Candidates for upcoming election speak to Chambers County equity group

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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The Chambers County Equity Initiative, formerly known as LaFayette Teachers Against Displacement, held an education town hall on Monday night in LaFayette.

Two candidates running for school system positions spoke on their platforms and answered questions from the audience. Information was provided on the voting process and registering to vote.

Sharon Weldon, a Republican candidate for CCSD Superintendent, and Frederick “Reco” Newton, a Democratic candidate for District 1 school board president, participated in the town hall. Both spoke about their plans once in office and the current state of the Chambers County School District.

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The CCEI prefaced the candidate presentations by saying that Dr. Casey Chambley, the incumbent Republican candidate for superintendent, and Jeffrey Finch, the Democratic incumbent school board president, were not invited to speak at the event. 

“In full transparency, all candidates were not invited. We looked at the candidate’s platform and because we are the Chambers County Equity group, we didn’t believe some candidates fit with the equity,” said Dr. Travis Smith, a founder of the CCEI. 

However, Smith added, “It is not our goal, the purpose of this is not to tell you who to vote for. That is your business, that is your responsibility. What we are encouraging you to do is to vote.”

The first to speak was Newton, who discussed growing up in Valley, attending Valley High School and his 20 years of experience teaching and coaching football. 

“I felt like in my area of expertise in Chambers County that the people in Chambers County, residents and stakeholders, weren’t given a voice,” Newton said. “I have set up a page on Facebook, I’m in the community and if you have any questions you can always approach me and ask me those questions.”

Weldon then got an opportunity to talk, citing her history as a fellow graduate of Valley High. She spoke about the initial integration order in Chambers County, which took place when Weldon was in second grade. She spoke candidly about the initial fear of integration as a young girl, and of her teacher, Mary Jennings, who Weldon said was her first close interaction with a Black person. 

“I can’t tell you what I learned in second grade as far as the second-grade curriculum. But I can tell you what Miss Mary Jennings taught me about life. She taught me how much alike we all were,” Weldon said. 

She discussed some of the issues surrounding the consolidation of the high schools. Weldon was particularly concerned about the transportation to and from the new school for students outside of the Valley area. While she did not say she would support a change in the location of the new school, she did say she disagreed with the choice to put the school in Valley. Newton said if he were on the council at the time he would have recommended keeping both high schools and not consolidating. However, he conceded that the district is moving forward now.  

Both candidates and the leaders of CCEI discussed the upcoming primary on March 5. They made it clear that any registered voter can choose between a democratic or republican ballot regardless of party allegiance.