3 Democrats challenge incumbent for MPS District 1 board seat

Updated: Jun. 1, 2018 at 12:05 PM CDT
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Liletta Mahone Jenkins (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Liletta Mahone Jenkins (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Marcus Vandiver (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Marcus Vandiver (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Frederick Turner (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Frederick Turner (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Three Democratic candidates will be on next week's primary election ballot for District 1 seat on the Montgomery County Board of Education.

According to the Montgomery Public Schools website, District 1 includes Dalraida Elementary, Garrett Elementary, Morningview Elementary, Capitol Heights Middle and the Children's Center.

The seat is currently filled by Dr. Lesa Keith, who is running for re-election.

Liletta Mahone Jenkins

Jenkins works in the Alabama Department of Early Childhood of Education, and she said seeing the number of MPS schools there were deemed "failing" by the state was alarming.

"I said to myself, "Someone has to do something,"" Jenkins said. "Since I have a son who is a ninth-grade student at Robert E. Lee High School, I just threw my hat in the race and said these schools need help, and I am going to be that person who tries to help our schools."

Jenkins said understands, as a widowed single mother, the necessity for a strong public school system. She said her first priority if she were to be elected, would be to find adequate sources of funding for MPS.

"If you see a lot of what is going in the news with our school system, it all circles around funding," Jenkins said. "We don't have a month's reserve, we're closing schools because of funding, we're laying off teachers because of funding, we want to outsource jobs because of funding."

She said she would actively search for new ways to bring in funds such as gr ants and also work to develop relationships with the City and County to promote local funding sources as well.

Her other priorities would be to provide quality education to all MPS students, to create a learning environment that yields students being able to read and write at-grade level, providing students with the skills they need to be college and career ready, preparing students for standardized testing and safety.

Frederick Turner

Turner said his decision to run for the school board came about after three people suggested the move to him in one week.

"My wife and I looked at each other and said "Well, that's the Lord telling us to pursue it,"" Turner said.

Turner is a Montgomery-native and a product of MPS. However, his involvement in the system did not stop when he graduated in high school.

"I coached a couple of years at Carver High School, my alma mater, where I graduated from," Turner said. "Then, from there to various schools, Lanier, Bellingrath, and McKee."

If elected, Turner said his top priority would be to listen, observe the community and get a firm grasp on what the needs are and addressing the issues.

"The only way you can write policy in a fair and just way is if you understand what's going on in the schools," Turner said. "You can't do that if you're not going into the schools."

Turner said he believes being young is one of his strengths. He said he has a lot of energy, passion and a desire to learn and assume a position of humility when entering schools and serving his district.

"Being a leader is not about getting someone to believe in you," Turner said. "It's about getting someone to believe in themselves. I believe it doesn't matter how many credentials you have. As we see, there are a lot of people on the board with a lot of credentials, but then we go into our public school system and they're failing."

Turner said he prioritizes relationships and already has strong ties with community leaders and business leaders that he could bring to the table in partnership with moving MPS forward.

"You can't train a person to be genuine and care," Turner said. "That has to be something you have in your heart. I believe that's something the Lord has given me, that relationship with people."

Turner's other priorities are reshaping the culture in MPS schools to boost an expectation of excellence and an excitement for learning, supporting teachers, enforcing policies to keep cellphones out of classrooms to eliminate distractions, safety in schools and putting prayer back in schools and public education.

Dr. Marcus Vandiver

Vandiver currently worked for the Alabama Department of Education as an education administrator in the research and development sector. However, he said his motivation for running for the board more so comes from his own personal

passion for education and opportunity than his job.

He said he wants to serve the nearly 30,000 children currently enrolled in MPS.

"Right now, with everything that's going on with finances and student achievement, I think they need a voice," Vandiver said. "I feel like I can be that right voice."

After reviewing information about test scores in MPS' traditional schools and discipline issues, he said he believes it's time for new ideas and a new train of thought. He said his first priority if elected, would be to get everyone on the same page.

"In Montgomery, there is still this undertone of race," Vandiver. "Maybe with this new board we can move forward…I'm sure that's a tall task, but with this new board maybe we can all start to move forward and start healing."

Vandiver is also a self-proclaimed "numbers guy". He said he would prioritize looking at data as well as culture and climate and eliminating things that are costly and ineffective.

His other priorities are putting students first, communicating and engaging board actions with the community, using data to back up decisions, new ideas to spark student achievement and addressing discipline and catering to millennials and their learning needs

The primary election is June 5th. The winner of the Democratic primaries will face incumbent Republican Dr. Lesa Keith, who currently serves as the vice president of the school board.

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