MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Four Democratic candidates will be on the June 5 primary election ballot for the District 6 seat on the Montgomery County Board of Education.
According to the Montgomery Public Schools website, District 6 includes Floyd Middle Magnet, Carver High School, Davis Elementary, Johnson Elementary, MacMillan International Academy at McKee, McKee Middle, Floyd Elementary and Bear Exploration.
There were originally five candidates running but Democrat Jessica Johnson Anderson withdrew from the race. The seat is currently held by Robert Porterfield, who is running for re-election.
The primary election is June 5. There are no Republican candidates running for the position, so whoever wins this race will hold the seat.
Deena Weston says she has spent the past decade preparing to serve on the MPS board. All of her children have been through both traditional and magnet schools in the system and she says she has made it a priority to attend board meetings and have well-working knowledge of the issues facing the system.
Weston's campaign slogan is "Expect More", a concept she says was born from an experience she had when volunteering at one of her children's schools.
"I went to my board member and said, "Hey, these are some things that I'm seeing. Is there anyway that I can help you? I think that I have solutions. What's the process?" Weston said. "My board member told me, "I'm on the board. We vote on policy. We don't go into schools.'"
Weston says that answer was not good enough for her. As an MPS parent, she says she has a good understanding of what is happening in the schools, which she believes is crucial to creating effective policy.
When it comes to finances, Weston says she would work to build the necessary trust it takes to encourage local support of the system. She has worked on a number of projects at different MPS schools and did not have problems finding people to financially support it, but she says it takes trust.
"In my experience, Montgomery is a very generous community," Weston explains. "If I build that trust with the community around that school, they give to it."
Weston also says Montgomery has a long history of people making sacrifices for the right to vote, so she does not take school board votes lightly.
"I'm running for a seat that would cause Midtown and West Montgomery to unite," Weston states. "I don't take that lightly, either."
She says she is a proven leader, which she believes is what the school board needs as it prepares to take on the weight of an accreditation review and continues to move through state intervention. She thinks she would bring leadership, a hands-on approach and community connection and engagement to the board.
Claudia Mitchell taught in MPS for nearly 30 years and wrote the curriculum for the technology magnet program at Booker T. Washington Magnet High School. She is also a proud graduate of Carver High School. Mitchell says her perspective as an MPS graduate, educator, and parent makes her the right choice for this position.
"I watched when the report came out, and I could not believe that we had gone down that far," Mitchell said. "I said, "Somebody has to do something.'"
Mitchell says she would bring a collaborative work ethic to the board if she were to be elected.
"It's not always so much what you do but how you do it," she contends. "You need to work with dignity and respect."
Mitchell's top priority would be working on student achievement by ensuring there are plans and policies in place to effect that type of change. Mitchell thinks the biggest change she has seen in MPS since she was teaching is a loss of unity.
"When I was teaching, parents were involved, the community was involved," Mitchell recalled. "Together, we stand. Divided, we fall. We have to come together."
Her vision, if she is elected, is to use her passion and knowledge of technology to create some type of online tool where people in the community can connect with schools to find out what their needs are and how best they can meet them. She says she has tried multiple times to volunteer or provide assistance to MPS but could never find the right place to do it.
Unified support from the community and a restored expectation safety and excellence in the classroom are Mitchell's top priorities.
Reverend Timothy Bass
Reverend Timothy Bass is an associate minister at Hutchinson Missionary Baptist Church. His wife works in MPS, and both of his children are products of the system. He says this is his second run for the school board.
"We're just trying to make it better for our kids and all kids," Bass explains. "Let's make school safe, fun, and educational."
As a faith leader in the community, Bass says he believes he would bring a unique but important perspective to the board.
"To keep morality front and center, that's what I bring, a flavor of morality," Bass states. "To keep all of us spiritually innovated so we can get insight from God and do what is best for His people."
When it comes to MPS' financial woes, Bass believes more transparency at the top would help make the community feel more comfortable with supporting more funding for MPS.
"If we make it clear what we're doing with the money we have, then we can feel more comfortable coming before them and asking them to help us out," Bass explains.
His major priorities would be promoting school safety, especially with the number of guns found in MPS in the past few years, enforcing discipline in schools, and supporting teachers because he thinks they are under a lot of pressure.
Robert Porterfield is the incumbent for this seat. He is a former MPS teacher who currently serves as the president of the MPS board, a position he's held for two years, along with his nearly 12 years on the board.
Porterfield says he should remain on the board because he's been a part of all of the changes in the past few years.
"I understand all of what's going on as it relates to the position that the district is in," Porterfield says.
"We were sold to believe they were coming in and bringing supplies as well as tools to help the children," Porterfield explains. "When I look back, it's as if we invited in the Trojan Horse. Rather than coming to help, much of what has been done has destroyed parts of the district, especially when it comes to funding."
Porterfield's passion and motivation is for public education, which he says needs to serve all children regardless of background or ability. He says he will continue to stand up and serve the needs of every student in public schools in Montgomery.
"It's very important that we address the needs," Porterfield explains, "especially those things that have been identified as critical areas of concern, we need to address those and get out of intervention."
Porterfield says his goal is to get MPS out of intervention sooner than expected by working collaboratively with the superintendent, hiring a competent CSFO and putting students first.