JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Steve Benton (R) is running for Jackson County superintendent against Dallas Ellis (R), Gerald Brockner (R) and Larry Moore (D).
Who is Steve Benton?
Benton lives in Marianna with his wife, who just retired from Marianna High School.
He’s worked in the school system for 48 years. He was a bus driver, a coach, a high school principal and was the former Jackson County superintendent. He is currently the principal of the W. R. Toler K-8 school in Bristol, Fla.
Why are you running?
Benton said over the past year and a half, school board members have approached him and encouraged him to run again. He said that when he served as superintendent from 2012 to 2016, morale was high and the K-8 school was doing well, but now he gets reports of low staff morale.
What are you top priorities?
- Addressing the pandemic.
- Improving teacher and employee morale.
- Fixing the finances.
How would you raise teacher morale?
Benton said every teacher he’s worked with knows he cares about them and he intends to make that known to raise morale.
How would you fix the finances?
Benton said there’s a lot that needs to be cut, including administrative costs and looking at whether positions need to be refilled once a teacher retires. He said that this would not mean that people would lose jobs.
The half cent sales tax has already been designated.
He said that the school board will eventually have to raise rates because funding for next year will be affected by the pandemic.
Do you think that metrics like graduation and dropout rate and GPA should be improved?
Benton said it could be better. He said grades are not as important as making school an interesting place for kids filled with support, extracurricular activities and adequate discipline.
What are your thoughts on career and technical training?
Benton said there is a need for it for those who are just not interested in school.
What is the best and safest way to open schools and keep them open?
Monitoring students symptoms as they get on the bus or get dropped off and enter the school; practicing social distancing inside the classroom and providing dividers to keep students and teachers safe; regular cleaning of playground equipment and in schools, he said.
He added there are three options: brick and mortar and two virtual options.
How will you cater to families who may not have great wifi?
Every kid will have a school board issued computer donated by the DOE and the county will provide hotspots. The school board will also pay $20/month toward wifi for families who want to buy wifi.