Cairo Association of Teachers - Newsletter

CAT Tracks for April 15, 2007

From the Southeast Missourian...

Eight seeking three Cairo school seats

By Mark Bliss ~ Southeast Missourian

CAIRO, Ill. -- Some Cairo school board candidates feel the school district is making strides both financially and academically. But others say major changes are needed to improve the school system. Two incumbents and six challengers are running for three seats on the school board in Tuesday's election.

The field of candidates is made up of board members Arnold Burris Sr. and Vernon Stubblefield, as well as challengers Bobby Mayberry, Mary Coleman, Delbert Irish, Erica Wells, Owen Terry Jr. and Torey Purchase.

Burris, a deputy sheriff for Alexander County, has served 16 years on the school board, currently serving as board president. He's seeking his fifth four-year term.

Stubblefield was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board in January. He previously served two terms on the board.

Voters will decide the direction of a school district where many families are burdened by poverty and some students struggle to make the grade.

Candidate Delbert Irish said, "The school system is in a bad way right now."

Irish, a construction worker, graduated from Cairo High School. So did his sisters and his children.

"I want the school to get back to the way it used to be," he said, adding he wants to see improved test scores and more parental involvement.

"I don't think they are involved enough with the system right now," he said.

Coleman, a retired school employee, agrees change is needed. "I think our priorities have gotten mixed up in that it is no longer children first," she said.

The school district's administration currently includes a superintendent and a high school principal who don't live in Cairo. Coleman said hiring administrators who live elsewhere sends the wrong message.

"We can't expect somebody else to come in," she said. "We need to start investing in our own people and promoting from within."

Wells, Cairo city clerk, said the district needs to do a better job of reaching out to parents, in part by directing them to agencies and organizations that can provide assistance.

"Most of the time it is parents who have needs, and the child suffers," she said.

Candidate Bobby Mayberry said he isn't looking to change the way everything is done in the district, but he'd like to see improved communication between city and school officials. Mayberry, Alexander County's 911 emergency coordinator, said he's well-acquainted with city officials and could help bridge the communication gap.

Mayberry said he's seen improvements in the schools. "Throughout the school system, our academics have been improving for several years," he said. Cairo junior high and high school students made adequate yearly progress in test scores this school year, meeting the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"For a long time we expected our kids to fail," Mayberry said. "I think that is changing. I want to continue to see that changed."

Stubblefield, who works for a social services organization in addiction prevention, said he wants to continue serving on the school board. A graduate of the district, he said he wants to help the students.

"I have a very strong desire to see the youth of this community succeed because they are good children," he said. "I think they accomplish a lot considering the lack of resources available to them."

Burris said the school district has overcome financial troubles. "Now we are in the black and students are showing progress," he said.

"I want to continue what we started," said Burris, adding that he wants to be involved in the hiring of a new superintendent.

Terry and Purchase couldn't be reached for comment.