By Bill Short
Position 5 School Board member Barbara Halliburton is being challenged by former member Don Holsinger in the Nov. 6 Millington city elections.
Holsinger earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in aviation management in 1979 at Southern Illinois University and a Master of Business Administration Degree in 2003 at Union University. At Louisiana Baptist University, he earned both a Master of Arts Degree in 2015 and a Ph.D. Degree earlier this year in Biblical studies.
He served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years, retiring in 1986 as a senior chief. For the past 22 years, he and his wife have been the co-owners of a successful home business selling whole food supplements.
A 2012 graduate of the Leadership Millington class, Holsinger is a former member of the Millington Industrial Development Board and Millington Area Chamber of Commerce.
He is currently a member of the Lucy Garden Club, Millington Exchange Club and the First Baptist Church in Millington.
Elected to a three-year term on the school board in 2013, he served as vice chairman in 2014 and chairman in 2015. He did not seek re-election in 2016 and ran unsuccessfully for alderman.
Holsinger and his wife Laurel have four children and eight grandchildren.
Halliburton earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in business at Indiana University and a Bachelor of Biblical Studies Degree at Vision School of Biblical Training.
Currently employed as an operations analyst at FedEx Corp., she is a member of the Millington Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association, Independents Fellowship International and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
Halliburton and her husband Benjamin have a son and a daughter.
The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen appointed Halliburton to fill the vacancy created in school board Position 5 after Ronnie Mackin resigned on Feb. 1 to open an insurance agency in Sevierville.
The winner of that position on Nov. 6 will serve during the remainder of Mackin’s unexpired term, which ends on Dec. 1, 2020.
Both candidates recently responded to the following questions prepared and distributed by The Millington Star:
1. What additional policies do you think the newly elected school board should adopt after it is sworn in?
Holsinger said it is not the board’s function to adopt “a bunch of new policies,” because it already has a “very extensive” Policy Manual. Although the policies are “customized” to the needs and requirements of the municipal school system, they must comply with federal and state law.
Because the law requires the policies to be evaluated at least once a year, Holsinger said portions of the Policy Manual are reviewed each month by the school system administration and the board.
While some policies are very specific, he acknowledged that most are very general. The superintendent and the schools themselves develop procedures to implement them.
Halliburton noted that, as a member of the board’s Policy Committee, she has reviewed the current policies. She is “comfortable” that they are “wide-ranging, thorough,” in line with legal requirements and in the best interest of Millington students.
She believes new policies and/or policy changes should be made to meet the needs of the students as the educational “environment” changes.
2. List three significant issues in this election.
Both candidates cited the need to improve academic achievement and address aging facilities.
Halliburton also listed increasing enrollment numbers, and Holsinger stressed communication from the schools to the community.
3. Specifically, how do you plan to deal with each of these issues if elected?
Holsinger noted that the ACT scores have “grown” each year since the school system was established. To continue this “upward trend,” he said the quality of instruction must increase, with an emphasis on areas that need improvement.
He also said the system must be supplemented with “specialized” teachers.
“The board sets the salary scales and benefit packages,” he noted, “which must be molded to attract and retain quality educators.”
Holsinger said that, when the four Millington schools were received from the Shelby County School System, they all had “massive amounts of deferred maintenance.” He said they need to be upgraded and maintained.
“Since starting the school system,” he noted, “this has been accomplished without a property tax increase, which our critics said could not be done.”
Holsinger acknowledged that communication has been an issue since the system’s inception.
He believes new Superintendent James “Bo” Griffin will be a “positive and active ambassador” for the system in the community and the media. But he noted that the special attention and effort of the entire administration and board is also needed.
Because the three issues Halliburton cited are “interconnected,” she said they can be addressed under one “umbrella.”
She noted that growth in the form of improved academic achievement and increased enrollment will help support the district’s efforts to address aging facilities and infrastructure.
Halliburton said that, when those responsible for educating Millington’s students are given what they need to operate at their “full potential,” the students are the “ultimate recipients” of the benefits.
She believes those benefits will serve as a “billboard” for what Millington schools have to offer, which will allow the district to attract and retain more students and even more talented educators.
4. What do you think is the biggest concern facing the municipal school system at this time?
While Halliburton cited declining student enrollment at Millington Central High School, Holsinger said the task ahead is to “continue the progress” and move the system to the “next level.”
5. What do you think should be the school system’s next priority in implementing its Five-Year Capital Improvements Plan?
Holsinger said the construction of a new elementary or middle school is a “planned initiative” scheduled for the 2019 fiscal year. Because of the physical condition of E. A. Harrold Elementary and Millington Middle School currently “near or over capacity,” he said the needs of both schools must be considered.
Halliburton proposed an “improvement plan” for E. A. Harrold.
“While it is always ideal to build a new facility,” she acknowledged, “it is not always feasible. I believe the district should explore an innovative approach to expand the existing school in phases to achieve the desired enhancements to the building.”
6. What specifically makes you best qualified for the position you are seeking or seeking to retain?
Holsinger said that, with the experience he gained during the board’s first three years, he understands the effects that a proposed policy or procedure will have on the classroom teacher and the individual school staff.
Halliburton said she brings her business background, leadership experience, communication skills, objective thinking, willingness to challenge the status quo and “laser focus” to making the school system “the absolute best.”
“I sought the school board appointment earlier this year in order to put my abilities to work for the community in which I live,” she noted. “And I stand ready to continue accepting the challenge.”