ON THE BALLOT 2020: Evans, Ritter competing for open School Board Position 1

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By Bill Short

With Position 1 School Board member Roger Christopher not seeking re-election, Marlon D. Evans and former member Gregory L. Ritter are competing for the open seat in the Nov. 3 Millington city elections.
A 1983 graduate of Lakeside High School in Lake Village, Ark., Evans attended The University of Arkansas at Monticello from 1983-85.
Currently employed as a Shelby County sheriff’s deputy, he is a member of River of Life Church, an avid golfer and kayak bass fisherman.
Evans and his wife Carla have three sons, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.
In November 2018, he ran unsuccessfully for Position 2, when C. J. Haley was re-elected to a third term.
Ritter earned both a Bachelor of Arts Degree in business administration and a Master of Science Degree in accountancy at Rhodes College. He served 13 years in public accounting and subsequently in private accounting.
He is employed as a controller at TopRx in Bartlett and is also an adjunct professor of accounting at The University of Memphis.
Ritter is a member of the First Baptist Church in Millington, the American and Tennessee Societies of Certified Public Accountants and a volunteer youth baseball coach for the Millington Arts, Parks and Recreation Department.
He and his wife Kelly have three children.
In the November 2013 election of Millington’s first municipal school board, Ritter was an uncontested candidate for an initial three-year term in Position 1.
He was defeated by Christopher in 2016, when he sought re-election to a four-year term. 
Both candidates recently responded to the following questions prepared and distributed by The Millington Star:

  1. What additional policies do you think the newly elected school board should adopt after it is sworn in?
    Evans said the board does a good job of reviewing its policies to make sure they are in compliance with new mandates from the state and federal government.
    Because of COVID-19, if elected, he will “constantly” be recommending changes to keep the students “protected and safe.”
    Ritter cited student participation fees for various extracurricular activities as something that may need to be added to the board’s budget.
    “With Millington being designated as an economically disadvantaged area,” he said, “I believe we should encourage more student participation and ensure that participation fees are not a barrier.”
  2. List three significant issues in this election.
    Evans cited COVID-19, facilities and the overall perception of the school system.
    Whether in-person, “hybrid” or “all-virtual,” Ritter wondered if:
    (a) students are receiving the help they need to learn;
    (b) teachers have the resources they need to be effective; and
    (c) the “mix” of administrative personnel and students is sufficient to support the various “platforms.”
  3. Specifically, how do you plan to deal with each of these issues if you are elected or re-elected?
    Evans said he will stay informed of the latest updates from the Centers for Disease Control, city, county and state officials on the best ways to battle the virus.
    Unless it receives a “huge windfall of money,” he said the school system should use its existing space the best way it can. He acknowledged that this would likely involve “moving some grades” to different facilities.
    Although he believes the “perception” has improved, Evans said a public relations officer should be employed who would attend meetings with the city, county and state to “advocate and promote” the school system.
    Ritter said communication between parents and teachers must be increased.
    “I’ve seen a lot of one-way communication from teacher to parent,” he noted. “And in the current environment, parents must have the opportunity to dialogue.”
    Ritter said he has always advocated creating a subcommittee of the board that would meet regularly with the teachers at each school to discuss the challenges they face in the classroom. He said that would give the teachers a voice and the board members insight into the working environment, which they need in evaluating the superintendent.
    Ritter also said he will ensure that there are regular updates on “student connectivity and uptime” in the “virtual” classroom, as well as issues with the ability to support “user” needs.
  4. What do you think is the biggest concern facing the municipal school system at this time?
    Evans said COVID-19 and classroom space are equally concerning.
    Apart from the issues he already mentioned, Ritter cited the achievement and enrollment of students.
    “Student achievement is generally measured by standardized testing,” he noted. “And that is generally a big factor in evaluation of teachers and administrators.”
    Ritter thinks the district should develop a “model” that focuses on student learning rather than defined achievement.
    “If we let the teachers develop a curriculum and teach it,” he said, “I believe the students will learn more and be better prepared for future challenges.”
    While noting that enrollment is growing in the two elementary schools, Ritter said the board must determine why it is declining at Millington Central High School and “take steps to reverse” that.
  5. What do you think should be the school system’s next priority in implementing its Five-Year Capital Improvements Plan?
    Evans acknowledged that obtaining funds for new or updated facilities is an issue that must “constantly” be addressed. He believes it would be “extremely beneficial” for the system to secure the services of a “grant fund writer” or train someone on the staff to do this. 
    Citing the board’s decision to close E. A. Harrold Elementary School after the 2020-21 academic year, Ritter said the “short-term focus” should be on renovations to existing facilities to accommodate that plan.
    But he said the long-term goal should still be to plan for a new elementary school if the student population warrants it.
    In the wake of COVID-19, Ritter said, the district should consider the future of the “traditional school model” as it plans capital expenditures.
    “The hybrid and virtual learning models adopted as a result of the pandemic could shape future needs,” he said, “especially, if student achievement is consistent and parents adapt.” 
  6. What specifically makes you best qualified for the position you are seeking or seeking to regain?
    Evans said he is a member of the Shelby County Unified Personnel Policy Committee, the Millington Memphis Airport Authority and the 2019-20 Leadership Millington Class.
    He noted that, because his three sons graduated from MCHS, he has been “heavily involved” as a parent.
    He has also worked as a School Resource Officer at Bartlett, Bolton, Germantown, Kirby and Millington high schools and a substitute teacher at MCHS.
    Citing his experience at working in group settings as both a leader and member, Ritter said he can facilitate discussion and propose solutions.
    “My background is in finance and accounting,” he noted. “So, I can see behind the numbers to help identify potential areas of concern.”

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