Candidates for Cabell County Board of Ed cite backgrounds
HUNTINGTON -- Candidates for the Cabell County Board of Education in the May 13 election are focusing on ways to ensure the success and safety of the county's public school students.
Beyond that, the six candidates for three open positions on the board point to their varied backgrounds and perspectives as the reason they should be elected. Former educators, current public officials and parents make up the pool of candidates.
Two of the three positions up for election are now held by Bennie Thomas and Mary Alice Freeman, who are not seeking re-election. Board President Suzanne Oxley and board member Garland "Skip" Parsons are not up for re-election this year.
Mary L. Neely is the only board member seeking re-election. Those also vying for the open seats are Karen Nance, Samuel R. Moore, Nazim M. Abbess II, Scott Caserta and Rhonda E. Smalley.
There are four Board of Education districts in Cabell County, which are identified numerically. State law allows for the three candidates who receive the most votes to be elected to the board so long as no more than two of the top three are in the same district.
However, District 4 already is represented by Parsons, so that means only one of the three candidates running for the District 4 position can be elected. Those candidates are Abbess, Caserta and Smalley.
Oxley represents District 2, which has only one other candidate this election, Neely. Nance is from District 1, and Moore is from District 3.
Nazim M. Abbess II, 41, is a technical support specialist at St. Mary's Medical Center with two children in Cabell County Schools. He said he wants to be sure Cabell meets the standards of education, and students have the adequate support system to be successful.
Scott Caserta, 50, has worked for Special Metals for 19 years and served on Huntington City council since 2004. He also has a daughter in the school system. He said the most important thing to him is safety and security and that students need to feel a sense of comfort and well-being in their schools.
Samuel R. Moore, 59, worked in the Cabell County Schools system for 32 years before retiring in 2010, and he is the pastor of Full Gospel Assembly church in Huntington. Moore said his biggest concern for the school system is keeping students engaged in the classroom and preventing dropouts.
Karen Nance, 59, is the owner of The Old House Doctor, a general contracting company. She said the biggest issue facing the school system is truancy, which she said leads to higher dropout rates.
Incumbent Mary L. Neely, 73, worked as the Huntington City Clerk for 22 years. She said her focus is on keeping all students focused on being committed toward being academically successful in the school system.
Rhonda E. Smalley, 64, is a clinical supervisor in Marshall University's College of Education, and she retired from the Cabell County Schools system in 2011. Smalley said she wants to focus on keeping every student in school and providing the basics they need for successful lives in the 21st century.
All candidates said they had strong feelings about tending to the needs of students on an individual basis, and they also agreed that it is important to identify each student's strengths, weaknesses and unique circumstances to help them achieve more in school.
The candidates' largest differences are in their backgrounds. Each one said that his or her background would be what separates them from the others in being a productive board of education member.
Smalley said her years of experience in the education field has helped her identify trends and problems in the area's schools.
"I have 40 years of experience teaching in the Cabell County Schools System," Smalley said. "I have three years of experience as a clinical supervisor at Marshall University, and that means I have been able to visit schools in other areas and see what the trends are in education right now."
Caserta said he felt that every candidate has good intentions, and he is eager to work for common purpose.
"Having been an elected official for the past decade, I know how the system works," Caserta said. "I have made a lot of contacts who are decision-makers, and I think that would be very beneficial moving forward as a board member. A child needs to feel supported, and the education needs to be consistent."
Abbess said his experience as a parent has helped him better understand the education system.
"I believe that the input of a parent that will be involved and has the students at heart is needed," Abbess said. "We need a little more common-sense approach to the matters that affect children and their families."
Moore said his background has played to his strengths as a problem solver.
"The two things I use to guide my decisions in life are, 'What's the bottom line?' and 'Where is the greater good served?,'" Moore said. "That, with my experience as an educator for 32 years and going through the system, would help me have some insight into what might be good to cause our system to progress."
Neely said her years in public service have helped her develop effective skills.
"The key to success for any student in Cabell County is a nurturing academic environment with parental guidance," Neely said. "My many years of public service have taught me to be a successful administrator, fiscally responsible and, most of all, a team player."
Nance said her involvement in her community has helped prepare her to serve on the board.
"I have been successful in other things in my community, not just my private life with my business and my family, but in a lot of the organizations I have been part of over the years," Nance said. "I want to use that dedication and experience in order to provide an education system in Cabell, so children can achieve better."
Follow Reporter Lacie Pierson on Twitter, @LaciePiersonHD.
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