LAWTON, Okla._ Two candidates are vying for one open seat on the Lawton Public Schools board of education.
Bob Brown, a former educator, and Lori Bridges, a longtime PTA member, will square off in the Feb. 11 election. Both candidates are confident Lawton students are receiving a quality education but said today there's room for improvement.
"There's great things going on, but I think we can do better," said Bridges.
The two are in their final week of campaigning for the school board seat that represents a majority of the west side of the city.
This is Brown's second time running. He ran five years ago and lost by a little more than 100 votes to George Schutz, who decided against running for re-election.
"We've got some major problems to deal with," says Brown, who says he was disappointed after losing the first time.
One issue he is concerned about is finding quality teachers for the district's many current and future openings. Superintendent Tom Deighan said last month over the next five years the district is set to hire more than 400 teachers.
"We get a lot of people moving in here that are teachers but then after two or three years they're gone," says Brown.
Bridges says she has seen the effects of the shortage, acknowledging large class sizes, and also points out technology as an area needing improvement.
"Any time we are behind in our technology we're putting our kids behind when we send them off to college or technical schools or wherever they're going to end up," she says.
Running for school board seemed like the natural progression for Bridges after being involved in the district for more than 12 years, but Brown says it's been way too long since a former educator has been elected to the school board. He's hoping his experience as a history teacher and later vice principal at Eisenhower High School will help propel him to a victory.
"We're missing that point of view ... I want to be that advocate for all 15,000 students that attend Lawton Public Schools," says Brown. "I think that's the major difference between myself and a parent."
Bridges says you don't have to be an educator for the school board job. She says having a genuine awareness of the issues facing the district and ways to solve them is the key to success. Rolling out cameras and security systems in all schools is an issue she hopes to tackle in her five-year term if elected.
"With a little bit of money (and) a few changes, we can definitely increase the security and then we can all feel okay about sending our kids to school everyday," says Bridges.
Both candidates agree that many of the district's buildings are in need of some kind of repair. They are hoping Lawtonians vote on April 1 to pass a $30 million bond issue for the district which includes money for those improvements.