School board candidates take part in forum

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Three candidates for the Cape Girardeau School Board tackled district issues in front of a handful of community members Monday night.

Luther Bonds was the only non-incumbent at the event while current board members Charles Bertrand and Kyle McDonald defended their seats. The forum included questions submitted from the audience and the candidates provided answers for an hour.

Bonds is executive director of the Cape Girardeau Boys and Girls Club and has a son at Central High School. He said his involvement with students and administrators on a continuing basis gives him a first-hand view of issues in the district.

"Each opportunity I'm here, I'm advocating for him and all students," he said.

Bonds said he would rather contribute to the solution than complain.

"I can be a team player, and I can play any position," he said.

McDonald, the current board president, highlighted his understanding of the district operations through his work on the board during the past three years. He said he wants to create a new facilities plan to take the district into the next 20 years, add prekindergarten to all the elementary schools and start a scholarship program for minority students, among other goals.

Bertrand was more blunt when speaking about his experience with the board of education.

"In those four years I've been on the Cape Girardeau School Board, the graduation rate has decreased and the dropout rate has increased," he said, listing other district issues.

"I'm very disappointed with my results," he said later.

The candidates addressed questions concerning the state of the school facilities and possible construction projects.

The district is working with the community through a series of forums to create a new facilities plan. Overcrowding, renovation needs and additional high school facilities came up in discussion during the public meetings.

McDonald and Bonds said they would support a performing arts complex at the high school to showcase talent and keep students involved.

"I think we owe it to [students] to have a state-of-the-art facility," McDonald said.

Bertrand said academics should be improved before the district tackles construction projects.

"I won't apologize for voting no for those things," he said. Bertrand also said he did not support building a new school or redrawing the elementary school boundaries, possibilities under the emerging facilities plan.

Bertrand said the district needs to "organize and align the curriculum horizontally and vertically" so the same material is taught at every level at every school. Focusing on student success will help other district issues, including parent involvement, he said.

"If the kids are successful, the parents are successful and everyone in between is successful," Bertrand said.


Pertinent Address:

301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

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