There are currently two open seats on the Alexander City Board of Education and six candidates vying for the spots. One position is to finish out the late Dorothea Walker’s last three years of her five-year term and current board member Michael Ransaw’s five-year term is up leaving another available seat to be filled.
The Alexander City City Council interviewed the candidates Thursday at a special-called work session and asked each applicant the same 12 questions. The council will vote on its selections at Monday’s city council meeting.
Each candidate — to include Ransaw, Jimmy Brock, Vantrice Heard, Marie McCall, Chanté Ruffin and Rosalyn McKinney-Salter — comes from a different background of experiences and has something unique to offer the board.
Ransaw has served two terms on the city school board and interviewed to continue with his third. A true believer in giving back to the community and system that gave him so much, Ransaw could have settled anywhere after his 22 years in the military but chose to return home to Alex City.
“Due to the fact that Alex City has given me so much, I felt an obligation to give back to that same community,” Ransaw said. “I cannot express enough the commitment and dedication I feel I owe this school system.”
Having been a part of the board and school system for so long, Ransaw feels he has an advantage of knowing the strengths and weaknesses of fellow board members along with having a deeper understanding of what teachers and coaches are looking for from the schools.
“I’m the all-around person,” he said. “I’ve been on the policy side of things and understand the finance side. I’ve been in the classroom and taught for six years and I’ve coached before. I think that’s my biggest strength.”
Ransaw has also committed additional hours of classes and workshops to be better equipped to handle the educational decisions.
“I make the time because I know that if I didn’t, it would be an injustice to the school system who depends on me to make the right decisions,” Ransaw said.
Another motivating factor for Ransaw is to guarantee the children are all treated equally and fairly as well as ensuring students are competitive and given the proper resources.
“I think understanding what goes on in our families and our city that seems to keep me going,” he said. “Knowing I am a part of ensuring every kid and everyone is represented here and justice is done.”
Brocksaid his ultimate strength is his ability to communicate diversely and understand the differences with people beyond just the politics.
“I think being quick-headed in your thoughts, collective and getting prepared is key,” he said. “Thinking through things, working with people and understanding the whole side of things is what I do.”
Having worked in the business world with C&J Tech most recently, Brock thinks preparing students in Alex City to be a part of that world is essential.
“We have to be more in tune with the now generation and the generation coming,” he said. “Even if you envision it, because what our system turns out, the product will contribute to the business world too as well as being able to socially interact as a group.”
Brock is no stranger to local community service organizations and has worked on numerous boards.
“I have had no problem balancing those because of the fact that you want to do something and contribute, you’ll find time and make that commitment,” he said. “As long as my health allows me, my five-year commitment is there.”
Integrity and character are two key components Brock said make up a good board member.
“A lot of it will match my traits,” he said. “As a fellow board member, I would act in a professional manner to not compromise the board, the system or the administration.”
Brock’s son and daughter both graduated from Benjamin Russell and went on Auburn University and UAB, respectively, and he feels the school system is what prepared them for success.
“They had some strong teachers and administrators and I never forgot that,” Brock said. “I enjoyed the way they developed within this system and am very impressed with it. If I can be a part of that going forward, that ‘d be great.”
Heard has a son in the school system and is passionate about the policies that affect area children.
“If I could have a direct impact on those changes and the decision-making process, that would be good,” she said. “I’m passionate about children and education and the impact it will have on them later in life.”
Heard has more than six years of grant writing experience, which she feels makes a strong qualification for the board.
“I can help Alex City Schools get the most benefit out of title grants from the federal government because we can always use that money,” Heard said. “Economics plays a big part in how we move forward and I don’t want to miss the mark.”
Heard’s current job as a part-time research coordinator involves taking part in community participatory research at Russell Medical which has helped her become more involved in the community.
“The biggest change is I would like to be more present in the community,” she said. “I think my new ties to the community and this position fits right in where I am at in my life. The board is part of the stakeholders of the community, which is a wonderful thing.”
Having grown up in Alex City and graduated from Benjamin Russell, Heard said her natural love and understanding of the community is beneficial to her input.
“I am on every platform, behind the scenes, paying attention to policies and articles about how students are affected with reading and career test prep,” she said. “I am a researcher by nature and moving forward we need to figure out a way to be better equipped with technology so we’re not hit as hard as we were when we first switched to online learning.”
Ruffin is a local pediatrician with her own practice and said her knowledge of children is one of the strongest skills she can bring to the table. She has four children and three already within the school system with a 3-year-old to enter shortly.
“I serve as an advocate for children in my daily job, so I feel that would flow into a position with the school board,” Ruffin said. “Also being a parent, I know what I look for in my children’s education and I want to best for them and other children.”
Ruffin is currently on the Lake Martin Area United Way board, which is set to expire in December, and has flexibility owning her own business.
Superintendent Dr. Keith Lankford’s vision and background are what really drew Ruffin to be interested in the position.
“He is a true advocate for the children and I am really impressed,” Ruffin said. “Then I met him face to face and I felt like this man is really here for our children and I would love to work with someone like him and support him.”
Ruffin said her true motivation is the legacy she has to leave and the role model she plays in the community to her own children and others.
“That always serves as a motivation to do the best I can do and be an overall good person,” Ruffin said. “I’ve been involved in (parent-teacher organization) and fostered relationships with principals and other parents. In my (doctor’s office) I have Carol’s Corner in honor of my mother that promotes literacy and I recently decided to offer a scholarship for a graduating senior.”
While Ruffin has been in the community for 10 years, she reiterated she is here for the long haul and ready and willing to serve in a community in which she’s already a large part.
McCall has served children her entire life from being an educator, mentoring kids at church and working in the central office at Alex City. She always knew she wanted to be a teacher and her true passion lies in helping the children to succeed.
“Each step along the way, I felt that each progression in my career was a way of serving more and more children,” McCall said. “When I retired, I said I’m gonna go home and sit on my behind but I feel the need to again be a servant to the children. It’s been my life.”
McCall has worked with the board members in the past as the director of federal programs and said she values the opinions of others while also not being afraid to provide her own thoughts.
“The board’s focus, every time I have worked with them, is what needs to happen for the children to grow, learn and become productive members of this community?” McCall said. “I feel like my mind is in the same direction as theirs.”
While she is used to working directly with the students and a board position would be on the decision-making side, she knows those decisions can have a strong impact on the children.
“When you see that little bulb turn on in that one kid’s eyes, it’s all worth it,” she said. “At the board level, I would be making sure the process, materials, supplies, everything is in place so the classroom teacher can see that little light bulb come on every single day.”
Salteris a nurse during the day and is used to collaborating with others on making decisions and said her professionalism aligns with the board’s expectations.
“I have grandchildren in the school and education has changed since I was in school,” Salter said. “I want to be the change to help kids who don’t quite understand or have problems learning. I want to be a voice on the board to help them.”
Salter said the biggest challenge facing the school system right now is adapting to the new school year following changes due to COVID-19.
“I want to help kids in the community adapt to the new online learning at home,” Salter said. “I’ve had parents ask me to come in and help them; help kids operate a computer and understand the information they were reading and how to apply it.”
Her goal is to impact the school system to turn proficient students into post-graduate successes ready for college or their next steps in life.
“I am educated and hardworking and I want to help the board members and the school system to achieve its mission statement and vision for the students in our area,” Salter said.