are the superintendent hopefuls' responses; some have been edited for space.
What single motivation do you have for taking on the role of Superintendent?
Carlene Anderson: The most important role of the superintendent of schools is to create an educational atmosphere conducive to high student achievement. This was my focus when I began as superintendent and continues to be my goal and passion as I continue this campaign. ensuring school safety, hiring the most competent workforce, providing a rigorous and relevant curriculum, meeting the demands of local, state and federal laws are all integral parts of meeting the single most important role — student achievement. Education must assist each student to reach his/her potential and prepare them for whatever they choose to do after their public school years. We must prepare them for the rest of their lives.
Rosemary Ragle:Walton County is my home, and I have a vested interest in our schools. I want children to be excited to come to school, teachers to feel valued for their work, parents to be welcomed at their child’s school, and support staff to be recognized for the valuable service to our students. My priority is to promote teamwork and reevaluate our school system’s priorities — we must refocus our efforts on students.
How does your political affiliation set you apart from your opponent in the sphere of education? In what other ways are you the better choice?
Anderson: My political affiliation is more a set of morals and values that shape my decision-making. These decision-making skills are honed by years of experience and training beginning as a teacher aide and culminating as the superintendent of schools. Having served in non-instructional, instructional, and administrative positions, has provided me with the experiences to draw on as I consider how each decision will affect each employee and how that will translate to increased student achievement.
Having had successful experience, as well as specific training as a superintendent, makes me the most qualified choice for this position. For the last five years during serious economic difficulties in our county and state, I have had to make some very difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions. However, the district has continued to be financially solvent and maintained a required 3 percent fund balance and still be designated as a high-performing school district, a designation held for six consecutive years.
Ragle:Personally, I do not believe that one’s political affiliation should play a part in education, and I do not believe that the superintendent of schools should be an elected official. I entered this race with considerable experience in education and a desire to bring a new style of leadership to the school district — a style that supports the contributions of a team working toward a common purpose — a style that does not discount the contributions of others.
I am hoping that voters who see a need for change will judge the integrity, qualifications, and motives of the person hoping to make a difference by serving as your superintendent of schools.
Where can school funding be spent to make the biggest impact? If you had additional funding to bolster one program, what would that program be?
Anderson: The greatest impact on student success comes from the quality of the teacher that stands in front of them every day. All funds that go into hiring and training our teachers to be GREAT will have the largest returns. However, if we had additional funds, they would be well spent in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) courses. These are critical areas that must be taught with rigor and relevance as we simultaneously infuse them with the new, national Common Core standards. For our students to compete in the global market of tomorrow, they must receive specific education in these areas.
Ragle:I believe in a well-rounded education. I also know that the public school system cannot offer “one size fits all.” We have diverse populations and our students learn in different ways, have different interests, and come to us with the different levels of preparedness to learn.
For me to promote one area over another is presumptuous. A student may have a greater affinity for the arts, or for athletics, or for science, or math. Public schools should not squelch any individual’s talent or interest, but provide the opportunities to foster love for learning.
The blending of federal funds must be considered to more effectively serve our students. We must establish an equitable plan for providing resources and technology to our individual schools, and eliminate unnecessary minutia that deprives our students of instructional time. Compensation schedules should be reevaluated to ensure equity and fairness.
What is your one suggestion to school-age children so they can help themselves succeed?
Anderson: All students should strive to accept and become a part of the educational process. Education cannot be “poured” into a student. To be successful, each student must take responsibility to become an equal partner in the process. As a former teacher, I know that we must motivate students to learn but I also know that students who have no goals or are resistant to learning will have little success. Students must embrace the wondrous, educational opportunity they have in the Walton County School District. It is the one key to a productive, successful life.
Ragle: Students, read and study; find your interests but work hard at even those things you do not like; be compassionate to those different from you and help someone every day; appreciate the things you do well and work to improve the weaknesses you do have; remember that everyone is important, everyone has feelings, and everyone wants to be liked — even your teachers.
What else would you like voters to know?
Anderson: I have been fortunate to have led the employees and students of the Walton County School District to be one of the best small school districts in the state. For this reason, I have been asked to stand in front of legislative sub-committees and the State Board of Education to speak on behalf of ALL small school districts throughout the state. Although the impact of these efforts is huge, it does not compare to the joy of seeing our students in Walton County be successful.
Now more than ever, as we face increased expectations, transition to a national set of educational objectives, and work within continual budget constraints; we need a superintendent that has the experience to lead us through. That individual is Carlene Anderson. We are on the cusp of being a great school district and although the past years under my leadership have taken us a long way, in the next four we will complete the job.
Ragle:I have held teaching certifications in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida with 22 years of classroom experience. Currently, I am the Coordinator for Exceptional Student Education with the Walton County School District, and I have 14 years of administrative experience in Walton County.
During my tenure with Walton Schools, my department has earned the highest annual ranking of Level I for the past six years. Our program audit by the state reflected 100 percent with no identified areas of noncompliance for two consecutive years. Walton’s proficiency rates on the Florida Alternate Assessment ranged from 80 to 90 percent. These scores for students with disabilities have a positive impact on school grades in our district.
During my tenure as ESE Department Coordinator, the district’s compliance with state and federal law has prevented due process complaints or findings from the Office for Civil Rights, and WCSD has not faced any lawsuits related to complaints related to students with disabilities. I am in this race for the right reasons. We need to rethink our mission and rekindle the spirit of our stakeholders.