Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

TOP STORY > >Voters pick candidates for school board seats

Leader staff writer

School board elections are Tuesday, but those who want to cast their ballots early for races in Lonoke County may do so at the courthouse in Lonoke. Anyone who wants to vote at all in the race for Beebe School Board will have to cast an early ballot or an absentee ballot at the White County Courthouse in Searcy because none of the regular polling places will be open.

The race in Beebe is really a non-race. Tommy Vanaman is running unopposed for his Position 2 seat and the school district is not asking for a millage increase. So regardless of how the election turns out, Vanaman wins and the millage stays the same.
But in Cabot, the race for Position 5 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.

Turnbo, the current board vice president, says voters should choose him because his 10 years has taught him how to be a good board member.

“Institutional knowledge is important to con- tinue,” 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, however, he has worked to get wages up both for teachers and 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.

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 for 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.

Polls will be open in Cabot from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.