Whoever wins the District 2 seat on the Fayette County Public Schools’ board will be personally against charter schools, which under state law must be approved by local school board members in order to open.
The candidates, psychologist Shambra Mulder and Boyle County High School social studies teacher Tyler Murphy, were clear about their feelings against charters at Saturday’s League of Women Voters forum held in advance of November’s general election.
The second district seat, which includes northern Fayette County, is open because current board member Doug Barnett is not running for reelection.
If elected, Mulder said she would obey the state law as a Fayette school board member and not put the school board in legal jeopardy.
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Murphy said he would fight charter schools as a school board member.
“I will stand against any attempt to bring charter schools into this community,” he said.
Public charter school advocates say they provide another option for families. But Murphy said he believes charter schools violate the constitutional rights of students.
“If you look at every other state that (has) implemented charter schools you can see that they’ve actually magnified inequities. They’ve siphoned funds away from our public schools and put them into the hands of private corporate owners that have no public accountability like school boards do,” Murphy said.
Charter schools were among several hot button issues discussed at the forum at the downtown branch of the Lexington Public Library.
Both candidates were emphatic that public school teachers should not be armed to deal with school safety threats.
Mulder said that on the controversial issue of redistricting students, she agrees that students should be allowed to go to the schools closest to their home address, but that students should also be given transportation to schools with special programs that fit their needs.
Murphy said the district should have more communication with parents whose children could be reassigned to another school under redistricting proposals. He there should be quality schools in every neighborhood so families are confident about all schools. He said that if neighborhoods are made stronger through community partnerships, then schools would also see improvements.
Mulder said that every child in Fayette County Public Schools — no matter where they live, how much their parents earn or the color of their skin — should graduate ready for college or career. But she said that doesn’t happen for all children. She said she is running for the seat because the school district can do better.
Mulder said she has been fighting for equity in school funding and closing the achievement gap. The gap is between students from low-income backgrounds, racially diverse backgrounds, those who are disabled, English language learners, and other students.
Murphy said he will work to expand opportunities for every child and to protect public education and teachers, who are often under attack. He said community partnerships are necessary to expand opportunities.
The candidates were asked about the school district’s biggest weakness. Murphy said it is that resources are not equally distributed in schools across the district and that people at those schools do not have an equal voice.
Mulder said the lack of racial diversity in Fayette County’s staff is a problem, as are the achievement gap and disparities in school discipline. She said mental health services and social services should be expanded in the schools.
When asked about special needs services, Murphy said the resources that schools are providing to special needs students should be monitored to make sure they are adequate.
Mulder said that expectations should be increased for students with special needs and that the district should make sure their teachers have curricula that fit those students’ needs.
Murphy said he’s in the best position to represent District 2 because as a teacher working to give students the best possible education, he understands education issues. State law permits teachers living in one district and working in another to run for school board office in their home county.
Mulder said as a college teacher, as a Fayette County parent, and as a psychologist who has worked with Fayette County students and their parents, “I have always done what’s best for students.”
In addition to the new second district school board member, there will soon be other new faces on the school board.
Kentucky Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis is advertising and taking applications for the school board seat just vacated by former chairwoman Melissa Bacon and is expected to appoint someone to the post soon.
Pinnacle Homeowners Association President Mark Stringer said recently that he plans to run for the 5th District seat when it comes open in 2020.
Daryl Love, who will hold the seat until then, said he thinks this will be his last term.
“At this time I don’t plan on seeking re-election,” Love said. “ I’m proud of the solid foundation and structure we have laid since my time on the board, and my current focus is to continue to help drive and implement the goals of our district strategic plan.”