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Debate series resumes with District 5 Forsyth County Board of Education

What’s next

The Forsyth County Republican Party debate series continues tonight with the candidates for county coroner at 5:30 p.m. and sheriff at 7 p.m. at the county administration building in downtown Cumming.

* Also: Advance voting will begin on May 2.

FORSYTH COUNTY — The debate Monday for candidates seeking the District 5 seat on the Forsyth County Board of Education saw an educator, a father and the longest-serving incumbent tackle a handful of issues.

The field for the May 24 Republican primary features Nancy Roche defending her post against Kevin Foley and Mike Tasos. The winner will face Democrat Anita Tucker in November.

Brad Wilkins, a former Forsyth GOP chair, moderated questions for the party-organized debate that covered topics such as crowded schools, parental choice, Common Core, teacher evaluations, testing and the student calendar.

Foley, a former educator with 10 years of teaching and coaching under his belt, said experience would give him first-hand knowledge of what is necessary in schools and what hurts them.

Tasos said sending his two sons through the school system would do the same.

Roche, who has held the post since 2001, said she still sees the benefits reaped from decisions made years ago. Those include the most recent strategic plan and the idea of “quality learning and superior performance for all.”

A hot-topic issue throughout every race for local elected office is that of crowding and growth.

To Roche, stopping growth is much easier said than done and that, though there may be misconceptions, the school system works with the county commission on rezoning applications. It provides an impact statement for the area to which that property is districted.

She said the district gives the commission the data but that it does not have the authority to force commissioners to act it.

The three candidates agreed in some areas, such as allowing students the choice to apply to programs at any high school and creating technical or vocational training for students who are not college-bound. In addition, they agreed there is too much testing but that some form of standards should be in place.

Disagreements surfaced when discussing the student calendar.

Roche said the calendar was created with input from the community and that just four schools were opposed to the fall break. She also noted that school must start before Labor Day to end on time.

Tasos, who writes a Sunday column in the Forsyth County News, said he is opposed to school beginning before Labor Day. He also does not think the first semester needs to end before winter break.

When asked about borrowing money for municipal bonds to construct new facilities, Foley said he is “not a fan” unless it is necessary. He said his time on the board would focus, in part, on wiser spending and cutting anything from the budget that’s not needed.

Tasos said bonds are the smartest way to obtain funding for new schools but that the district should also put an emphasis on “making improvements to what we already have.”

Roche said the bonds are necessary to obtaining funding for construction projects because 89 percent of the district’s local budget is spent on personnel.

She said if the school system does not get bonds approved, the trailers that would have to be installed instead would come from the local maintenance and operations budget.

Each candidate was given the opportunity to ask a question to the others, during which time Roche quizzed her opponents on their best asset to the board.

Foley, who did not have a question to ask the others, responded by offering his firsthand accounts of the school system garnered from teaching.

Tasos said his lack of time in the educational system would be his contribution because he would be a fresh set of eyes.

Tasos, in his question to Roche, thanked her for her service to the county and commended her on her years of work but asked whether she remained as passionate about it.

Roche said after losing her husband and her mother last year, she has the time and the desire to continue.

“I don’t feel my passion is gone,” she said.

Advanced voting begins May 2. Anyone living in District 5 can vote in the contest.