CLINTON — The four candidates vying for two open seats of the Clinton School Board basically agreed to agree on almost every issue put before them at the School Board Candidate Forum on Thursday night.

Brian Angwin, Aaron Bitner, Joani Kittoe and Stephen Teney were given the opportunity to answer questions ranging from why they were running for school board, to ways of improving the district, to extracurricular programs, the renewal of the Local Option Sales Tax and their thoughts on No Child Left Behind.

When asked why he was running for school board, Teney said he was an educator and has been an educator pretty much all of his adult life. He currently teaches at Clinton Community College.

“My desire as an educator is to help students learn,” he said. “I think we owe it to our kids to give them the best education we can afford.”

Angwin said he believes a “strong public educational system is really paramount

to have in a viable, strong, healthy community.”

He said his daughters attended Clinton schools. “It really is a good (school) system. It has served my children well and I have the desire to see that continue on in the future.”

Kittoe says she wants to serve on the board because she has worked with kids all her life.

“I care truly about kids. I think I’ve got a lot to offer. I believe we need to take care of them because they are our future.”

Running for school board was a “no brainer” for Bitner. “It was very clear to me that this was what I wanted to do to have the biggest impact as I could.”

He feels that in being a school board member he could make a difference in a lot of lives.

Kittoe says her strengths are being honest and not being afraid to speak her mind. “I stick with my convictions. I truly care about kids.”

Bitner thinks it’s important when decisions are made, to stand by that decision.

“At least see it through,” he said. “If you’ve made a good decision by getting all the available information that you can, you should be able to stick it through and if it doesn’t work, be willing to admit that it didn’t work.”

Teney explained his strengths as working hard and that he is honest.

“Integrity means a lot to me. Without integrity you don’t have much of anything,” he said.

Angwin believes his management and leadership skills will benefit the board. “I don’t like to react based on emotional-type concerns, but instead work from a basis of fact and reason and logical problem solving.”

In response to the question regarding the district’s strengths as well as areas that need improvement, Angwin said as he looked at the district over time, it is its willingness to adapt and change.

“Not only in the way they conduct their curriculum and the way they manage their programs but also in facilities... There is a good desire and interest within the staff to adapt and change to try to grow the educational process.”

But he also believes there is always room for improvement. “We need to look for those unique and innovative ways to adjust our programs to modify as necessary to continue to make us successful.”

Kittoe believes one of the district’s strengths is in its teachers. “We have a lot of great teachers in this district,” she said. “They continue to go through changes and they continue to give the kids the best they can give them.”

Bitner says one of the strengths is the school board and the district’s willingness to keep improving. “There are probably not too many systems that you can put into place and stay that way forever.”

The only thing Bitner says that needs work is communication. “I see sometimes that something is very important and the public doesn’t understand exactly how important it is or why it’s important — including the levies.”

Teney thinks the district’s greatest asset is the people it employs — the teachers and the staff. He says teaching is a very challenging job. He also believes the 21st Century After School Program is an asset to the district but more work needs to be done to get funding for the preschool program.

The candidates were also asked if they would support the renewal of the Local Option Sales Tax.

Teney said he hadn’t done the research on the issue but said the No. 1 thing kids are in school for is their education.

“We have to do the best job we can. If it means we have to raise taxes somehow, I would vote to do that... but I would try and make that as painless as possible.”

Angwin said that “as members of this community we are obligated to provide an adequate education to our folks. Now the state is not going to give us the funds but they gave us the tools (levies) so now the burden falls on the local board to go out and provide the necessary communication and gain the support to use the tools they’ve provided.”

Kittoe says she truly believes the state has fallen short in providing school funding. “I also believe the biggest problem is educating the community as to what we need. I think a lot of people are just seeing dollar signs. They don’t realize the things it takes to keep a school up and running... I would definitely back it (sales tax). I couldn’t be on the school board or a part of this community without backing it.”

Bitner says the district needs to receive as much funding as possible from as many different sources as possible — including sales tax, property tax, levies. I do believe this is what I would support.”

The forum was sponsored by the Clinton Council of PTAs and the Clinton Education Association. The event was moderated by Karen Rowan, vice president of the state PTA.

The event will be broadcast in its entirety on KROS Radio 1340 on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

Voters will go to the polls Tuesday to elect candidates to fill the two seats vacated by Dr. Donald Flory and Debra Olsen.

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