Pelham interviews 10 candidates for city’s first school board
By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor
The Pelham City Council will work to have the city’s first five-member school board appointed in November after council members interviewed the top 10 candidates for the position during an Oct. 29 special-called work session.
The 10 candidates shared their thoughts on everything from qualities they would like to see in a school superintendent to curriculum changes they would work to enact in the city’s upcoming school district during the interview session:
-Angie Hester, who works in telecommunications, said she has three children attending Pelham schools, and said she would like to see Pelham’s first school board battle “complacency” in the city’s education.
“I’ve seen over the last 10 years a decline in excitement,” Hester said, noting she would support expanded gifted, English as a second language, math and science-related programs in the city’s schools.
Hester also said she would like to work with neighboring city school systems, such as Alabaster, to “see what they learned with their separation.”
-Paul Howell, who works in financial services and planning and has three children in Pelham schools, said the city’s separation with the Shelby County School System will be instrumental in determining the Pelham school system’s future.
Howell said he “understands the dynamics of a team environment,” and said Pelham can learn much from the newly formed Alabaster City School System. Howell also said he would like to see Pelham’s student enrollment grow even after the Pelham-Helena spilt.
-Senitra Cook Blackburn, a human resources manager who has lived in Pelham for 11 years, said her career background would allow her to “have collaboration and keep everyone on track” in the Pelham school system.
Blackburn said she would like the Pelham school board to poll recent graduates of the city’s schools to see how their education has compared with other high school graduates, and said she would like to reach out to the city’s school teachers and administrators before making decisions.
Blackburn also said she would like to set up parent groups to help identify the Pelham school system’s main goals in the future.
-Rick Rhoades, a retired educator who has lived in Pelham from 1996-2002 and since 2007, said he would like Pelham’s split with Shelby County Schools to be done “as smoothly and professionally as possible,” and said he would work to ensure Pelham’s school offerings are “uniquely Pelham.”
“I would like to see our facilities improved greatly,” Rhoades said. “I would like to see the total educational experience tweaked in a way that will make it uniquely Pelham.”
Rhoades also said he would work to strengthen the “core” curriculum in the city’s schools.
“I would really want the base to be as good as it can possibly be first,” Rhoades said. “If you don’t start with the elementary grades, the things you do at the top won’t matter much.”
-Amy Bradley, who works in real estate and construction and who has two children attending Pelham schools, said she has been heavily involved in the schools over the past several years, and said she “knows how to take something from cradle to production.”
Bradley said she would support moving Riverchase Middle School to a more central location in the city, and said she would support continuing to work with the Shelby County School System after the separation.
“I’m still not convinced we can’t work with Shelby County,” Bradley said. “We are still a part of Shelby County. We need to still function and play with each other well.”