Leader Blues

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

TOP STORY > >Candidates finish filing for school board races

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

The race for Position 5 on the Cabot School Board this year is between Alan Turnbo, the executive director of Cabot Housing Authority, who has served two five-year terms, and Dean Martin, an instructor pilot with the Arkansas Air National Guard.

Voting is Sept. 16.

Tommy Vanaman, owner of Synergy Gas, is completing his first five-year term on the Beebe School Board in Position 2 and would like to serve a second, but at press time Vanaman didn’t know if he was opposed because the county clerk’s office had been closed since Friday for relocation and was not expected to open until Wednesday morning.

Turnbo, the current board vice president, says 10 years has taught him how to be a good board member. “Institutional knowledge is important to continue,” he said.

Turnbo says it’s important for board members to know they must always keep in mind that their job is policy and budget. And even if they want to, they can’t get involved in the day-to-day running of the schools.

“It’s hard to balance your personal feelings with what’s best for the kids,” he said. “You have to be a team builder. You’re not there to fix any individual problem.”

But he says he has taken on at least one major problem – low hourly wages for non-certified employees.

“It was a real balancing act to get raises for all employees not just the teachers,” he said, adding that there was a time when hourly employees were viewed as expendable. The prevailing attitude was that if they didn’t want to work for what the district wanted to pay, someone else would.

As the son of the first female school bus driver in Lonoke County, Turnbo said he disagreed and worked for increases that made it worthwhile to cook in the school cafeteria or clean the grounds, for example.

“I think everyone should make a living wage,” he said.

But Turnbo says he is also an advocate for teachers.

“Ultimately if you are an advocate for the teachers, you’re an advocate for the kids,” he said.

Martin says his interest in the education of his own two sons as well as the children he teaches in Sunday school and those he coaches in basketball and soccer prompted him to run for the school board.

“I’m passionate about putting our kids first in the quality of education they get,” Martin said. “But I also want to make sure that we’re fiscally responsible district wide.”

Martin says his work in the military has prepared him to serve on the school board.

“I’ve been in the military of 17 years and learned to work with people from varying backgrounds,” he said. “I’m used to bringing people together.”

In addition to his work as an instructor pilot, Martin also manages a $3.1 million budget for the operations group of the Arkansas Army National Guard.

Although Martin has the rank of major, he says if elected to the school board he would not volunteer for deployment and would not be deployed unless he volunteered.

“I will be there,” he said. “I am not subject to deployment with the job I have.”

Vanaman says he has helped work through a lot of changes in the Beebe School District and he wants to be around for whatever comes next.

Vanaman was on the board when McRae merged with Beebe and when Dr. Belinda Shook was hired as superintendent. He was there for the expansion of the middle school and junior high and he said he wants to see the new early childhood building completed.

“I’ve still got a son in school; Cole, he’s 15 and I’d like to see him through. I just enjoy it,” Vanaman said.