Chambers County School Board interviews for District 2

Published 7:03 pm Friday, February 1, 2019

LaFAYETTE — In a Wednesday afternoon work session, the Chambers County Board of Education interviewed four candidates for the school board seat left vacant by Chris Busby’s recent resignation. Busby had represented District 2 for several years. He resigned due to the fact he recently moved out of the district to another location in Chambers County.

State law allows a local board to name a successor within 30 days. After that, the State Department of Education will name the new member.

“We certainly don’t want the state to make the decision,” said Board President Bill Martin after listening to each candidate say why they wanted to serve on the board. “Let’s go home and pray about this.”

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With the current vacancy, there are five current board members.

“It will take four votes for it to pass,” said Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. “Next Wednesday will be the 28th day since Chris’ resignation. We need to have it done in 30 days.”

The four candidates are Jeff Lamb, Brenda Spatz, Candace Lyons and Hugh Bryan, all of whom live in the LaFayette area. Each candidate met with the board one-on-one in an open session. Among the questions each was asked was how they felt about school consolidation. Each one said they were in favor of it.

Lamb has been a long-time teacher and coach at Beulah High School in Lee County. He told the board that he was born and raised in Chambers County.

“I have lived in District 2 my entire life,” he said.

An Auburn graduate, Lamb has been in public education for 26 years. He has two children who are presently enrolled at Auburn.

“I would like to be involved in Chambers County and to give back to the community,” he said. “The Chambers County School District and LaFayette High School were good to me in the 1980s.”

Board Member Jeffery Finch asked him if he could take time off work at Beulah High to attend board member conferences.

“Not all conferences are on the weekend,” Finch said. “Could you get off to attend one?”

Lamb said that he had cut back on his coaching duties and mostly works with the JV team.

“We are allowed five personal days. The administration is pretty good about letting us off when we need to be,” he said.

When asked about possible school consolidation, Lamb said he favored it.

“It’s probably time to do it,” he said. “I love LaFayette High school. I went there, but I think it’s time for LaFayette and Valley to combine into a new school.”

Brenda Spatz told the board that she’s a native of Alabama and has lived all over in places like New York, Florida and Texas. Her husband works for J.P. Powell Middle School and the couple lives in the LaFayette area.

Spatz said she had worked for the Texas City, Texas School District for 15 years and absolutely loved it.

“You get very close to the kids,” she said. “I did a lot of work in special education.”

Spatz said that she would have no problem in attending conferences around the state and backed consolidation.

“I’m totally in favor of it,” she said of consolidation. “It will open up more opportunities for the students.”

Candace Lyons is the daughter of the late Clifford Lyons, who represented District 2 on the school board. She didn’t mention that in her interview, something that Hodge said impressed her. A LaFayette High graduate, Lyons works at the East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika. She lives in LaFayette and has a child attending Eastside Elementary.

“I want to be a voice for our district,” she told the board. “It’s the responsibility of the board to provide the best resources they can to maximize student achievement.”

Lyons said she was fortunate in that her job had flexible hours.

“I’m sure I will be able to attend conferences,” she said. “I would bring a parent’s perspective to the board. I have a son in the system and am active in the school’s PTO program.”

“I’m for it,” Lyons said when asked about consolidation. “I think it will be for the betterment of our children.”

As the interview concluded, Lyons shook the hand of each person sitting behind the board meeting room table.

“That was the first thing her dad used to do when he came to a board meeting,” Hodge said.

The final candidate to interview, Hugh Bryan, is a retired educator living in the LaFayette area.

“I grew up in Lanett, graduated from Lanett High School, worked in the mills and in a grocery store,” he told the board. “I worked part-time in a recreation department and liked it so much I went to school to get my degree so I could coach.”

Bryan taught and coached for more than 30 years. He was at Beulah High for a period, at Lyman Ward in Camp Hill and retired from Valley High.

“I bought my wife’s homeplace on (Highway) 431, and we’ve lived there for more than 20 years,” he said. “The kids I taught keep in touch with me. They’re always calling and asking how things are going. I like that.”

When asked why he wanted to serve on the board, Bryan said he wanted to help the cause of public education. “I’m a life-long resident of Chambers County,” he said. “I feel like I can offer something to help in education.”

Bryan is perhaps best known for his portrayals of Santa Claus. That keeps him busy from November through December.

“They tell me you have to have a real beard to play Santa Claus,” he said. “I start growing mine in July. It’s pretty long by November.”

When asked about his strengths, Bryan said that he’s always been able to get along with people.

“I’ve never met anyone I didn’t like or couldn’t get along with,” he said.

On the question of consolidation, Bryan said it would be beneficial.

“I think it would save the school system a lot of time to do it,” he said. “The high school kids would be in school at the same time. That alone will help. I would like for Lanett to get off their high horse and be part of it.”

Board Member Mary Terry said she’s been impressed by each candidate.

“I think any one of them would do a good job on this board,” she said.

Martin said that board members have a way of growing into the job.

“When I came on this board 27 years ago, I didn’t know what I was getting into,” he said. “I think everyone grows into the position.”

Martin was a new board member when consolidation was being discussed in 1991. It was put to a countywide vote at that time and was overwhelmingly defeated.

Martin said he can well remember his wife telling him she didn’t want to go to Walmart with him out of fear he’d be confronted by someone adamantly opposed to consolidation. There’s a different feel this time, and Martin attributes it to today’s younger generation having a different take on it than people did 25 years ago.

Board Member Finch commended fellow board members for being a good group to work with.

“We are blessed in Chambers County to have a board that gets along so well,” he said.

Hodge agreed.

“There are other places where something like this would be a cat fight,” she said.