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School board candidate introduces himself to the public

To the Editor:
For the past two years I have been a substitute teacher for the Elizabethton City Schools. After teaching for 32 years, mostly in Georgia, I thought substituting would be a nice way to ease into retirement. Coming from mostly larger school districts I was not sure what to expect from the local schools. I admit that I was pleasantly surprised by what I witnessed. The kids are amazing! The students here in Elizabethton are driven, dedicated, engaged, attentive, thoughtful, and articulate. For those high school students who are looking to pursue something other than a four-year university degree they have some of the best options in the state. Our high school has classes in aeronautics, welding, automotive and computer animation (including 3-D)!! The business classes are second to none.
One of the first things I learned as a teacher was to never rest on your laurels. When the end of the school year comes around I start asking the graduating seniors what their plans are. You can also read in the local paper what they have planned as well. To my surprise many of the students are staying local. Some of the seniors are looking to go to ETSU; there may be one or two headed to the University of Tennessee. Those are all excellent choices. I was surprised given how bright our students are that more weren’t headed towards a wider variety of colleges and universities across the nation (Vanderbilt, Duke, Wake Forest, Northwestern, and Stanford). I would want to take time to learn more about why so many of our students chose to stay so close to home.
I also want to know how forward thinking our Board of Education is. It is not a big secret that the budget is going to take a hit in the next couple of years. Are we planning now for any future shortcomings? Can we set anything aside now so that we can avoid layoffs and/or furlough days? The old adage of saving for a raining day is aptly applied here.
Along with the future of the budget, the pandemic has had a huge impact on the day to day operations of our district. We started out with the hybrid schedule and we are slowly moving to four days a week with Wednesdays as the distance learning day. Where do we go from here? What if the pandemic takes a turn for the worse? Do we have a plan? Are we ready to transition to in-person five days a week? How much time will the teachers need to be prepared for that switch? There are thousands of other school districts out there. Are we watching what they are doing? What works for them? What doesn’t? We can learn from what others have done.
I’ve been impressed with the work our Special Education Department has been doing to educate our students with disabilities and learning differences. I also believe there is always more we can be doing to support these students. Many students with Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s) are perfectly capable of being integrated into the regular education classrooms, as long as regular education teachers are appropriately supported. I would love to continue to expand supports for these students in both integrated and pull-out settings so that all students with disabilities are prepared to transition out of high school into whatever setting is most appropriate for them. If we help students to learn what works for them and how to advocate for themselves while in school, those skills will follow them and set them up to be successful for the rest of their lives.
My name is Jeffrey Bohlke and I am running for the Elizabethton City School Board. I would very much like to be a part of the process to move our school system forward. I want to be a part of the progress Elizabethton City Schools is making and help contribute to this great school system in the city I have come to love and call my home. If you want to know more about me you can look me up at www.jeffreybohlke.com or at https://facebook.com/bohlke4board.

Jeffrey Bohlke
Elizabethton