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District 1: 2018 County Commission Candidate Survey Responses

Strong Schools asked individuals running for Sumner County Commission for their responses to the following questions. The responses for those that replied are below. (The primary is May 1 2018, with early voting currently underway.)

1.    How long have you lived in Sumner County?

Christopher Shoemaker:

“I have lived in Sumner County since April 2016 but have worked in Sumner County since March 2015.”

James Smalling:

“I am a native of Sumner County.”

2.    Do you (or did you) have children or grandchildren in Sumner County Schools?

Christopher Shoemaker:

“At this time, my child does not attend school.”

James Smalling:

“No, however my nieces and nephews have attended Sumner County Schools.”

3.    What is the best way to increase school security, and if additional funding was needed, how would you provide the funding?

Christopher Shoemaker:

“The best way to increase school security comes in many forms.  I personally think that every Sumner County school needs to have a designated SRO.  Another option is the control of access and egress to the building during school hours.  If additional funding is needed, that funding could come from multiple sources.  How I would provide that funding is a loaded question.  If needed, that funding could come from a sales tax increase or a property tax increase but both of these would be considered last resorts.  I believe that every level of government has spending that could be cut to provide for the safety of our children.”

James Smalling:

“The County commissions previously approved plan from past years regarding resource officers needs to be carried out. However, budgeting funding for additional school resource officers each year until each school staffed with its own officer into the budget is not enough. It is my understanding that the sheriffs department conducts a review annually of safety measures in place at each school. Those measures that have not been completed or deemed inadequate need to be identified, prioritized for funding during the county budget process. The funding for these items could be obtained from the projected additional revenue forecasted each year as Sumner County grows. A list of priorities would essential in providing funding each year. Undoubtedly not having funds available to completely finance these projects during a few budget cycle would certainly financially burden on our citizens.”

4.    Why should someone vote for you? What unique strengths would you bring to the commission?

Christopher Shoemaker:

“First and foremost, I am not a politician.  I am a blue collar worker who wants change.  I believe the people of Sumner County need a voice of someone who knows the day to day struggle of a working family.  One of the greatest strengths I will bring to the commission is I am not afraid of a fight and I will not waiver in my morals or my values.  I will stand up to whoever needs to be stood up to in order to make the people's voice be heard.  I am a numbers guy.  I love to look at and analyse numbers and will ensure that I can account for the people's money in a way that every taxpayer can look at and understand.”

James Smalling:

“I have been a member of the Westmoreland City Council nearly twelve years. I have served as the Cities Vice Mayor in the past for over four years. I am currently a certified member of the Westmoreland planning and commission. I have experience making decisions regarding a wide range of issues pertaining to all aspects of local government, emergency services and public utilities just being a few. This will allow me to sit down on day one and adequately be able to make sound decisions regarding county policy. I am easy to approach and available to discuss anyone’s concerns. I will listen. The dedication I have exhibited to the citizens of Westmoreland has proven I’m a devoted leader and that I have taken the time to understand the process on their behalf. The citizens’ voice is important to me. My goal has always been to listen to the citizens, understand the facts, and vote in their best interests.”

5.    What’s the best way to address long-term population growth in Sumner County?

 Christopher Shoemaker:

“The best way to address the population growth is to plan for it.  It is no secret that Sumner County is growing rapidly and our governments need to plan for it.  This includes setting money aside now to plan for additional schools, infrastructure improvements and maintenance.”

James Smalling:

“Sumner County’s rapid growth is not equal in all areas of the county. While areas in northern Sumner county are growing, they still lack basic infrastructure necessary for substantial growth. The southern areas of the county are experiencing unprecedented, rapid growth—growing pains from crowded neighborhoods and expanding services to a larger population. The northern portion of the county, which I would represent, still has the available time and ample opportunity to successfully plan for the same growth experienced rapidly in the southern portion. However time is running out. Grants to offset the high cost of infrastructure would be a priority. More discussions and long-range planning is also important. Growth and development as the citizens wish to see it in their communities would be a strong factor in any plans for growth I would support.”

6.    Regarding funding education, are any options “on” or “off the table” to meet budgetary needs? Why?

Christopher Shoemaker:

“There are no options that are off the table which in turn means almost any option is on the table.  I believe that our tax payer dollars are providing for the schools but I feel our kids deserve the best education and learning environment possible.”

James Smalling:

“Yes, I’m not in favor of a tax increase at this time. The rapid growth we are experiencing is producing large surpluses of revenue that should be allocated to all areas of the county. Yes schools are important, but our emergency services and our roads are just as important. I do understand as we grow a priority should be placed on education.”

7.    Do you agree or disagree that Sumner County School teachers are compensated appropriately? Why?

Christopher Shoemaker:

“I don't believe that any teacher is compensated appropriately.  Our teachers across the country spend money from their own pockets to provide supplies for the classroom.  Teachers need to be compensated based on what it is that they provide.  I have complete faith that our teachers do everything within their power to give our kids the best education possible.  Even after school hours our teachers are preparing lesson plans and prepping for the next day. I have looked at both the Sumner County general budget as well as the budget for the school system and without a breakdown of pay for our teachers, this is a difficult question to answer.  I stand by my above statement and will make the assumption, that they are underpaid.”

James Smalling:

“No, our teachers are asked to take on more and more responsibilities each year, they often are spending their own income to provide resources for the classroom. Overcrowded classes require more time outside school hours to prepare for activities in the classroom.”

8.    Do you agree or disagree that Sumner County School staff are compensated appropriately? Why?

Christopher Shoemaker:

“Without a breakdown of what each staff position pays, this is also a difficult question to answer.  I know what the budgeted amount is for principals and various director positions and would say they appear to be compensated appropriately.”

James Smalling:

“No, the staff is asked to take on more and more responsibilities each year. They often are dealing with problems inside the school system that should be resolved at home and not in a classroom.”

9.    Do Sumner County schools have adequate facilities to meet the educational needs of students? Why?

Christopher Shoemaker:

“Our school system has improved greatly in the past few years especially in doing away with the portable classrooms.  I believe there is considerable room for improvements to be made.  As technology in our society becomes more and more demanding, I believe we need to ensure that our kids have the most effective educational and learning materials to set them up for the greatest level of success as they leave the school system and venture into adult life, regardless of if that is college or straight into the work force.”

James Smalling:

“Yes, great improvements have been made on this in previous years and should continue. Most modern problems in out schools are caused by over crowded classrooms. Bullying, violence and other outside distractions would not be as big a factor if student-to-teacher ratios were smaller and would allow for more one-on-one instruction. The overpopulated schools in our county deserved to be addressed now with a capital projects plan. The others in a long term future growth plan providing funding when the plans project the need.”

10. What are the three greatest needs, if any, do you see in our schools? How can the Sumner County Commission help address those needs?

Christopher Shoemaker:

“Without having a child in the school system, it is hard for me to say what the needs of the system are.  I do however, believe that our county employees need to be talked to especially during budget considerations as a disconnect can easily happen between management and employees.”

James Smalling:

“1) Some of our schools are over crowded. This factor alone attributes to several issues in our school system. Smaller class size would allow teachers the ability to spend more time with the students instead of dealing with factors brought in from outside the classroom. 2) Safety and security of our students is a priority. I didn’t place it as number one because I believe it will be addressed. As a leader I’m looking forward addressing the other needs. 3) Computer technology ready and available to all students is sill a concern. Some mandatory testing done on computers requires each student have one. This is not currently the case all over Sumner County. Teachers are still teaching out of outdated textbooks and the information required to be taught is being provided from copy machines. Monies being spent on copies should be reallocated to the purchase of modern textbooks.”