Sixteen years ago, the Putnam County Board of Education race drew a lot of interest. A dozen candidates filed for three open seats on the board.
The physical structure of many schools was poor. Reinvestment was minimal. Teacher pay was low. Student test scores were nothing to brag about. There was general distrust and unhappiness with how things were going in Putnam County education, hence, the large number of candidates for school board.
This year, there are four candidates running for three seats in the non-partisan election May 13.
Why the difference in interest from four election cycles ago? The board is now functioning smoothly.
In the election 16 years ago, voters elected Craig Spicer for the first time. Spicer and his colleagues set out to listen to the community – a tactic too amazingly rare among elected officials – got feedback, and provided reasoned and effective leadership.
Before floating a new school bond, the Putnam County board reached out to the citizens. “We held meetings around the county,” Spicer told the Daily Mail editorial board. “We asked, ‘What do you want? What does your area need?’ We spent a year and a half to two years to gain support.”
Since then, the Putnam County voters approved a bond levy and a maximum excess levy. Now, hundreds of Putnam County students are attending new or remodeled state-of-the-art schools, test scores are among the best in the state, Putnam teachers are among the best paid in the state and – judging from the low number of candidates – voters are satisfied.
Candidates for the 2014 election are Rob Cunningham, who was selected to fill a vacancy last October and is running for the first time, incumbent Butch Legg, challenger and retired 36-year teacher Diana McCallister, and Spicer, seeking his fifth term.
Since no more than two board members can be from any one magisterial district, the race between incumbent Craig Spicer and challenger McCallister is the only truly contested race. Cunningham and Legg are assured of continuing their seats on the board, as long as they each get at least one vote.
While sometimes an incumbent stays too long and becomes more of a blockage to change than a productive member, Craig Spicer still has much to give. Spicer is still listening, and still has fresh ideas and reflects the enthusiasm of a first-time candidate.
Likewise new board member Rob Cunningham has a strong law enforcement background and the knowledge and enthusiasm to keep Putnam County School strong.
The Daily Mail recommends Rob Cunningham and Craig Spicer for Putnam County Board of Education.