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L'Anse Creuse School Board Candidates Talk Schools of Choice, Pay-to-Play, Budget

Four of the five candidates for L'Anse Creuse Public Schools' board of education fielded questions from the community Tuesday at an open forum hosted by The League of Women Voters.

Schools of choice, pay-to-play, state funding and even the future of L’Anse Creuse Public Schools were all issues addressed Tuesday at a forum for the district’s board of education candidates.

The open forum, held at the district's Harry L. Wheeler Community Center and Administrative Offices in Clinton Township, was hosted by The League of Women Voters hosted the event. Questions for the candidates were taken from the audience.

Candidates Charles W. Eslinger, Earl Fuller Jr., Mary L. Hilton and Linda J. McLatcher were present at the forum, while candidate Sharon L. McTavish Ross was unable to attend.

All but McLatcher are running for two of the four-year terms on the board up for election on Nov. 6. McLatcher, who was appointed to her position on the board in April 2011, is running unopposed to complete her seat’s term ending Dec. 31, 2014.

Patch has compiled the following profiles based upon the answers each candidates gave to questions posed during the forum.

Charles W. Eslinger

  • Board member since 2007
  • Harrison Township resident

The greatest challenge for LCPS? Budget and the transition to the common core, which will change the way students are assessed and the way teachers present the material. 

Position on budget cuts: Opposes any cuts that affect the classroom. Proposes consolidating advanced or specific classes at one location and transporting students between schools.

Position on Schools of Choice: Considers it a catch-22. Acknowledges the program’s shortcomings, but recognizes the significant revenue the program provides the district and the commitment of many school of choice students and parents to the district. “I’m not real sure it’s the greatest thing that ever happened, but it is what it is.”

Position on Pay-to-Play: Believes it a necessity given current funding issues. While revenue generated from pay-to-participate does not cover total athletic budget, it helps “keep money in the classroom.”

Thoughts on recent state legislation affecting schools: Opposes any action to take control away from local districts.

Ideas for generating revenue: Would entertain the idea of ads on buses, but supports “out-of-the-box” approaches such as distance learning, and school and community partnerships.

Position on unions: Supports. “I think unions get bad raps. They get nothing management, or administration doesn’t approve.”

Vision for the district: Providing a good education for every student and closing the achievement gap.

Earl Fuller Jr.

  • Three children in district
  • Harrison Township resident

The greatest challenge for LCPS? Decreasing budgets, a tax code not benefiting public schools and the idea that “cuts are a way of business.” Supports actively seeking revenue and implementing programs that would allow LCPS students to compete with their peers on a global scale (i.e. foreign language in elementary schools, extended terms for math and science).

Position on budget cuts: Does not support cuts in the classroom or to school support staff. Would consider cuts to administrative staff and/or implementing a form of team concept that would drive some work of the administration to the school level.

Position on Schools of Choice: Supports it only on a K-3 level. Does not believe the revenue generated from these students makes up for the issues it creates, namely their inability to “assimilate into the culture that exists” in the district.

Position on Pay-to-Play: Opposes. Would rather raise revenue by other means, such as advertising on buses.

Thoughts on recent state legislation affecting schools: Concerned that the legislature is taking money away from the district and putting teachers at odds with the community.

Ideas for generating revenue: Advertising on busing, athletic booster clubs, special events – "anything that doesn't put the kids in danger."

Position on unions: Supports. "The right for people to form a union and collective bargain is a cornerstone of democracy."

Vision for the district: Believes the district should be looking at the educational example set by other nations. Supports foreign language classes at the elementary level and advanced math and science programs for older students.

Mary L. Hilton

  • Three children in district
  • Chesterfield Township resident

The greatest challenge for LCPS? Fiscal concerns and culture that says schools aren’t doing a good enough job of educating youth.

Position on budget cuts: Believes every department can tighten its budget and the district could reduce its cost to retain legal counsel. If pay cuts must be made, Hilton would have them made across the board, including administration, with cuts affecting the classroom being the absolute last option.

Position on Schools of Choice: Opposes, but would consider schools of choice for K-2 students. “I see a tremendous decrease in the culture of our schools (since the start of schools of choice).”

Position on Pay-to-Play: Supports, but would have all students pay the same fee, with no reduced fee for those on free or reduced lunches and other forms of assistance. “These kids can all pay. Where there is a will, there is a way.”  

Thoughts on recent state legislation affecting schools: Perceives it as an attempt by the state to control local school districts.

Ideas for generating revenue: Would look to tightening the district's budget before asking the community to pay for additional services, such as use of the district's new community center.

Position on unions: Supports. "Unions are fantastic for collective bargaining and every union contract is agreed to."

Vision for the district: "I want our schools to be the pride of our community, the draw, the thing that when a child leaves our district and goes off to college, they can say, 'I went to L'Anse Creuse schools,' and people say, 'Oh my gosh.'"

Linda J. McLatcher

  • Served on LCPS board 1992-2001, appointed to current seat in April 2011
  • Harrison Township resident

The greatest challenge for LCPS? "Fiscal, fiscal, fiscal."

Position on budget cuts: Believes the district needs to get creative in its program offerings, such as distant learning or online learning, to make the budget work without "creating a real void in educational leadership."

Position on Schools of Choice: Acknowledges the program’s shortcomings, but recognizes the significant revenue the program provides the district and the success of many school of choice students in the district.

Position on Pay-to-Play: Considers it a necessity given the current budget concerns.

Thoughts on recent state legislation affecting schools: Would like to see every piece of legislation revised to bring control back to local districts.

Ideas for generating revenue: Opposes advertising on school buses, but would consider charging for use of the district’s community center for private events.

Position on unions: Supports.

Vision for the district: "My main goal is the kids, to provide quality, concise education to every student. We know many kids bring baggage with them to school, and schools are now playing a variety of roles, but we need to look at the student as a whole and provide whatever that student needs to succeed."

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