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Former board member challenges Mt. Pine president

MOUNTAIN PINE -- Mountain Pine School Board President Michael Palmer faces Robert Parker, a former school board member, for Position 1 in the May 22 annual school election.

Palmer, an account specialist with the Fastenal Co., has served on the school board for five years. He said he has two children who graduated from Mountain Pine and currently has children in 12th and seventh grades in the district.

"I have a passion for public service, especially when it comes to youth and kids, and I felt at the time that our school was lacking and could do better as a whole," Palmer said. "So that's what first prompted me."

Palmer said the district strives to offer avenues for all students to succeed in the classroom and when they graduate from Mountain Pine.

"We've seen programs that (the board) have helped implement, technical programs, that for kids maybe not interested in going to a four-year higher education can go to a technical school," he said. "I'd say we've provided an avenue for all kids to achieve higher learning and technical education. Also, we just saw the approval of a millage and with that we're building a new (agriculture) building and a safe room."

Palmer said there are many benefits to starting an agricultural program, which is one thing he wants to see to fruition if re-elected.

"We just hired an agri teacher who is the Michael Jordan of the agri field in my book," he said.

Moving forward, Palmer said he would like to address teacher pay and school safety.

"Our teachers, of course, are always overworked, overwhelmed and underpaid, which can be said about just about any school district," he said.

Special education is another area that Palmer said Mountain Pine does well in.

"What I've seen that's positive is our special education department," he said. "Out of our total enrollment, 19 percent is classified special education in one way or another, which the state average is about 10 percent so we're higher. But that's a testament to the department.

"We actually have people that want to move in, that want their kids to go to Mountain Pine with special needs because of the great work (the department) is doing. They're doing such a great job of not separating those kids, making them to where they're equal and a part of the regular school population. That's a very key issue right there that's kind of near and dear to my heart."

Parker, who said he is a mechanic at Magellan Golf Club in Hot Springs Village, served on Mountain Pine School Board for 10 years while his children were students in the district. Now with four grandchildren students in the district, he said he hopes to serve on the board again.

"I want to see it equal for all students, whether they have special needs, I want all students to be equal, to grow and learn and shoot for their goals," he said. "I think that should be anyone's reason for running for school board, to help students reach their goals."

Parker said while there "are good things going on" in the district, like any school there are areas he feels need improvement.

"We've got improvements we can do in every area," he said. "The safety of our children is No. 1 with me. ... I want to see us beef up some of the policies in place."

Parker said he has nothing against his opponent, and that the campaign has been "very positive."

"People I don't know have come up and said they're glad to see me running," he said. "I hope everybody gets out to vote -- whether for me or my opponent -- as long as you get out and vote."

Local on 05/15/2018

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