By Alyssa Schnugg
Hotty Toddy News will be running stories about local candidates in the upcoming Nov. 3 election throughout the rest of the week. Today we focus on Lafayette County School Board races for Districts 1 and 5. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order for fairness.
Four people have thrown their hats into the Lafayette County School Board District 1 race this year.
Each candidate believes the LCSD can be one of, if not the best school district in Mississippi and pledge to work toward that goal.
The Lafayette County School District Board is comprised of five members. School Board members are elected in municipal elections on even-numbered years to serve six-year terms beginning on the first Monday in January. The major responsibility of the Board is to set policies that define the nature of public education from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
Jamie Anderson, a pharmacist by trade, graduated from Lafayette schools in 1988 and praises his teachers there who helped push him to achieve more than he ever thought he could.
“Lafayette County schools currently are an ‘A’ grade and I see Lafayette having some opportunities to improve, but how do we get them to an A-plus?” he said. “I want to be a board member that pushes the schools, the educators, the students, the administrators to achieve more than they thought they could and make Lafayette a great school district.”
Anderson said if elected he hopes to help the district improve its drop-out rate.
“In 2017-2018, Lafayette had a drop-out rate of 17%, and the state average was 16%,” he said. “I want to look at how we can decrease that.”
Anderson also wants to look at how the district can help those students who don’t plan on going to college after graduation.
“What are we doing for those kids to help them develop skills that will make them more valuable in the workplace?” he said.
Other goals for Anderson, if elected, including improving communication between students/parents and educators; the administration and the board members; focusing on the bottom 25% of students; and financial transparency and efficiency.
“I believe we should make what we do at Lafayette transparent,” he said. “Are we addressing basic needs financially or wants? We need to make sure we have the basic needs – the supplies, school buses – or are we spending money on wants?”
Anderson said he is a “big fan” of in-person education would push for keeping the schools safe due to the COVID-19 pandemic to allow all students the ability to be in school to learn.
Anderson said he believes his experience in running a large organization with $80 million in revenue with 150-200 employees gives him leadership experience. He has also served on a school board for a private school in Columbus.
“I do my homework and I ask the right questions,” he said. “I’m not just going to rubberstamp whatever comes through.”
Anderson, who earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, has two children attending Lafayette County schools, Olivia in the ninth grade and Carson who is in the sixth grade.
Andrew Bilbo, a father of four children, said he decided to run because he has a vested interest in the success of the school district – not only because of his own family but for the families he calls friends and neighbors.
“Lafayette County is blessed to have such great schools, and with ongoing development in the county we will need great leaders to continue to meet the challenges which face our school district,” he said. “I understand the importance of open lines of communication, transparency, and parental involvement in education. I want to work to ensure those components remain an important part of the school district. I will be a board member who takes the time to listen and who actually hears the concerns of parents, teachers, and county residents.”
The academic advisor to health professions students at Ole Miss, Bilbo said his ideas, experience and values make him the best candidate. He believes every child deserves a quality education and will fight to ensure that each student is able to have that while also being a responsible steward for the tax dollars used to run the district.
“If elected, starting next academic year I would have more children in the school district than any of my opponents or current board members,” he said. “I would also be the sole member of the board with a child at the lower elementary school. These facts set me apart from my opponents as well as the incumbent members of the board.”
Bilbo believes his experience as a teacher and adviser at the college level gives him a better insight as to how schools can better prepare junior high and high school students for their futures.
“And most importantly, my Christian faith will guide my actions as I represent the people of District 1 and my family on the Lafayette County School Board,” he said.
Bilbo said three main goals of his are to work to increase transparency, promote fiscal responsibility, and to foster ongoing family involvement in our schools.
“Successful schools are places where parents participate in their children’s education; where parents and children alike are active in the community. As a member of the school board, I will be accessible to both parents and teachers.”
Bilbo said he would also work to ensure the School of Applied Technology remains effective and given the attention “it deserves.”
“Vocational training is an essential element to equipping many of our youth with the skills needed to succeed,” he said. “It is also an important tool in reducing drop-out rates.”
Bilbo has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science with a minor in history from the University of Mississippi and a master’s degree in political science from the University of Texas-Arlington.
He and his wife, Amanda, have four children – Luke, 11; Preston, 9; Mack, 6; and Scarlett, 4.
Chick Drewrey said his love for Lafayette County schools is what motivates him to be on the Board.
“From the lower elementary to the high school, the district children, faculty and staff are very important to me,” he said. “I want their future to be even brighter, and I will work hard to achieve that if elected to serve on the school board.”
Drewrey has worked as a teacher, coach and school administrator for the district.
“I believe that my experience in so many areas of the school will benefit Lafayette if elected to the school board,” he said. “I know the inner workings of the school business, and my vision for the future will be an asset in making decisions and setting policies that will benefit the students of today and tomorrow.”
His familiarity with the schools and those who walk the halls is what Drewrey says puts him above the other candidates.
“I know the kids who ride the school bus because I’ve taken the route with them. I know the bus drivers who transport our children because I served as the district transportation supervisor,” he said. “I’ve worked in the cafeteria, the alternative school, the central office and I’ve helped supervise the coaches as the district’s athletic director. There isn’t one facet of the school business at Lafayette I haven’t experienced.”
Drewrey said his goals for the district are simple but accomplish what is most important and that is to always do what is best for the students.
“There will be no other agenda,” he said. “I will always do what is right for every child, just like they were one of my own. I will never be a ‘Yes’ man, and I’m not afraid to make the tough decisions.”
Drewrey grew up in Denmark, Miss. and has four daughters, three of which graduated from Lafayette schools. His youngest, Alivia, is a senior at Lafayette. His daughter, Alex, is a kindergarten teacher at Lafayette.
“I have two grandchildren who currently attend school in the district,” he said, “with a third that will be there in a few short years. I will always be invested in Lafayette.”
Drewrey is currently employed by Winters Construction as a job superintendent. He has a master’s degree in school education and is a retired teacher, football coach and school administrator.
Steve Treloar’s ties to the Lafayette County School District go back a long way.
In 1980, he and his family moved to Lafayette County from the Delta when Treloar’s father took over running the School of Applied Technology.
He said he decided to run for the school board seat after being approached by “several” people suggesting he should get on the ballot.
“I really enjoy being involved with Lafayette,” he said. “The school system has always been a big part of my family’s life.”
Treloar, the owner of Oxford Paint Supply, said his business has given him the opportunity to get to know many local families and business owners.
I’m not a politician by any means, but I do know how to manage and deal with the general public,” he said.
If elected, his goals would be to help keep Lafayette the great school he remembers from his youth.
“The rules from the handbook should be enforced equally among all students. I’m definitely not a fan of the “buddy system,” he said. “I want to make sure students have everything they need to make it to the next level.”
Treloar is a graduate of Lafayette schools and attended both Northwest Mississippi Community College and the University of Mississippi. He and his wife have two children who currently attend Lafayette Schools.