Get Out And Vote!

Early Voting ends Thursday, May 28, 2009 @ Emory Valley Center (for both Roane and Anderson County) 10 am to 6 pm

Polling Hours for Election Day, June 2, will be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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Having been actively involved in school issues for the last few years, I’ve listened to and studied this year’s school board candidates very closely. I feel, as I’m sure most do, that Oak Ridge is ready for a change in the direction our current school leadership has us headed. Our rankings have plummeted, enrollment has declined, and we are missing key benchmarks in educating the majority of our students. All the while, staffing has increased as has the school budget, which is up nearly 50% from ten years ago. Add to the mix the shift in demographics, and it is clear that the time is NOW to move in a new direction.

Before we can move forward, we do need to address just a brief bit of history to fully appreciate what is at stake in this election. Since 1991, there have been 9 school boards, which have included a total of 18 Chair and Vice Chair seats. In nearly all cases, those seats were voted in unanimously resulting in only 6 different people having held either seat. Between these six, they have occupied a critical seat on the school board for a total of 36 years.

Folks, this cannot go on; and fortunately, it does not have to if we so choose. For the first time in a long while, we have qualified candidates with both experience and ideas who will take a new approach to address the unique problems we face.

All of the candidates I am endorsing have so much more to offer than the space here will allow me to describe. Rather than provide a complete profile of each, I offer some of their attributes that have resonated with me.

John Soldano wants to apply a business approach to the school board. Hear! Hear! Given how few small businesses actually succeed in this country, the fact that he has successfully managed his own business for over 30 years speaks volumes. John believes that a concerted effort to scrutinize the school budget must be made BEFORE approaching city council for additional funding. I’ve never heard a single sitting board or administrative member make such a statement.

Brenda Fellner’s credentials are remarkable. With over 20 years in education, she has an extremely diverse background that will lend itself to improving our educational system at all levels. She has served in a variety of leadership roles, has worked with all facets of administration including curriculum, policy and budget development, and understands the instructional mechanisms critical to academic success. Accepting Brenda’s service is an opportunity that we cannot afford to pass up.

Dan DiGregorio has worked for our schools 37 consecutive years. With our future in mind, what is most important is that “Coach D” knows our kids. As a volunteer coach, Dan is still working directly with our children, on campus, every day! Further, he has stated that the odds of the superintendent being replaced in the near future are high and he urges voters to select the candidates they want choosing the next superintendent. I don’t know about you, but more than anything, I want Dan to help us replace the superintendent.

It is time to stop looking to the past for answers and start moving towards solutions that will benefit all of our students, and thus, our city. Individually, each of these candidates offers invaluable experience and insight. As three of five school board members, John Soldano, Brenda Fellner and Dan DiGregorio will lead our schools in the right direction.

Trina Baughn

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