Braving the rain, more than 40 residents showed up to hear the candidates speak at the forum, which was held in the Seminole County School Board Chambers.
Pond, who has served on the board since 2008, has worked in education for nearly 30 years, specifically at Lyman High School and Seminole State College. During her introduction she said it is this experience that makes her a better candidate for the school board in Seminole County.
Lockhart, who currently works with the Seminole County Board of County Commissioners, said having children in Seminole County schools will give her a better perspective to serve on the board. She also said she will focus on solutions for the board’s shrinking budget.
That budget was the first topic of discussion, and while Pond said the board should focus on increasing millage rates to maintain income from previous years, Lockhart said the board should look further into the budget to weed out inefficiencies as well as look at program costs.
When asked how they would challenge the status quo as members of the board, Lockhart said she would focus on making the school system paperless – specifically proposing the schools develop a phone application to help parents fill out paperwork.
Pond said the schools have already focused on such an initiative, and that she has worked to challenge the status quo by bridging the gaps between vocational studies and academia.
A hot topic from past years – the Environmental Studies Center which has been near closing several times – also came up, with each candidate offering differing views for its operation.
While Pond said the center was pretty much self-sustaining and in better shape than the past, Lockhart disagreed, stating the board needed to work with the county and cities to see if there was a viable plan to keep it open.
Another hot topic facing Seminole County schools was the number of homeless students and the board’s role in providing them help. The topic was brought the public’s attention after CBS’s “60 Minutes” featured several homeless families from Seminole County earlier this year.
Pond stated the homeless students of Seminole County receive ample aid, being fed breakfast and lunch and being able to take home backpacks of food. However, she did state she felt the subject received “too much publicity.”
Lockhart seemed to feel the opposite, stating they cannot highlight the issue enough. She also said the schools should work closer with local non-profits to partner for help for homeless students.
One topic the two seemed to agree on was FCAT testing with Pond saying kids were given “too many tests,” and Lockhart stating the FCAT was “destroying our system.”
The two will face off during the primary election held Aug. 14. The elected school board member will then serve four years on the board, working with newly appointed Superintendent Walt Griffin.