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New leader key issue in Edinburgh school race

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Hiring a superintendent for Edinburgh schools is a top priority for the district’s school board candidates

The three candidates running for two at-large seats on the board want an administrator who is able to enforce the rules while remaining fair, who cares about teachers but makes sure they do their jobs, and who is community-minded, honest and a team player.

The district’s superintendent resigned earlier this year, and the school board is in charge of hiring a replacement.

But the candidates hoping to be part of that decision have different ideas of what qualities the new superintendent should have and when the hiring process should begin.

Edinburgh school board

Three candidates are running for two seats on the Edinburgh school board. Term: Four years

Duties: Developing policies, adopting the annual budget, determining salaries for all employees and hiring and evaluating the district’s superintendent.

Area district represents: The two available seats are at-large seats and represent the entire school district.

Total board members: Six

Who votes: All voters in the school district.

Pay: $2,000 per year, plus $50 for each special meeting outside the regular schedule of one meeting each month.

Voters will choose two of the candidates for the nonpartisan school board in the election next month. The board has six members, four of whom are not up for election. The candidates are William Jones and incumbents Cathy Hamm and Alice Taulman.

Besides hiring and assessing the superintendent, school board members are in charge of approving the schools’ budget and school policies.

Though other local school districts are facing budget shortfalls, the three candidates for the Edinburgh school board said their school district does not have to make any significant budget cuts. Their top concern is hiring a superintendent.

Hamm said the board has decided on an evaluation model they will use to choose a superintendent, but they do not have a time frame for the hiring process.

Jones said the board needs to start looking for a superintendent now and take its time finding a qualified administrator instead of rushing through the process.

Taulman said she would like to focus on keeping interim superintendent Bill Glentzer in the position, because he cares about the faculty and students and has upgraded the schools’ facilities.

Jones and Hamm want a superintendent who has a strong financial background and can be responsible with the district’s budget so that cuts won’t be needed in the future.

Property tax caps have limited the money the district takes in to pay for transportation, supplies and facility upgrades, but none of the candidates believes Edinburgh schools will have to make serious budget cuts. Instead, they are focusing on what curriculum improvements they would like to make, especially for students who are more likely to drop out.

Edinburgh Community High School had a 98 percent graduation rate for the 2010-2011 school year, but the school board candidates said the schools can do more for struggling students.

Jones said he wants to see students who have trouble with their classwork get more help from the schools. One idea for aiding those students would be to have them attend a special homeroom class where teachers could guide them through their work, he said.

Taulman said helping students who struggle with classwork should start early, when they are in third grade. By that age, schools can predict which students are at risk of dropping out based on their reading levels, she said.

To prevent students from dropping out of school, she suggested starting a program in which high school students talk to elementary school students about the importance of education.

Hamm agreed there should be more options for struggling students, but she also wants the schools to focus on rigorous academics as well.

“The school district should add Advanced Placement classes and as much rigor to the high school curriculum as they can to prepare students for graduation,” she said.

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