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Chatham Coalition announces fall election endorsements
· Flint O’Brien, Board of Education, District 1.
· Pete Rubinas, Board of Education, District 2.
· Sally Kost, County Commissioner District 1.
"All three of these candidates are knowledgeable about the critical issues facing Chatham," said Coalition Chair Jan Nichols. "They have demonstrated a clear commitment to excellent public schools, sustainable economic development, responsible land-use planning and open government."
School Board candidates O’Brien and Rubinas are strong advocates of improving teacher salaries and working conditions, and of building and improving community-based schools so that all children in Chatham have equal access to excellent educational resources. They both favor “green” economic development to expand the tax base so that Chatham doesn’t have to rely solely on residential property taxes to pay for schools. Both of O’Brien’s children attend North Chatham School. Rubinas has two young sons at Perry Harrison School and newly adopted twin daughters from Tanzania who will enroll there next year. (See below for further details about the school board endorsements.)
In the County Commissioners race, Kost had already earned the Coalition endorsement in the May Democratic primary, which she won handily with more than 60 percent of the vote. She has extensive experience, knowledge and commitment on the key issues. She currently chairs the Chatham County Planning Board, where she has been a strong advocate of responsible land-use planning to avoid suburban sprawl and further school overcrowding. She has more than 20 years of experience in public finance (including six years as budget director in adjacent Orange County), with special expertise in school construction costs. Her Republican opponent Jeanna Bock has been a no-show at candidate forums and has not been publicly campaigning for the seat.
The Coalition is not endorsing anyone in the three-way District 2 County Commissioners race. Though incumbent Mike Cross (Democrat) has had a mixed record on several important “smart” growth and open government issues, he has shown more commitment to land-use planning and economic development than either of the two challengers. Bob Knight (Unaffiliated) and Andy Wilkie (Republican) are arch-conservative, anti-government candidates whose pro-sprawl approach to development is reminiscent of the previous administration when Bunkey Morgan chaired the commissioners.
Details on School Board Endorsements
The school board endorsements are based on four candidates’ responses to a Coalition questionnaire and on their experience, comparative skill sets and understanding of key issues. (Complete questionnaire answers are available online at www.chathamcoalition.org) Candidate David Hamm did not respond to the questionnaire.
While each of the four respondents indicated support for improving education for all Chatham County students through the public school system, their personal experiences show a different focus.
O’Brien and Rubinas have demonstrated a clear commitment to Chatham County’s public schools by sending their children to community-based public schools that come under the jurisdiction of the County Board of Education, and by advocating for policies that would enhance facilities and programs at community-based public schools across the county. O’Brien founded GoodSchoolz.org, a grassroots organization dedicated to improving all public schools in Chatham. He has been a strong advocate for building new schools and enhancing our existing schools to address overcrowding and inadequate facilities. Rubinas, an at-home parent of four young children, believes that all Chatham students deserve a high quality education and that the way to provide that is by investing in community-based public schools. Candidate Mia Munn has focused much of her time and advocacy on promoting charter schools as a solution to inequities in the public school system. She is a fan of the Thomas Fordham Institute, a pro-charter school organization. Munn sent two of her three children to Woods Charter School, rather than to the community public schools governed by the County Board of Education. Candidate Gene Galin also enrolled one of his children at Woods.
"We prefer School Board members who show a personal investment in Chatham’s community public schools by enrolling their children in them," Coalition Vice-Chair John Hammond said.
O’Brien and Rubinas also have personally demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of the connections between responsible land-use planning, economic development and quality schools. Rubinas served on the board of Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities, a leading advocacy organization for responsible land-use planning. Munn, in her survey answers, indicated that residential growth can bring additional monetary resources to the public schools, when in fact the opposite has been true as increasing school costs have exceeded revenues from residential property taxes.
O’Brien and Rubinas, on the other hand, believe that sprawl residential development has crowded our public schools without providing sufficient tax revenue to build the facilities needed to prevent overcrowding. For these reasons, they favor “smart growth” land-use strategies to manage residential and commercial development in a fiscally conservative and environmentally sensitive manner.
Moreover, both O’Brien and Rubinas have demonstrated they are interested in cooperative problem solving – working with administrators and board colleagues. They understand the role of the Board and of the Superintendent and have stressed the importance of respectful communication and dialogue. O’Brien has already met with school administrators, administrative staff and many school principals to learn about and discuss the critical issues.
In the questionnaire, O’Brien and Rubinas advocated strongly for significantly increasing teacher salaries and improving their professional working environments so that Chatham can compete with the most competitive surrounding counties to attract and keep excellent teachers.
All four candidates said it was important to seek input from teachers and parents. However, Galin, who administers the Chatham Chatlist and the Chatham Online Bulletin Board, indicated that bulletin-board type surveys might elicit effective communications with parents and teachers. He didn’t seem concerned that many Chatham households do not have access to high-speed Internet, or that the bulletin board posts are less likely to elicit thoughtful responses from a cross-section of the community than a more scientific, objective survey. O’Brien and Rubinas emphasized the importance of seeking input from the entire community through a range of more scientific survey tools, face-to-face meetings with parents and teachers, and dedicating more time at School Board meetings for public input.
Galin’s campaign raises another concern. His ownership and editorial control of the Chatham Journal, the Chatham Chatlist and the Chatham Online Bulletin Board, which often cover discussions of Chatham Schools, poses a conflict of interest for him as a candidate, and an even more serious conflict if he is elected to the School Board.
O’Brien and Rubinas, through their answers, their personal experiences and their commitment, demonstrate a thorough understanding of the critical issues facing Chatham County Schools and a commitment to improving the public school system for all of Chatham.
Candidates contact information: Sally Kost, 919-367-0727; mobile 919-696-7840, email@example.com; Flint O’Brien, mobile 919-260-8411, home 919-932-7400, a STYLE="text-decoration:none" href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com); Pete Rubinas, mobile 919-302-7054, firstname.lastname@example.org.