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District 11: 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?

Scott Langford:

“31 years total.”

Bill Taylor:

“I have lived in Hendersonville 28 years.  I have been a Pediatric Dentist in private practice in Hendersonville for 34 years.”

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

Scott Langford:

“I have two children in Sumner County Schools.”

Bill Taylor:

“Yes.  2 sons graduated from HHS; both played soccer for Coach Plummer and one played on the state championship team.  Their soccer experience secured both of them the opportunity to play soccer in college.”

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

Scott Langford:

“School security requires a multifaceted response.  First, there is the physical space of the school.  We have worked now to secure the entrances of all our buildings.  Second, the SROs are invaluable on many fronts.  They provide positive presence and connection with our students.  They deter/defuse many events, especially domestic situations, just by their presence.  Third, we must continue to train our staff and work hard to ensure that we are using best practices to keep our students safe.  Fourth, we need school cultures that promote healthy dialogue between students and between students and staff.  This culture allows students to speak truthfully about what they are going through and to identify other students at risk.  Finally, we need more mental health resources. We have more students that have suffered numerous childhood traumas.  They need help to provide health and well-being.”

Bill Taylor:

“The 2 critical ways to increase school security are:  1. Secure entrances/access to entering the schools and 2. School Resource Officers (SRO’s).  During the last 4 years, the County Commission provided the funds to construct secure entrances to all the schools in Sumner Co.  This month, the same commission voted to hire 5 more SRO’s immediately with the goal to fund (without a tax increase) an SRO in all schools in Sumner County in the near future.”

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

Scott Langford:

“I was first elected to bring excellence to Sumner County.  One key component of that was to bring about greater collaboration between the county commission and the school board.  We have passed a budget in June each full year we’ve been in office.  We have funded a $75 million dollar renovation project.  We have reduced the number of portables to 8 from around 75.  We have increased dramatically the amount of money that goes directly for student instruction in the classroom. I bring the ability to communicate across the county and to get people to work together towards a common goal—the excellence of Sumner County.”

Bill Taylor:

“I have successfully started and managed a small business (pediatric dentistry) for 34 years, I fully understand the demands on operating in a business-like fashion, establishing an operating budget, then working within that budget. For example: When I first became a county commissioner 4 years ago, I surprisingly discovered that the previous County Commission had passed a budget that borrowed money from the county’s savings for recurring operational costs.  Every year, they were putting the county deeper, and deeper in debt.  The general fund was almost depleted.  As most people know, deficit spending will soon catch up when your savings are gone and there are no more savings/funds available.  That was not a prudent way to operate and we took the necessary steps, forced upon us by the irresponsible previous commission, to correct how we operated. Sumner County, I am proud to report, is now very sound financially.

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

 Scott Langford:

“Much the same answer as above.  We need to work together towards a multi-faceted solution that includes the county commission, school board, cities, and state legislators.  The solution will require everyone working together.  I believe in managed growth that preserves the beauty of Sumner County.  I favor more green space, greenways, and parks.”

Bill Taylor:

“Sumner County is one of the most attractive places to live in Middle Tennessee.  Our schools are great, our property taxes are the lowest in Middle Tennessee, cost of living is reasonable, and our unemployment rate is at an all-time low. Middle Tennessee is one of the fastest growing areas in the nation.  Sumner County is part of that growth region.  As we face this coming growth, we must be smart, and plan with an eye on the overall benefit to the community.  I am confident that the current County Commission is committed to planning for our growth for the next 20 years and I intend on being an active voice in that plan.  For example, there are certain demographic demands for housing such as senior housing.  As we grow, we must also consider maintaining our character and natural beauty.”

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

Scott Langford:

“Currently, we are chipping away at where we need to be year by year.  We have been able to do so through good planning and budgeting.  Our growth economically should give us more breathing room over the next few years.”

Bill Taylor:

“The County Commission does not determine the needs of the school system. That responsibility lays with the school board and Director of Schools.  Dr. Del Phillips has done an excellent job at planning ahead and delivering us a balanced budget each year.  I am open to consideration of any proposal presented to the Commission.”

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

Scott Langford:

“Teacher pay has improved over the last four years, but we must always continue to work to increase it.”

Bill Taylor:

“Again, teacher pay is an issue that must be determined by the School Board.  Based on anecdotal information and data I’ve reviewed, it appears that teachers annual pay could use improvement.  In doing so, we must review the entire compensation package for all employees, school district and county general, and make determinations on how best to allocate resources for those employees.  I am open for consideration any plan, including teacher/staff compensation.”

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

Scott Langford:

“We have a plan that raises staff pay each year, but then also increases different bands of employees to more competitive levels each year on a rotation.  We are in a much better place than we were four years ago, but we still have work to do.”

Bill Taylor:

“See above.”

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

Scott Langford:

“The county does have adequate facilities.  I’m excited by the new technology money that we will begin receiving soon as a result of the Brown family’s gift.  I’d like to see us expand CTE and technical offerings.”

Bill Taylor:

“For too long our school facilities were neglected while petty political games were played by many elected officials.  In 2014, the school board and Dr. Phillips developed, then presented a thorough building program focused on getting the facility needs of our school district improved.  A majority of commissioners agreed to fund the building program to help eliminate portables that had been used as classrooms for decades, provide secured entrances to all of our schools, renovate and modernize buildings that had not been touched 30 to 40 years. That building program has been a great start but we still have work to do to meet the continuing demands from our growing school system.  The academic success of our school district is attracting many more people to move to our county.  As the county grows, we must be proactive in planning for our future needs.”

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?

Scott Langford:

1.    Addressing the educational needs of the next 20 years—technology,
CTE, and STEM.

2.    Continuing to manage growth by preparing the new Cottontown school campus.

3.    Increasing teacher and staff pay.

“Our economy and culture is changing rapidly.  We need to expand our tools and resources so kids will have access and training in robotics, coding, and other 21st century skills.  I’d love to see us add more 3D printers and other tools to give our kids the greatest advantages in the future.  I’d also like to see these resources available to our elementary and middle school kids.  We will also need to refit/retool to address our changing economic needs like advanced manufacturing.”

Bill Taylor:

1.    New K-12 school campus in Cottontown in the next few years and then plan again for growth.

2.    Technology: both instruction and tools/equipment.

3.    Ensuring that we don’t regress back to the days of using portables, allowing technology to age to the point of dysfunctionality, and letting our investment in our buildings go by the wayside.

“It is the responsibility of the school board to determine the needs of the of our schools and it is the responsibility of the commission to keep an open mind when reviewing those needs and then funding the requests accordingly.

Overcrowding at Station Camp High, Beech High, and White House High necessitate our newest school campus start sometime in the in the near future.”