Election 2016: Former alderman wants to use experience for District Three seat

Election 2016: Former alderman wants to use experience for District Three seat

Former Spring Hill alderman and parent of three Eliot Mitchell said he wants bring his two decades of experience of living in Spring Hill to the open District Three seat.

Former Spring Hill alderman and parent of three Eliot Mitchell said he wants bring his two decades of experience of living in Spring Hill to the open District Three seat.

Mitchell moved to Williamson 23 years ago to send his children through the school system. He said he decided to run with encouragement from other residents. All three of his children have now graduated from Williamson schools.

By day, Mitchell works from his home as a computer programmer for an international company. He’s said the primary reason he’s running is to protect and enhance what he considers the community’s number one asset.

Earlier this year, current board member PJ Mezera announced he wouldn’t run again for re-election to spend more time with his family.

Voting Distrct 3 represents Spring Hill.

Rezoning is one of the first issues the new board will deal with together as the Nolensville schools open and Thompson’s Station on the horizon, what’s your philosophy on school rezoning, grandfathering and the anticipation of future growth for rezoning.

It needs to be seldom. It needs to be avoided at all costs. But over time, the school system has been building a classroom a week. What comes down to is the challenge of putting the empty desk where the students are.

My children over their career were rezoned at least seven times. All three of them went to new schools. My children now 23, 25, 27 went to three new schools between the three of them. I can relate to the challenges from a parental standpoint.

I think that my philosophy is the school system needs to synchronize with the municipalities on where the growth is occurring, so they can help project and improve their projections of where they need to plan schools.

Open zoning needs to be done as much as possible so it’s more of a parental choice rather than a board edict. We took advantage of grandfathering and open zoning. My daughter opened up at Independence and moved to Page.

The reality of rezoning is the friends remain friends. They don’t quit being friends because they are at different schools. By the time they got to be students in college, their roommates in college were the friends they had in elementary and not necessarily high school. So the side effect is that the children create a network of friends across all the schools.

What is your position on standardized testing – is there too much, too little?

There is too much of it, and it creates stress on everyone involved from the administrators to the teachers to the children.

What is your position on Common Core and the state phasing it out?

I am fine with the state phasing it out because it’s become so controversial. The concept of standardized teaching and curriculum makes perfect sense. You want to ensure that graduates in Memphis are every much learning something as high school graduates in Knoxville and Spring Hill.

What do you think of current state education standards?

I am not a teacher, or a trained educator. So I don’t profess to be an expert on education. We all think we are experts because we went to school. But my caveat is we need to leave the teachers to be the experts we’ve hired.

That said, my personal opinion is the standards of teaching are so tight and specific that teachers aren’t empowered to deviate from it at all. You have 45 minutes to teach these specific points, and when you have a moment in the classroom where children show engagement in a subject, the teacher doesn’t have the flexibility to take that passion to run with it because he or she has to stay on schedule. So the standardization – we have to find a balance – we have to find balance to give teachers the flexibility to explore the passions of the children.

Do you think world religions should be part of history or social studies curricula?

Yes. I think you need to teach about religion but not teach religion in schools. The world business community values diversity. I lead a team of computer experts that includes Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Christians, gay and lesbians, Hindus.

So the reality is and I work with them every day and I have to be respectful of them every day and if you are wanting to be successful in the world and business you have to be knowledgeable about cultures. Religion is key to culture. If you want to be successful in business, you have to embrace diversity.

What is your opinion of the current state of WCS and the current leadership?

The school board has one employee and that’s Dr. Looney.

That’s who we need to manage. I am fine with the leadership Dr. Looney has given. I won’t be a rubber stamp, and I will challenge and ask questions. It’s what I do. I don’t have a problem understanding concepts and principles, and asking questions to get to my understanding of it.

I am a detailed type of person. If I get enough details, I will determine whether the recommendation is consistent with my best judgement.

What is the best thing about WCS?

I think it’s probably the culture of expectations on the students. The fact that it has an expectation of high achievement and success all over the county is a culture and key quality driver.

I don’t think you can identify a single item that is the best thing. I think the dedication of the teachers and the staff is phenomenal. I think quality of our facilities is world class. I think our parental involvement is excellent and should continued to be embraced.

What needs attention and what aspect of it could need adjustment?

I think we need to consider if we are over testing because of the stress that it puts on the children.

I’ve heard some concerns from parents and administrators on the allocation of special needs resources. I don’t have a solution to that, but I think that’s one of the things as I’ve talked to parents. That’s a comment that’s come up multiple times.

I think the transportation system and strategy seems to be under pressure. We don’t have enough bus drivers, and you have them running multiple routes. So here’s an example. You’ve got busses running multiple routes for Summit and Spring station. So you have a group of kids every day in middle school that have to be managed and waiting for the bus to come back and get them. It creates a challenge of the administrator for the middle school they have 40 or 50 kids keep under control for an extra class period basically.

I also think the teachers need to be able to have the freedom to break standards to take advantage of student engagement when it occurs.

Emily West covers Franklin and Williamson County government and schools for Home Page Media Group. Contact her at emily@franklinhomepage.com. Follow her on Twitter via @emwest22.

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