Opposed candidates in the 2018 primaries gathered to eat lunch and answer questions from the Golden Isles Republican Women Monday.
Glynn County Commission and Board of Education candidates participated in two separate panels.
Republican school board District 2 candidates Mike Minutelli, David Sharpe, Eaddy Sams and Lance Turpin participated, along with county commission Republican candidates for At-large Post 1 Jane Fraser, incumbent Mark Stambaugh and David O’Quinn. Commission District 3 candidate Tom Boland, a Republican also participated. Neither school board At-large candidates, Republicans Mike Hulsey and Trae Ross, attended, nor did Republican commission District 3 candidate Wayne Neal.
Each candidate was given one minute to answer questions submitted by the people in attendance. Scott Ryfun, a local radio talk show host, moderated the event, and asked the school board candidates what they would do to give teachers more autonomy in how they teach students.
Sams said teachers are subject to too much bureaucracy and should given more creative freedom in presenting educational material to children. Sharpe said high-stakes testing needs to be reined in and teachers should be given disciplinary authority to remove disruptive students from their classrooms.
Turpin echoed Sams, saying teachers deal with too much bureaucracy, adding that they need to be able to give real feedback without fear of repercussions. While there isn’t much local schools can do about lesson structuring, decentralizing school leadership would help free them up, Minutelli said.
Next, the candidates were asked to address criticism of the school board’s choice of location for the new Altama Elementary. School board members voted recently to approve construction of the new school next to an old superfund site.
Sharpe and Sams did not support the decision. Sharpe added that a full investigation needs to be conducted on the land. Sams said just because they already own the land doesn’t mean they have to use it.
On the other side, Turpin and Minutelli supported the decision. Turpin previously served on the board and said he had seen nothing to suggest it presented a threat to students’ health. Minutelli said much the same, adding that he would not do anything to endanger children.
When asked about school safety and arming teachers, all four offered suggestions to improve the safety of school system facilities. Minutelli and Sams didn’t support arming teachers at all, instead suggesting school resource officers should be given more funding. Turpin and Sharpe supported arming only teachers who want to carry weapons.
On discussion of a new toll for the F.J. Torras Causeway, county commission candidate Boland said it would not be fair to those who work on St. Simons Island but live on the mainland.
Stambaugh said he still had too many questions about the specifics of its operation and where the money would go, while O’Quinn said no, period. Fraser said it’s a complex question, and she would also need more information.
Referencing advertisements for Fraser’s candidacy, Ryfun asked if the budget was too large and, if so, how the candidates would reduce it.
Fraser said she would start with the areas of most growth, but that there are plenty of easy cuts the county can make. Boland said the county is growing, and the budget will naturally grow with it.
In last year’s budget negotiations, Stambaugh presented a number of cuts but did not get any support from the rest of the commission. He said he would do so again this year, if necessary, but also agreed with Boland’s earlier point that some budget increases were essential.
O’Quinn said the county should start at zero every year and make every department justify their expenditures, which would make it easier for the commission to cut out the fat in the budget.
Finally Ryfun asked the candidates if they supported consolidating with the city of Brunswick. O’Quinn, Boland and Fraser said they should instead focus on building a better relationship with the city and working collaboratively, while Stambaugh said he would support it if the city took the initiative.
Early voting for the primaries is ongoing until May 18 at the Office Park Building, 1815 Gloucester St. in Brunswick, and at Glynn County Fire Department Station No. 2, 1929 Demere Road on St. Simons Island. Primary election day is on May 22. For more information, call the Glynn County Board of Elections at 912-554-7060.