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Three candidates vying for school board give their views

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Name: Jim N. Butcher


Jim Butcher

Age: 73

Education: Tennessee High School, Emory and Henry College (B.A.), East Tennessee State University (M.A.), University of Virginia (Post Graduate in School Administration)

Q: Please discuss the Bristol Tennessee School Capital projects and prioritize spending for the projects.

A: It is my position that our school system must remain a system of choice in our region. To that end, attracting new families to our city is crucial for the future long-term health of our city. The school system must also be a system of choice for those families who do not reside in our city but want to consider maximizing the educational and extracurricular opportunities of their children by being a part of the Bristol Tennessee City School System. Attractive and highly functional facilities are critical to this end.

If indeed the school system is to be a recruiting arm of the city, it stands to reason that a well-conceived and funded plan for the systematic updating and building of school facilities is crucial. It is imperative that the school system continually identify both long range and short-term facility needs as well as determine the urgency of its needs.

The major priority in considering the immediacy of facility needs should be how meeting this need most impacts the educational experience of the greatest numbers of students. Obviously, a new construction such as Tennessee Middle School has a major impact on a large number of students.

I am proud of the expertise of maintenance, enhancements, and upgrades that our system provides its properties. However, as our buildings age, in order to best serve our population, the need for renovations and new construction will continue to grow in priority. I firmly believe that facilities that support our extracurricular activities are also a priority in giving our students the support system’s they need to gain an advantage through attending the Bristol Tennessee Schools. Whether it be to add Career Technical labs and learning space at Tennessee High School or procuring the extensive funding needed to repair and protect the iconic Stone Castle, I personally consider both as needs to be prioritized. It is my conviction that it is in the best interest of the citizens of Bristol to promote its school system by supporting its educational needs. As a school board member, I understand the importance of being good stewards of the school system’s finances. I also know that the continued sympathetic educational foresight of our elected city officials is critical to the partnership both boards play in providing a school system that continues to excel and one that most favorably impacts the future of Bristol.

Q: Define your expectations for the role of parents in the Bristol Tennessee School System.

A: Parents/guardians of students in the Bristol Tennessee City School System should have the expectation that the academic programs and extracurricular opportunities set in place by the school system are of a quality that ensure college and career readiness when their students graduate from Tennessee High School. Parents/guardians are encouraged to support those programs to give their students a quality educational experience. It is also my expectation that our parents/guardians should be encouraged to ask questions and actively seek clarifications and solutions when the success of their students needs extra attention.

I believe in affording the parents/guardians of our school system with multiple and ongoing opportunities to support their students. I further believe the key to these opportunities lies in open and transparent communication between school and home. To this end, the school system employs all the traditional forms for parent communication along with the utilization of multiple social media platforms for individual school and system wide sharing.

Q: Explain your views on charter schools.

A: Charter schools were put into place as an alternative to public school education. In Tennessee by definition, the charter was created to empower teachers to provide a high quality and innovative classroom that fits the student’s needs. By my definition, the BTCS school system accomplishes this mandate on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. There is no definitive data to determine a charter school as being academically superior to a public school, in fact the opposite is more often true. As a public school representative and advocate, I cannot support the siphoning of taxpayer money, designated for public schools, to be used to fund the private efforts of out of state “for profit” enterprises.

Q: Who do you feel should be in charge of what books are placed in Bristol Tennessee school libraries?

A: I believe the professionals charged with providing the best educational experiences for their students should take the lead in determining what books are placed in our BTCS libraries. In Bristol Tennessee, this responsibility falls primarily to the school’s certified library media specialist under the direction of the building principal.

School Board Policy 4.402.1 goes into detail as to the criteria that is to be used to determine titles that are currently on our school shelves, as well as new titles that are being considered. Policy 4.402.2 sets up the process whereby a parent/guardian, teacher, or student can request a consideration of existing or proposed library materials. A library review committee appointed by the impacted school principal composed of a certified library media specialist, a classroom teacher, at least one parent, and at times a student would be charged with the review of the material in question and a determination of an outcome.

Name: Jennifer Henson


Jennifer Henson

Age: 51

Education: Bachelor’s degree from King College

Employment: Teacher with Bristol Virginia Public Schools

Family: I am married to my husband of 30 years, Michael, and we have five children (including two daughters in law).

Matthew, 25, graduated from Tennessee High in 2015 and his wife, Adriana

Austin, 23, graduated from Tennessee High in 2017 and his wife, Jordan, a 2016 graduate of Tennessee High

Mercedes, 12, a current sixth grader at Tennessee Middle School

Q: Please discuss the Bristol Tennessee School Capital projects and prioritize spending for the projects.

A: The main capital project for Bristol Tennessee Public Schools is the renovation of the Stone Castle to make it ADA compliant. Considerations are being made as to how to be fiscally responsible to meet the needs for the Stone Castle and its visitors as well as to meet the needs of as many students as possible. BTCS does have a Capital Improvement plan that prioritizes safety and then focuses on creating aesthetically inviting and useful facilities. Other projects include finishing the athletic facilities behind Tennessee Middle School.

Q: Define your expectations for the role of parents in the Bristol Tennessee School System.

A: Parents play a vital role in their child’s education. Parents are their children’s first and most important teachers. They shape their child’s behavior and habits. Parents prepare their child to enter the learning environment as healthy, well behaved, and respectful students. Parents who work cooperatively with teachers and are involved in their child’s education see that their children have higher grades, test scores and social skills. I believe BTCS hires and will continue to encourage professional, qualified teachers that foster strong home/school communication to ensure the success and development of each child’s full potential.

Q: Explain your views on charter schools.

A: While some areas of the country need charter schools to provide a quality education, I believe BTCS is and will remain a quality choice for education. With small class sizes, emphasis on parental and community involvement and diverse learning environments, parents can feel confident that their child will receive a quality education in their local public schools. BTCS also provides its students with opportunities to develop trade skills, local internships and connections throughout the community and athletic advantages that give its students an edge over a charter school with less opportunities.

Q: Who do you feel should be in charge of what books are placed in Bristol Tennessee school libraries?

A: While ultimately the responsibility lies with school administration and school board members, BTCS has professional librarians who are integral to the process. These librarians should welcome parental input and have transparency in what books are placed in Bristol Tennessee school libraries.

Name: Debbie Darnell


Debbie Darnell

Age: 69

Education: M.A., Early Childhood and Elementary Education

Employment: Retired with 42 years as classroom teacher, Curriculum Specialist and Early Childhood Coordinator

Family: Husband, two daughters and their husbands and three grandchildren

Q: Please discuss the Bristol Tennessee School Capital projects and prioritize spending for the projects.

A: There are numerous capital projects in our aging facilities and athletic venues that need to be addressed soon. As a new member of the school board, I will gather information regarding all of these needed facility upgrades and repairs in order to make an informed decision as to how they should be prioritized. My priority will always be projects that benefit students and staff in a safe, productive environment.

I will strive to work closely with all government entities that provide funding to our school system and encourage community businesses to become active partners.

Q: Define your expectations for the role of parents in the Bristol Tennessee School System.

A: Parents are the most influential people in a child’s life. Children who have parents that are involved in their child’s learning are more likely to succeed in school. I would hope that parents support their child’s school and teachers and partner with them. Two-way communication is essential. This support is critical to creating a positive learning experience for the children we serve.

Parents should ensure that their child’s basic needs are met by seeing that homework is completed, the child gets a full night’s sleep, that the child eats a good breakfast to get their day started and should get their children to school on time.

Q: Explain your views on charter schools.

A: Charter schools are publicly funded schools but privately operated. Essentially these schools steer taxpayer dollars away from our traditional public schools. Charter schools are not required to follow local Board of Education policies but follow the policies of the governing body of the charter school. I am not in favor of charter schools.

In some areas charter schools are for profit and are making money off of taxpayers while avoiding the accountability that comes with running an independent school system.

Q: Who do you feel should be in charge of what books are placed in Bristol Tennessee school libraries?

A: Decisions that affect students should be left to the local school district. I support the existing school board policy regarding library materials that states that the Library Media Specialists shall be responsible for library collection development. Library materials shall be reviewed periodically by the Library Media Specialists to ensure the content aligns with state law.

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