Election Day is fast approaching and a Tuesday night debate helped voters prepare to cast their vote. Highlighting the night at Whitewater High School, sponsored by the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, Fayette County Republican Party, Fayette County Democratic Committee and Fayette County NAACP, Board of Education District 2 candidates Sara Van Etten and Roy Rabold each made their case for why they should be the people’s choice.
Van Etten, a mother of two daughters in the school system, shared her experience getting involved in the community, from serving as president of the local MOMS Club, where they completely renovated Church Street Park, to serving on the Superintendent’s Parents Advisory Council and as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for foster children.
“As a school board member, I feel that I would be able to bring those relationships to the table, as well as the ability to bring multiple perspectives and voices towards everyone’s best outcome,” she said. “I am an advocate for children, and I am an advocate for stronger communities in which to raise them. As a school board member, I will continue to advocate for all children by promoting inclusive educational opportunities for all of our kids.”
While Fayette schools have long been among the state’s best, Van Etten believes there is no time to get complacent.
“I’m very clearly focused on the future for our Fayette County Schools,” she said. “Our past has been great. I would love to build on that, but I want to know how successful we’re going to be for each of our children 10 years from now.”
Rabold spoke of his 42 years in education, including 17 as a high school principal in Fayette.
“I am not a politician, I am an educator,” he said. “I want to run for school board because I want to stay involved in the education of the youth in this county.”
He touted his experience dealing with students, parents and the central office as integral to success.
“We have a top-notch quality system,” he said. “We are one of best systems in the state, and I want to make sure we continue to be one of the best systems in the state.”
Limited to one-minute answers, the candidates were forced to offer truncated responses to complicated issues, but there was plenty of common ground between the candidates.
Neither side supported arming teachers in light of the onslaught of school shootings.
Rabold was concerned about the possibility of a teacher pulling a gun to break up a fight among students or a police officer mistaking an armed teacher for a shooter in an active situation.
“Teachers are supposed to teach in the classroom,” he said. “Our school resource officers and the safety precautions in place should take care of what we have to face.”
Van Etten agreed that teachers already have more than enough responsibilities on their plates. She recounted a conversation with her daughter’s second grade teacher.
“Her teacher looked at me and laughed when it was posed that teachers should have weapons,” Van Etten said. “She said ‘I can’t hide a bag of Skittles in my classroom, how on earth would I keep a gun hidden?’”
On building an inclusive learning environment for all students, Van Etten said all should have the same opportunity to learn and thrive.
“I believe that any student that comes into a building needs to feel that they are being respected and they are being protected,” she said. “We need to make sure we are teaching our students and our staff members about tolerance and respect for diversity in all forms and that our students know they are coming to school in a safe environment where they are allowed to be themselves and learn to the best of their abilities.”
Rabold shared his experience in brokering a positive solution for a transgender student while he was principal at Whitewater. He met with the student, parents and the guidance counselor.
“We had a restroom situation and we were able to work that out,” he said. “If you handle these situations on an individual basis and you have the parent involvement and the counselor, things will work out for the best for the student and the school system.”
One of the few areas of disagreement came on the topic of home schoolers and participation in extracurricular activities.
Van Etten said she would support participation in any program if the home schooler meets the same qualifications set forth for any student.
“I personally would advocate for home school students to be allowed to participate in any programs,” she said.
Posed in a question specifically about ROTC programs, Rabold said he was not in favor.
“Home students should have the same opportunity they do for other programs, and that is they are not allowed to come into the schools and take individual classes,” he said. “If they can’t take individual classes, they couldn’t take ROTC.”
Following the debate, Rabold reached out to one home school parent to address their concerns. He said his response was based on his limited knowledge of recent innovations.
“Based on his research and talking with people, he feels exactly as we do,” Michael Clifton said of his conversation with Rabold. “If the homeschooler comes from a verifiable, certified home school program, such as Abeka or other accredited program, where you can verify grades, attendance, and such, he would welcome it, which is exactly our position.”
The general election will be held Tuesday, November 6.