Tony Simmons is the incumbent Republican in the Place 3 seat on the Marshall County School Board. Democrat Scott Beard is the Democratic challenger.
The men squared off in a debate at Guntersville Town Hall hosted by the county’s 3 newspapers. Kerry Chatham was the moderator.
Simmons, 70, spent 30 years as transportation supervisor for Marshall County schools. He and his wife live at Douglas and have had children and grandchildren in the Marshall County schools for more than 30 years.
He is a Jacksonville State graduate and has been on the board since 2012.
“Experience, integrity and dedication are central to my campaign,” Simmons said. “The goal of my campaign is to see that every student learns to the best of their ability.”
Beard is a Scottsboro native and a career law enforcement officer who has worked with the Boaz Police Department, sheriff’s office, state troopers and now the Department of Pardons & Paroles.
He said he was moved to run for School Board by what he saw with his own children in the school system.
“I watched my kids come home doing homework and all I saw they had was a worksheet,” he said. “They didn’t have a book to bring home. There are no computer devices being brought home like there are in other school systems. I have a problem with kids not getting the things they need in the system.”
The candidates were asked these questions and gave these answers:
Q: What makes you more qualified than your opponent to be a member of the Marshall County Board of Education?
Beard: “I grew up in Scottsboro and graduated high school there. I moved to Marshall County in 1994. I am a graduate of Jacksonville State University and Northeast Alabama Police Academy. I have multiple accreditations in handling mass casualty situations. I have the abilities and training to reconstruct traffic accidents. God forbid we ever had a bad bus crash, but I could reconstruct it.
“I worked as school security officer and was a DARE officer in the Marshall County system. I know the incoming sheriff and have a good relationship with him.”
Simmons: “I know our school system. I have been associated with the Marshall County Board of Education for 64 years since I entered first grade in 1954 at Asbury. I was transportation supervisor. I know where our students live. We’ve made tremendous improvements in our facilities since I have been on the board. I have worked with 9 different superintendents and taken 45 courses. I have earned 100 hours in board training. I am interested in helping every child learn to the best of their ability. I am committed to finding and hiring the most qualified personnel to educate our students.”
Q: How do you feel about school board members being elected by districts rather than countywide?
Simmons: “Since I am elected countywide, I’m interested countywide. I know the law. I know the intent of the law that voters passed with an amendment in 2012. I represent the children and parents in the 4 Douglas schools. I am interested in every child who attends Marshall County schools. I will make my decisions based on what is best for all the schools.”
Beard: “I’m actually not opposed to countywide school board members. A board member represents the whole county. Their decisions affect the whole county, the future of the county and the future of our children. Our kids are not doing well. Our county is not doing well. We need to make sure kids are getting the education they need. If we don’t give kids what they need, we will keep getting C ratings. We need to bring grades up so everyone prospers, not just one part of the county.”
Q: How would you solve the county school system’s funding shortfall?
Beard: "The first ting I'd do is ask for an audit. I’d like to know where all our money is going and where the shortcomings are. I’d also like to look at the capital outlay money. Folks, right now we’re behind. We’re about a half million dollars in the hole now. I don’t know where the money is coming from. We need to put money in teachers and classrooms, not at the top.”
Simmons: “One thing I know is the Marshall County Board of Education receives zero dollars from major businesses in the cities like Walmarts and restaurants. The county system has only a few tax revenue producing businesses. Just look at Claysville. We have a school there and 40 acres of property. But every revenue producing business from the river bridge to the highway department pays their taxes to the Guntersville school system. We get zero. Our communities have a few mom and pop stores that provide revenue to our schools. It means we are limited when it comes to art, music, computers and extra supplies for our teachers.
"One thing is hard to say, but I will say it. I’m just one person. But I would be in favor of one school system. The State of Florida has 67 counties and 67 school systems. There’s about $25 million in duplicated services in Marshall County. I’d be in favor one school system.”
Beard: “I’d like to close with something from Frederick Douglass. He said it’s easier to build strong children than fix broken men.
“I’d like to have more Pre-K in our system. Our enrollment is dropping. Our county schools are falling behind. I’d like to be part of the buildup and build it back up to what it used to be.”
Simmons: “I want to be a board member one more term beginning on the Friday after the election on Nov. 6. I’m dedicated. I’m interested in what is goes on. I go out and visit schools and talk to principals and teachers.
“I want the very best education for every student. Let’s keep quality education going.”