Sleepy Hole candidates queried

Published 10:21 pm Thursday, October 2, 2014

The candidates for a School Board special election in the Sleepy Hole borough gave their thoughts on teacher compensation, the school system’s transportation issues and how to improve cooperation with city government during a forum at Wednesday’s Creekside Elementary School PTA meeting.

The seat is open after Diane Foster stepped down because of family issues that forced her to move out of the borough. Jim Perkinson, who served on the board for 12 years before being defeated by Foster in 2008, has been appointed to fill the term until the special election, which will be held on Nov. 4, the same day as the upcoming general elections.

Perkinson, an academic dean at Tidewater Community College, is running in the election, with retired school counselor David Mitnick and pastor and postal worker Charles Leavell also competing.

Email newsletter signup

The candidates introduced themselves and answered the three questions posed by PTA president Trisha James.

The first topic was teacher compensation, with James asking specifically what can be done other than monetary benefits to improve benefits.

Mitnick said he would connect with the Sleepy Hole representative on City Council, Roger Fawcett, to work together and find more funding to give teachers a raise.

“The fact we had 116 qualified, experienced teachers leave last year is really not acceptable,” Perkinson said when his turn came. He said he’d look at more professional development opportunities for teachers if a raise were not possible.

Leavell said he would work with federal legislators, with whom he as a relationship through his work with the postal union, to try to improve the situation for teachers. If no raise were possible, he said, he would look at providing more help for teachers, including having high-schoolers tutor elementary students.

James also queried the candidates about the school system’s transportation issues. A new bus schedule instituted last school year, combined with driver shortages, has caused an array of problems that include students not getting to school in time and getting home late.

Elementary schools were split into two bell schedules, with Creekside starting later — a fact clearly not favored by the teachers and parents in attendance Wednesday.

Leavell encouraged the audience to contact him with suggestions on how to resolve the issues.

Perkinson said the same and emphasized the need for training of bus drivers and the need to increase the number of buses and drivers.

Mitnick said he supports a signing bonus for new drivers and also supports enlisting retired drivers to come back and share routes with each other — one doing the morning route and the other doing the evening, for instance.

The last question focused on what the candidates would do if elected to strengthen the relationship between City Council and School Board.

“It appears there is this wall in between them,” Leavell said. “By nature, as a pastor, I tear down walls all the time.”

Perkinson encouraged those in attendance to contact their City Council members and urge cooperation.

Mitnick said he is already in communication with Fawcett and said the School Board needs to show it is working together.

“I think things can change, and to be perfectly honest with you, they must,” he said.