Local News

Hutchinson touts active role in schools


School Board of Highlands County District 5

This week, Highlands Today will be running question-and-answers from School Board of Highlands County District 5 candidates on why they are running and what they think are the challenges the school board faces. Early voting is from Aug. 16 to 23 and the primary is on Aug. 26.

Q: Provide a bit about your background – your profession or if retired what you did for a living.

A: I have lived in Highlands County all my life. Graduated Avon Park High School in 1964, Polk State College in ‘66, University of Florida in ‘69 (with a ) BSA in agriculture. Worked in family citrus business from 1969-2004. Substitute taught from 2005-2008. I am an Episcopalian married to Edna. I have three children all schooled in Highlands County. I am a veteran of the National Guard, was 1st lieutenant.

Q: Why do you want to be a school board member?

A: Because I want to make everyone in Highlands County aware and understand the most important thing we can do is saving the lives of our children.

Q: What are the major issues facing the school board and how do you plan to address them?

A: Bulling is not a major issue.

Low graduation rate and high dropout rate. Give guidance counselors professional training to enrich all students and parents on an annual basis, starting in kindergarten, to set goals. Also track their path by showing them that gateway education is for lifelong learning and an enjoyable employable skill.

Students by middle school will have to take responsibility whether they want to be in a career academy with certificate or college pathway and understand by middle school that dual enrollment is two free years of college

High truancy Kindergarten through 12th grade

Get an army of phone volunteers to call all parents of absentees to address their issues. If a student becomes a habitual truant, then send notices to authorities to lose driver’s license and reduction of child support funds.

Budget and ½ cent sales tax, if passed.

A school board priority would be to ensure two bids on all purchases. For example, there was one bid to change all locks at LPHS for $64,000. Was it a good price? Keep an eye on every penny spent before it is spent. Ensure taxpayer that every penny spent is for essentials. Construct and repair what has to be, not million dollar PE fields and/or replace covered walk ways.

Charter schools are coming in the superintendent’s last full year. (Superintendent Wally Cox has told Highlands Today he has not decided as of yet whether he plans to run again.) The school board must seek ways to work with and challenge itself to lessen the negative economic impact on the district.

End Highlands County School Board federal lawsuit involving elementary school children; take the ethical high road that has the least impact on these children. Let’s be compassionate about the families, their offspring and spending our tax payer dollars.

Q: Are there any issues or policies, etc., that have been addressed by the board or superintendent, that you disagree with?

A: My view point is this: I am the most knowledgeable candidate. My maturity tells to work with the superintendent and board on all issues, and keep an eye on every penny spent.

If elected I would request the superintendent and the school board to have a multi-day retreat to ensure better team work and be on the same page.

The junior member needs to work with the superintendent, show respect to the senior members and show them I am a servant leader.

Q: Why am I the best person for this job?

A: Because I am the most dedicated, capable, fit, able-bodied, and experienced of all the candidates.

I’m the only candidate to:

Volunteer over 1,000 hours in all schools

Go to most school board meetings in last 7 years

Teach in all schools

Attend three full legislative sessions for education

Have an education advocate booth at the fair since 2010

Travel the state from Escambia to Monroe

Go to five national education summits

Donate over 14,000 in pencils and notebooks

As the election gets closer the gravity of this election gets big.

We have just lost two knowledgeable members, and in 2016 we will lose our superintendent. (Superintendent Wally Cox has told Highlands Today he has not decided as of yet whether to run.) To include the challenge of a new charter school changes the dynamics greatly. So Highlands County will go through its greatest education changes in its history over the next four years.

If the Champs Charter School system is successful as they intend to be, paying teachers more and giving them bonuses for higher grades (may be needed.) And if we don’t move forward in improving our schools this won’t be the last school Champs builds in Highlands County. Gone will be the day of being thrilled with school grades with no As. We will be a petri dish for more charters.

I understand the issues before they hit us in the face.

Community/ school involvement:

Past vestry member of St. Agnes Episcopal Sebring.

Have substitute taught in all schools in Highlands County except Memorial and all schools in Lake Wales Charter system.

Volunteered over 1,000 hours in Highlands County School District putting in over 50 hours in 15 of 17 schools with special projects in the other two.

Assisted in track and field and cross country APHS and SHS.

Girls cross country coach, 2007 APHS.

Highlands County Fair education advocate booth last four years 2010-2014.

Since summer of 2007 have attended more school board meetings than all school board members except one

Given away over 14,000 spiral notebooks and pencils to all schools in the district, including all private schools.