By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Visitors to the Professional Educators of Norman’s Town Hall meeting left Tuesday evening knowing a little more about the district’s two candidates for the Norman Board of Education, Seat 3.
According to the Cleveland County Election Board, residents in 13 Norman precincts will be eligible to vote for the third seat on the board, totaling 13,706 eligible voters.
Gary Barksdale and Cindy Nashert gave opening and closing remarks and answered questions posed by an audience of some 30 teachers, Norman Public School administrators and community members.
Prominent themes raised for the candidates’ commentary were school security, the A-F grading system, teacher evaluations and each candidates’ top priorities for NPS if elected.
Barksdale introduced himself as a “lifetime educator” and “Normanite,” detailed how his volunteer efforts have been education-centric and emphasized his career choice being that of an educator over higher-paying alternatives.
Nashert introduced herself as a mother of NPS graduates and 14-year business owner, emphasizing her attention to fiscal responsibility and describing her experiences of community leadership and how her motivation of “giving back” was faith-based.
Over the course of the 40 minute meeting, Nashert and Barksdale did not exhibit marked opposition or disagreement on most topics raised and failed to deliver clear answers on how they would handle policy issues such as the A-F grading system or state-level advocacy for NPS if elected.
Both candidates voiced vehement concerns regarding school safety, with Nashert ultimately opposing arming teachers and Barksdale maintaining his support of arming teachers, though voicing it more moderately than his initial public communication to the school board in January.
“My proposal to the school board is not unusual and is not something other districts haven’t adopted themselves. I don’t claim to be some kind of security expert. I hope to work with those entities that provide security, possibly use military personnel to help us put together safety drills for the kids in schools,” Barksdale said.
“School security is something to start acting on and stop just talking about,” Nashert said. “I have a really hard time expecting a teacher to carry a gun — highly trained police officers have a 50 percent chance of hitting their target in a high stress situation, and placing a teacher that loves my child every day in that position is very hard for me. I think there are other alternatives.”
Listing their top three “most pressing issues” for NPS, Nashert listed fiscal responsibility, school safety and equity in education. Barksdale listed safety, excellence in education and fully addressing teachers’ needs.
The candidates’ closing remarks were emotionally driven, with Nashert reading a letter she wrote to her son on the occasion of his high school graduation, citing her experience as an NPS mother as a core motivation for her seeking involvement.
“It’s because of this incredible experience that I had with him in the 12 years he was in Norman Public Schools, and I want to make sure that continues for other students. Thank you for this opportunity,” Nashert said.
Barksdale detailed how he and his family members were deeply affected by their teachers, describing grade school teachers’ influence being second only to that of his mother.
“My teacher would pinch me on the cheek, give me a hug and tell me every day that she loved me. All I want to do is be that kind of a person. God called me into education, and I hope to be able to serve Norman so I can continue to see that kind of compassion and excellence,” Barksdale said.
The school board election will be Tuesday. For information, visit www.clevelandcountyelectionboard.com or call 366-0210. Election results can be followed live at www.normantranscript.
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