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District 6: 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?

Deanne DeWitt:

“Our family moved to Sumner County in late 2011.”

Leonard Assante:

“I moved to Sumner County in 1995. 23 years! I’ve lived in both Gallatin and Hendersonville.”

Kevin Pomery:

"40 years."

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

Deanne DeWitt:

“We have two daughters currently enrolled at Station Camp middle school.”

Leonard Assante:

“I am single so have no children.”

Kevin Pomery:

"I am a product of Sumner County Schools and I now have 3 children in 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?

Deanne DeWitt:

“I absolutely believe there’s no single best way to increase school security. The evil that has invaded our schools is unpredictable and illogical.  I do believe that School Resource Officer‘s (SROs) have an extremely valuable role in heightening everyone’s awareness and providing a source of authority that students trust.  I have witnessed our SROs develop strong relationships with our students and these relationships (like those that often develop with her teachers) can prove invaluable when emotional disturbances threaten their environment. I think Summer County Schools does an excellent job of taking every statement or threat seriously and this is one of the biggest keys to our security. Like any new funding requests, the Commission needs to look at future year budgets to determine what cuts, what additions are necessary while taking into consideration additional funds that will come into the budget from growth in population.”

Leonard Assante:

“There is not one single thing that will do it. We need a multi-faceted approach, including: a) Fully trained and equipped SROs in ALL schools in the county, b) School design features that optimized security while maintaining an excellent learning environment. Secure and monitored entrances, surveillance equipment, automatic lock-down features, improved in-building communication, c) Increased training of appropriate school personnel in mental health issue awareness & response. School funding is the single largest and most important item in the county budget, so I would support any needed additional funding coming from the county general fund.”

Kevin Pomery:

"Over the last 4 years we have greatly improved our security with the building program that did away with portables and made all of our schools have a secure entrance. We have also added 21 SRO officers over the last 4 years. The goal is to have an SRO at every school. Any time you increase there is a need for additional funding, it just comes down to making it the priority."

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

Deanne DeWitt:

“I strongly feel that I'm the best person for the job in District 6.  I have a proven track record of service to Sumner County Schools through my work as PTO President at Jack Anderson.  I typically worked (volunteered) 40 hours a week during those two years because I wanted our schools to be the best they can be.  I have an engineering degree and am blessed to continue volunteering full time using those skills to the benefit of my community.  I am extremely analytical and resourceful in gathering all the facts before making any decision and I will bring that vigor to anything put before the County Commission.”

Leonard Assante:

“I have been a teacher for 27 years. I have both instructional and administrative experience and have had thousands of Sumner County graduates pass through my classrooms. I know education and I know the strengths and weaknesses of our students. In addition, I have been studying and teaching communication and leadership skills for over 30 years. I believe in the value of effective communication and would bring that mindset to the Commission. While I have lived in Sumner County for many years, I have also lived in several other states and communities, including high-growth areas. I have seen the negative impacts of uncontrolled growth and I think that Sumner County can learn from the mistakes and successes of other communities to make sure we stay true to our nature, true to what makes this such a great place to live.”

Kevin Pomery:

"I believe that my best quality is that I am an independent thinker who is not afraid to fight for what I think is best for the people of sumner county. I am very good steward of money and a very persuasive communicator."

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

 Deanne DeWitt:

“While growth is inevitable in a thriving community, we must be vigilant in managing that growth.  New projects need to be consistent with existing developments to protect our home values while ensuring we have the services to meet increasing demand.”

Leonard Assante:

“Again, we must take a multi-faceted approach to dealing with growth. This includes: a) Regularly updated master plan for the county, developed with input from all the cities and the citizens. The plan should have both long-term and short-term aspects, b) Infrastructure first! Based on the plan, develop needed infrastructure (roads, sewer, utilities) in an area before the growth requires it, c) Citizen input and communication. Growth in an area should not come as a surprise to those who live there, d) One element of the plan should be preservation of what makes this community special. Growth should be planned and managed in a way that is suitable to the nature of the area under consideration. For example, much of Sumner County is rural in nature, this should not change, e) Infill! Growth should be planned to minimize sprawl and rather “fill in” already-developed areas.”

Kevin Pomery:

"The county has very little control over zoning issues, as they are made by the individual cities. We know this: the growth is coming and we need to have our schools, courts and roads prepared to handle it."

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

Deanne DeWitt:

“We need to do whatever necessary to avoid another double digit tax increase!  We can't pretend that growth isn't impacting the needs of our county and delay necessary adjustments to keep pace.  That said, I believe we are currently in a very healthy financial position and can maintain this delicate balance without increasing taxes.”

Leonard Assante:

“Again, this is the most important thing we do. No options should be ‘off the table.’”

Kevin Pomery:

"No there are no options off the table. I will continue to work with the director of school to make ensure our schools are funded adequately."

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

Deanne Dewitt:

“I'm pleased that we offer the best benefit packages in the surrounding area and I know that has had a positive impact on our recruitment and retention.  I believe we can do better on direct compensation and hope our School Board and leadership continue to make teacher pay increases the top annual priority.”

Leonard Assante:

“They are clearly not. Sumner County has the 4th-highest median income in the state, yet our teacher pay comes in at 54th.”

Kevin Pomery:

"I believe that is hard to ever pay a good teacher what they are worth. The director of schools has increased teacher pay each of the last 4 years and I have and will continue to support it."

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

Deanne DeWitt:

“One of my bigger concerns is the value we place on the staff cleaning our buildings and driving our school buses (and the like).  We have classified staff starting at under $7.50 an hour! Our state may not have a minimum wage but our county can do better.”

Leonard Assante:

“I do not believe they are. For example, we are 37th in principal pay.”

Kevin Pomery:

"gain, I believe that our school staff is very valuable and I will continue to support the director of schools in giving our staff raises."

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

Deanne DeWitt:

“In most cases we provide great facilities for our students and staff.  I'm grateful the tough decisions were made to invest in many of our buildings in recent years and appreciate the focus on eliminating portable units which pose a disruptive and not-equally-safe environment.  There's little doubt that we will need to continue building and renovating to meet increased enrollment and I believe our leaders are making the necessary plans to keep pace.”

Leonard Assante:

“Generally adequate, but I have observed some inequality in facilities across our district. All schools should provide a high-quality learning environment, including physical plant, furnishings, technology, learning resources and staffing. Building quality or number of computers with high-speed Internet access should not depend on where in the county you live or how much money your local PTO raises. Ideally, PTO’s should be out of the fundraising business and be more about developing relationships between parents and teachers.”

Kevin Pomery:

"I think that our schools are very adequate especially after the building campaign that I supported is finished. If re-elected I will work to make sure we don’t fall behind."

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?

Deanne DeWitt:

1.    Remain invested in highly competitive teacher pay and benefits.

2.    Double down on our efforts to invest in technology and level the playing field for technology access between schools in more and less affluent areas

3.    Safety - do everything in our power to help our students and our staff feel safe within the walls of our schools

“The County Commission and their Education Committee create a strong communication channel between the funding source and school leadership.  I expect these entities to work together prioritizing the greatest needs and creating solutions to fulfill those needs.”

Leonard Assante:

1.    Salary increases to keep and reward our best teachers in accordance with our cost of living and standard of living.

2. School safety and security

3. Excellent access to technology and other resources equally in all schools

“See answers to questions 7 and 8 above.”

Kevin Pomery:

1. Technology                    

2. Staffing ( computer teachers) 

3. Security
 
"I want to be clear that the county commission does not get a say in the line by line spending of the School System, those decisions are made by the school board and the Director of schools. The county commission role is to provide funding for the budget that is presented to us. I believe that the director of schools and school board have done a great job of addressing the needs mentioned in this survey and I will continue to support their efforts."