Democrat Heather Karras says she can give north Baldwin County the voice it needs as the District 1 representative on the Baldwin County Board of Education.
“When push comes to shove, North Baldwin, at least since I’ve been here, has always complained that they have been ignored or left behind,” Karras said. “I love our community and will always support us, but if I was elected we would have a big enough voice that we couldn’t be ignored.”
She will face Republican Mike Johnson in the November general election for the District 1 seat being vacated by David Cox. Neither faces opposition in the June 5 primary and the winner will serve a six-year term.
Johnson, an educator early in his career and a pharmacist for his second career, would like to see some of the good, old-fashioned values brought back into schools. He was educated in the northern part of the county from second grade through his graduation from Baldwin County High School.
“We started the day with prayer and the pledge,” Johnson said. “‘In God We Trust’ was on our walls. I have no memories of ever feeling unsafe and wondering if someone was coming to school to do us harm. Maybe some of that old-fashioned stuff was not so bad.”
Karras, who moved to the county from Wisconsin six years ago, said she believes the spirit of the community is behind the schools in Bay Minette and has already seen some improvements there.
“Every day when I came to BMES, I would question things about the building and grounds that just made me dumbfounded,” Karras said. “Long story short and many interviews later, they made nearly $415,000 worth of repairs. The school wasn’t perfect but at least we didn’t have flooding classrooms and exposed asbestos.”
If elected, Johnson said, he wants to make sure everyone is aware of how the board spends money.
“I would work to make it easy for folks to find out information on the financial aspects of the school system,” Johnson said. “In one form or another, all of the money comes from the taxpayers and they have a right to know how the money is being spent. I think the word being used today is ‘transparency.’”
Both candidates believe discipline issues in the county system need to be addressed and Karras specifically cited bullying.
“I would like to make more defined policies for all of the schools in Baldwin regarding discipline and expectations, not leave so much up to ‘principal discretion,’” Karras said. “I believe we can do a better job regarding bullying. I see BCBE being reactive instead of proactive and I’d like to change that.”
Johnson said he’s hearing concerns about classroom behavior from teachers.
“The common theme I hear from the teachers I talk to is the lack of discipline in the classroom,” Johnson said. “Many feel frustrated that they are not be allowed to teach the subject that is their passion because they spend so much time just trying to keep order. This is a very complex issue that has to be faced.”