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Forums wrap up with BOE
Hopefuls talk tech, testing
Kristin Morrissey addresses the audience during Wednesday's forum. - photo by Jennifer Sami
Both candidates for the District 2 post on the Forsyth County Board of Education appeared well versed during their debate Wednesday night.

Larry Duckworth and Kristin Morrissey offered similar views on the questions they fielded during the third of three Forsyth County Republican Party debates this week.

Tuesday’s GOP forum featured the candidates for state House District 24, while Monday’s session focused on the county commission races in Districts 1 and 3.

Wednesday, both candidates said balancing the school system’s budget was among the top priorities. While the current school board does a good job communicating with parents, there’s always room for improvement.

Duckworth and Morrissey each said they would support allowing private and home-schooled children to use public school facilities and extracurricular programs.

They also agreed there are places in the school community that could benefit from charter schools.

Both praised the school system’s Investing in Education Excellence, or IE2, contract with the state, which allows more flexibility from state mandates in exchange for increased accountability.

Morrissey said it lets the school system do what’s needed at the local level.

Duckworth said he’d like to take it a step further, suggesting the possibility of offering incentives to raise the bar.

The candidates face each other in the July 20 Republican primary. The winner advances to meet Democrat Camille Fareri in the Nov. 2 election.

The District 2 post is currently held by Mike Dudgeon, who is not seeking re-election and is instead running for the state House District 24 seat.

Unlike previous elections, which were countywide, this year’s school board and county commission races are limited to voters living in the particular district.

District 2 covers most of south Forsyth.

To solve budget problems, Duckworth said the 72 percent of funding going to teachers and classroom expenses shouldn’t be touched. The rest of the budget, however, should be closely examined.

Morrissey said she was disappointed at the lack of parents and residents in attendance Tuesday when the school board voted not to raise the millage rate to supplement the budget.

Encouraging more input from the community would be a large part of her strategy, she said.

Asked if requiring Spanish classes for elementary school students was appropriate, Duckworth said he liked the idea, but it wasn’t a top priority.

Morrissey agreed it wasn’t a priority, but pointed to her own kindergarten-age daughter, who was taking Spanish.

The program, she said, dwindled to just one hour a week, so “the problem was they weren’t getting enough of it and not getting a quality education.”

“It was not effective and it was not a good use of our tax dollars in my opinion,” she said. “I do think it’s something I’d like to see back in the system at some point, done in a better way.”

Technology is a big priority for Duckworth, a chief executive officer for

“We need to, even better, harness technology. Technology is the future,” he said. “I want to set up a process where every few weeks, a teacher, in just a few minutes, can send out to every parent by e-mail, what’s happened, what’s going to happen, how your son or daughter is doing and also what you can help out with.”

Morrissey, who serves on the county’s library board, said technology is a great way to save money, though there needs to be a careful balance between tradition and technology.

To improve graduation rates, Duckworth pointed toward the Pathways for Reaching Opportunities in Preparing for Excellence in Life, or PROPEL, program that the local chamber of commerce and school system are rolling out.

He also said there are four levels of students, from advanced to at-risk.

“What you have to do is approach each group somewhat differently,” he said. “Provide more engagement of more motivation and support for that [average] tier of students and be very proactive after the at-risk students.

“The cost of them dropping out to us is unbelievable.”

While test results are important, Morrissey said she’d like to see more.

“There has been so much emphasis from the state for our students to pass an assessment test,” she said. “I want the teachers to be teaching the students how to learn the material that they need to learn, but also how to apply it, not just how to pass the test.

“So I think that one of my No. 1 things is that they’re getting a real education and they’re not learning how to be a test taker.”

Duckworth and Morrissey followed a brief introduction to the two Republican candidates for state school superintendent.

Richard Woods talked about his experience in education and what he could bring to the office.

His Republican rival, John Barge, was not able to attend the event, however Joel Thornton spoke on the candidate’s behalf.