2016
05.21

On Tuesday, Walker County voters will decide if Phyllis Hunter should return to the school board for a fourth four-year term, or if she should be replaced by political newcomer Casey Eady Searels.

Who are the candidates, and where do they stand on school issues that matter?

2016 ELECTION Q&A: HUNTER V EADY

Both candidates for the Republican commissioner nomination were e-mailed these questions at 1:04 AM on May 9th. They were asked to respond by noon on May 12th. Eady responded before the deadline. Ms. Hunter did not respond by the deadline and has yet to respond or acknowledge the message sent to her school board e-mail address.

Since Hunter opted to ignore yet another opportunity to directly communicate with her constituents, her questions will be answered (where possible) using past news reports. She has, unfortunately, made few public appearances or statements to draw information from. LU research answers and commentary are in italics.

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
What is your full name, age, and home address?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
Casey Eady Searels. I was married on April 16, 2016. My last name will remain Eady for campaign and election purposes.
Age: 28
Dogwood Circle
LaFayette, GA 30728

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

According to WhitePages.com, Hunter lives on Dripping Springs Rd. off Hwy. 136. Hunter was 40 when she first ran for her position in 2004, making her 52 or 53 this year.

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
How can voters contact you or stay in touch with your campaign? (Please include info like e-mail, phone, Web site, social media, etc)

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
votecaseyeady@gmail.com or casey.l.eady@facebook.com
423-883-9049

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
How long have you lived in the area, and have you lived anywhere else? If you’ve lived elsewhere, how does Walker County compare to those places?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
I have lived in the area since I was 5 years old and was born in Macon, GA. I lived in Kennesaw, GA while attending Kennesaw State for 2 years. Kennesaw is located in Cobb County and is different from Walker County in that it is a college town and a part of Atlanta. It is more fast paced and densely populated than our quite mills towns and agricultural communities.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

School CrossingQ&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
Starting as early as you want, what kind of education do you have?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
I attended North Lafayette Elementary, Lafayette Middle, and graduated from Lafayette High School in 2006. In December 2010, I graduated magna cum laude from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management. While advancing in my career at Unum, I obtained a Master’s of Business Administration from Bryan College in December 2015.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Reports from 2004 say Hunter has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from UTC.

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
What jobs and/or previous elected positions have you held?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
Unum: Integrated Billing Coordinator, January 2014 to present
Unum: Customer Service Representative, January 2012 to January 2014
Hampton Inn & Suites: Sales Coordinator, March 2011 to January 2012
Astec Industries: Receptionist, June 2008 to March 2012
MCH Properties: Receptionist, July 2006 to May 2008

No elected positions.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

The same report from 2004 says Hunter has been employed as a CPA and before joining the school board worked at North LaFayette Elementary as a “parent involvement specialist” and writing lab instructor. She had also been part of several volunteer committees within the school system, including PTO President. She has held no prior elected positions.

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
What do your education and experiences contribute to make you a better School Board member?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
My education and experiences contribute heavily to make me a better School Board member. The fundamental role of a local board of education is to establish policy for the local school system with the focus on student achievement. At my current employer, I have taken an active part in doing the same for our business area as it relates to achievement. Based on my experiences in the workforce, I can exhibit a strong commitment to working with the others on the board toward the common goal of providing the best possible education for the children of our community. My education and work experience has prepared me to evaluate and critique budgets and effectively make sensible business decisions. Most importantly, my education has given me the ability to think critically and not be afraid of asking hard questions. I can bring my unique experiences and perspective and have the desire and ability to positively influence the lives of children.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
What motivates you to run for this position?

Walker County Schools HQ

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
There are many drivers that prompted my decision to run for Walker County School Board:
First, I am a proud graduate of the Walker County School system and want to ensure that the children of Walker County are being held to reasonable and challenging standards in order to ensure they are prepared for technical college & university curriculums, the workplace, and, above all, a satisfying and productive life. I am a proud mother of a little boy and I want to ensure the school system is able to prepare all of our children for whatever educational and career paths they desire.
At my core, I desire to serve our community. There is clearly a need to bridge the generational divide between policy makers and students. My education, training, experience, and fresh perspective can fill this need in a productive manner by incorporating collaboration, transparency, accountability, logic, and reason at the policy making level. Additionally, I recognize the need for educators, faculty, and staff to be offered a platform to have input and provide feedback based on their experiences and training on topics that influence policy.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
For Ms. Hunter only: What’s your biggest regret from your time on the School Board?

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
For Ms. Eady only: What do you consider the biggest failures of the current School Board member from Post 5?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
I would like to keep this a positive campaign. Personally, I choose not to speak about others records and will let the voters form their own opinions. I hope the current School Board member from Post 5 is making the best decisions possible for the children of Walker County with the information to which she has access.

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
For Ms. Hunter only: What are your five greatest accomplishments during your time on the School Board?

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
For Ms. Eady only: Can you name two things Ms. Hunter has done on the School Board that you agree with or will try to emulate?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
My answer to this question is an echo of the prior response.

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
What are your top priorities for the next four years if you serve on the School Board?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
• Provide all students with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities necessary to be successful as learners, workers, and citizens; and, be college, career, and community ready.
• Enhance communication and family engagement as an effort to attain the highest level of achievement for all students.
• Work to ensure decisions, budgets, and administrative goals are transparent.
• Advocate for our children to ensure the quality of their education is not compromised.
• Be fiscally responsible and leverage every dollar to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the Walker County School System.

It would be helpful for Ms. Eady to share her ideas for reaching these goals. Nobody will argue with these targets, but how does she intend to hit them?

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
Does Walker County Schools provide adequate support to the county’s libraries? What would be the ideal relationship between the county’s public schools and its library system?

Rossville Library Sign Misspelling

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
I feel as though the Walker County Schools provides adequate support to the county’s libraries now that the funding has been fully restored. The relationship between the county’s public school and the library system should have a mutually beneficial and supportive relationship.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Walker County Schools has restored SOME of the library funding it cut years ago, but not all. Last year money budgeted for libraries was paid out late while school and library leaders argued over how much funding the Rossville branch should get. The school board wanted Rossville to receive a greater amount that its usage warranted to make up for a lack of support from the city, while LaFayette’s library was to be penalized for the City of LaFayette throwing in a portion of its operating money.

It’s unclear which side caved, but the money was paid out.

Hopefully in the future, under Eady OR Hunter, the system will play fair and give its libraries funds with no strings attached, as required by law.

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
Is the amount of money spent in Walker County for school sports not enough, too much, or just right? Are sports budgeted appropriately in comparison to other extra curricular activities like art and music?

LHS / LFO Football Scrimmage August 14

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
During my time at LaFayette I was a student athlete and it helped shape the person I am today. With that being said, I think art and music are just as important. I feel as though each child should have the opportunity to have an outlet to participate in the extracurricular activities they are interested in whether it is a sport, debate, journalism, art, music, or other activity that can enhance their skill sets.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
As a member of the school board, what have you done / what will you do to ensure special education students are properly diagnosed and given the resources they need to be successful? What should our school system do to make sure these most vulnerable kids don’t fall between the cracks?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
The majority of special education guidelines and requirements are passed down to school systems from the State of Georgia. To ensure children are properly diagnosed, I think it is important that students start with the Response to Intervention process, which consists of three tiers.

• Tier 1: The student’s standard education teacher implements additional instruction with the student to help one make progress.
• Tier 2: More interventions are introduced at this level on top of the Tier 1 interventions.
• Tier 3: Takes place outside the regular education classroom (small group) with even more interventions specific to their areas of need.

If progress still is not seen at an adequate rate, the student is referred for a comprehensive psychological evaluation conducted by a Walker County School Psychologist. As long as progress is being made in the Tiers of intervention, a student does not move forward in Tiers or move on to an evaluation referral. The point of RTI is to get the student back on track for one’s grade level curriculum without needing Special Education. Therefore, a student could be in RTI for as long as needed if they are making adequate progress.

Once a comprehensive evaluation is conducted, the team then gathers together to review the test results. The student must meet requirements outlined by the State of Georgia (http://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/State-Board-of-Education/SBOE%20Rules/160-4-7-.05.pdf) to qualify for Special Education services. There are some students who do not qualify for Special Education because they do not meet those eligibility requirements; but, they will continue the Response to Intervention. Those children can be evaluated again, at a later date, to determine if they qualify for Special Education Services.

Eady has done her research on the law, but this doesn’t reflect on how special education is often handled inside Walker County. Some schools, and some school employees, are less willing to help special education students than they should be. The school board needs to take a top-down approach to making sure EVERY kid gets a fair shot, not just the ones with sports ability or a high likelihood of graduating. Kids struggling with disabilities or expected to drop out should be treated just as well as a future star quarterback or wrestler. That hasn’t been the case under Hunter’s watch.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
A good portion of the school system’s current budget comes from federal sources. That reduces the burden on local taxpayers, but much of that funding also comes with strings attached. Some funding requirements undermine local control and local values. Other stipulations that come with federal monies cost the school system as much (or more) than the funding brings in. While much of that federal involvement in local schools is mandated by the state, Walker County Schools CAN opt out of some funding and regain local control – one example being the school lunch program. Are you content with the current level of federal funds and control involved in Walker County Schools, or should the school board be seeking ways to extract federal involvement from the local classroom?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
I feel like we need choose the best programs without compromising our ability to operate as a school system and the most local control as possible.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Ms. Hunter has commented to the media during the past about federal programs and testing requirements as they relate to school funding, but not about federal control. She spoke in support of the controversial “No Child Left Behind” program, expressing concerns only in regards to how it cut school funds, and suggested parents should be held as responsible for school performance as school employees are.

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
Do you have any vision for the old LaFayette High School building and property? What should the school board do to keep this prominent site inside the city from turning into another abandoned eyesore like other closed schools have become?

Front Entrance / Old LaFayette High School

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
I have not developed a strategic plan for the use of the facility; however, I am open to input from citizens in order to leverage the asset for the most benefit to our community.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Hunter has had 12 years to find a plan for this building, and so far nothing has been done with it. As LaFayette’s representative on the school board she should be taking the lead on doing something, anything, with this facility other than watching it get broken into repeatedly and slowly fall in. Maybe Eady will be more attentive to the problem and bring some fresh vision to it. She can’t do any worse than Hunter has.

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
When Standards-Based Grading was implemented in 2014, it was controversial among teachers and parents because it changes the way grades are determined and also replaced the A-F letter grades with a 4-1 system. The reasoning behind the grading system was, per Superintendent Raines, to better prepare students for college. But critics said then (and have continued to say) that it’s only meant to improve graduation rates without giving students any better instruction, and encourages students to be lazy by deemphasizing homework and attendance as part of grading. Has SBG been good for Walker County Schools, and will you support its continuation or work to have it changed?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
I do not think SBG has been good for Walker County Schools because it has not executed properly. We have two options: 1.) stop using it effective immediately; or, 2.) tailor SBG to the Walker County Schools and make it something that works for us (e.g., use SGB only for elementary school or certain grades within elementary school). I have also received feedback from several teachers with ideas on how to tailor the approach to SBG. One of the best solutions I have heard from a teacher, is to make Progress Monitoring = 25% and Assessments = 75% of a student’s grade and limit the number of times the student can take the assessment. This approach still allows us to utilize progress monitoring as well as hold students accountable. By limiting the number of times students can take the assessments, it provides them incentive to do their best the first time and offers the opportunity to development a strategy and think critically about how to successful complete the requirements of the course.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Hunter was on the board when this plan was introduced by the Superintendent. She has made no public comment about the plan or its current implementation. Voters can only judge her position on it by her silence about it.

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
One of the biggest responsibilities of the school board is choosing the School Superintendent who runs the system day to day. Are you satisfied with Superintendent Damon Raines’ job performance? What changes would you like to see him make (if any) uno his approach towards school management?

Damon Raines

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
I think there is always room for improvement when it comes to job performance for anyone as well as Mr. Raines. The most beneficial change I would like to see him make is to have a proactive approach to changing the perception of the culture of fear and intimidation to a culture of candor and collaboration.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Hunter was on the school board and part of a committee that chose Raines from a pool of seven to be the Superintendent. She has made no public comment LU can find about his job performance.

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
If the Superintendent position needs to be filled while you’re on the school board, what criteria will you use to choose Raines’ replacement?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
I think the best method for determining selection criteria for the Superintendent position is to use a collaborative effort among the school board and various stakeholders.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
For Ms. Hunter only: In early April, a federal judge ruled that a School Board policy restricting who can speak in meetings is unconstitutional. He prohibited the board from enforcing the rule, and ordered the Board to create a different set of standards for allowing people to speak during meetings. He also ruled that a policy against complaining about school employees in meetings is equally wrong. What hand did you have, if any, in setting up the rules, how do you feel about the judge’s decision, and how do you intend to comply with the order?

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

This policy, which gave Raines full control over who could speak in meetings to the board while blocking valid complaints about school employee issues, was adopted while Hunter was part of the board. A federal judge said both rules violate the Constitution. Again, voters can only judge Hunter’s own position on this by her silence about it.

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
For Ms. Eady only: In early April, a federal judge ruled that a School Board policy restricting who can speak in meetings is unconstitutional. He prohibited the board from enforcing the rule, and ordered the Board to create a different set of standards for allowing people to speak during meetings. He also ruled that a policy against complaining about school employees in meetings is equally wrong. How do you feel about the policies and the judge’s decisions about them? What kind of board meeting access rules would you want put into place when you join the board?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
I feel that the policies that were in place need to be changed to allow the Walker County School System the opportunity to escape from a culture of fear and intimidation. I could not agree more with the decision the Judge made. In the court order, it mentions the policies that Catoosa and Rome City Schools have in place and I think something similar would help Walker County.

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
Many employees of the school system speak of a culture of fear, situations where teachers and other workers have concerns but feel they can’t be made public without repercussion. Do you agree with their concerns? What will YOU do as a school board member during the next four years to give EVERY school employee a voice?

LaFayette Middle School

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
Yes, I agree with their concerns. As I school board member, I will promote candor and give employees a platform to have a voice. I will do everything in my power to assure they are heard, even if that means agitating the status quo or having uncomfortable conversations. My objective is not for a political career; rather, to drive and shape the policies and procedures that will create the best learning environment for students and opportunities for school employees.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
There have been complaints that Walker County Schools handles employee matters (hiring, promotion, etc.) not based on merit and performance but on other factors like relationships and connections. There are also similar complaints that issues like student discipline are handled based on family name, athletic ability, and other factors. Do you feel these complaints are fair, and if so what have you done / will you do as a member of the school board to address them?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
Nepotism, favoritism, or preferential treatment should never be part of the Walker County School System.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

School employees speaking to LU on conditions of anonymity say Hunter is one of the sources OF this favoritism problem. Her presence on the school board has been a disaster, from their perspective, when it comes to eliminating favoritism. This is the biggest complaint about her and the reason many are quietly planning to vote against her on Tuesday.

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
What personal beliefs or other criteria will you use when making decisions for Walker County Schools?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
Logic and reason based on empirical evidence and facts.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
What sets you apart as the BEST candidate to represent Post 5 on the School Board? Why, in general, do you deserve voter support?

LaFayette Middle School

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
The reason I am the best candidate to represent Post 5 on the School Board is simple, but imperative, as currently the Walker County School board is not generationally diverse. I can offer new ideas and a fresh perspective based on my experiences of entering and successfully advancing in today’s workforce as well as my relatively recent firsthand experience with the Walker School System. I think my perspective will help the school board make better decisions about policies that will help our children transition into this ever changing and demanding world.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
Is there anything else voters should know about you? Family, faith, philosophy, inspirations, etc.?

Q&A Icon / Casey Eady SearlesEady:
I recently married Matthew Searels of LaFayette, GA. Our son, Cason, will be a year old in May. We are blessed to have all of our immediate family close by and spend as much time with them as possible. My mother, Shannon Eady, is a Bus Driver for Walker County School system and my father, David Eady, works for Propex in Chattanooga. I have one sister, Ashley Eady, who is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and employed at Unum.

In our spare time, Cason, Matt, and I enjoy taking walks around town and in our neighborhood, hiking local trails, and visiting our playgrounds and parks to spend quality time together. I also coach a U6 soccer team and play in an adult volleyball league at the LaFayette Recreation Department. Additionally, I am a member of Second Baptist Church of LaFayette.

I have been employed at Unum for almost 5 five years and have the privilege of acting as the United Way representative for my business area. I began my career in the Call Center, dealing with customer concerns and answering insurance policy questions. I rapidly advanced into my current Integrated Billing Coordinator position; which provides me with the terrific benefit of working from home full time.

Q&A Icon / Phyllis HunterHunter:
[No response]

Q&A Icon / LULaFayette Underground:
Thank you, Ms. Eady, for your prompt answers.

Walker County voters have two choices this Tuesday for School Board Post 5: Casey’s youth and new perspective, or Phyllis Hunter’s experience and silence.

While Eady might be young, and disappointingly didn’t take clear positions on every issue asked about, she does seem to have good intentions. She obviously wants to listen to the concerns of parents and teachers alike, and has education equivalent to that of the incumbent.

Ms. Hunter’s silence on issues that matter, both to these LU questions and to the community in general, speaks as much (or more) than any answers she could have provided. Her twelve years on the school board have hardly been remarkable, and by most accounts the board and superintendent have grown less open to public input during her time in leadership. Favoritism and fear persist within the school system and she’s done nothing to combat either one.

Eady might be no better than Hunter, but she could hardly be much worse.

Polls will be open for voting on Tuesday from 7 AM to 7 PM.

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3 comments so far

Add Your Comment
  1. If able, I would support snd Vote for Casey Eady for Walker County School Board. She’s a refreshing alternative,a Walker County native, and exudes common sense.
    As for Damon Raines, replace him immediately. He is unfit to lead education in any venue in the civilized world. What an apparent idiot! Only in Wakker County could such a person hold any high position.
    Oh,yeah…. Y’all got Bebe don’t ya!!!!
    Well, tge butch can’t live forever, so at the very least,educate your kids to the best of your capabilities.

  2. My vote 100% goes to Mrs. Eady. Not only is she highly intelligent, but she is extremely likeable, and people will listen to her views, and respect her thoughts and opinions.
    I felt she more than appropriately responded to the questions. She played a clean game, and was respectful to her running mate.
    LaFayette will one day get the changes it needs, and I believe it starts with the younger group stepping up to demand the changes.

    The school Board position is huge to me. My mother lost her job as a teacher three years ago, for no reason. I’m still very bitter about this. Mr. Raines offered nothing to her questions. He has not been a positive addition to Walker County.

    So look out after Eady wins, I may too step up to a position. Things have got to be shaken up.
    Good luck Casey!

  3. Well even thou Mrs.Eady is the best candidate for school board, She won’t get it. Ms. Hunter has made to many friends. People in Walker County like those stuck up do nothing good ole gals. Just like I wrote here while back, about the child molesting here in the county. They sweep it under the rug, like it’s the kids fault. I was one of the kids. Not once, not twice, not even 3 times. I was molested 4 or 5 times over my life here in Lafayette GA. My good ole hometown. and everybody blamed me. Not one of my molesters got in trouble and I wonder how many more over the years they molested besides me I was even promised a car, because one of the men was a car dealer in Lafayette at the time. Did I get the car NO I Didn’t (just molested.) As far as I’m concerned they will put all the wrong people back in office. I can’t remember one person who inspired me to stay in school. I was told, I was stupid from teacher’s. But I quit school and got my GED. But what do we expect from walker county citizens, they went to the family reunion to find a spouse.It would be interesting to do a study on how many citizens here married 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cousins. I think that would be interesting. I guess that’s what’s wrong with them not thinking properly. IDK LMAO SMH