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Meet your candidates… Bohlke’s passion for education fuels decision to run for Elizabethton Board of Education

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com 
Beginning today, the Elizabethton Star will be publishing information on the candidates for the Elizabethton Board of Education.

There are three open seats for the 2020 election as Chairwoman Rita Booher and Dr. Grover May have elected not to seek re-election while incumbent Phil Isaacs will be running to maintain his seat.

Candidate Jeffrey Bohlke answered five questions that were asked of all school board candidates and here are his responses.

Please give a short bio (family, education, work experience, any other pertinent info you feel important).
After 32 years in public schools, I still haven’t had enough!
Most of my years were spent teaching in high school with some experience in middle school, teaching across the spectrum of classes from remedial to Advanced Placement.
My passion for education goes beyond the classroom as well; I have acted as chair for my high school’s social studies department, coached basketball and softball teams, and been the school sponsor for student government, class sponsor, and academic teams.
I’ve worked hard to get to be where I am today.
B.A. History & Psychology, Augustana University (SD)
M.A. Social Studies Education, Piedmont College (GA)
Ed.S Administration & Leadership, Lincoln Memorial (TN)
National Board Certified Teacher, 2005-2015
Maybe you recognize me – I’ve been subbing in the Elizabethton City School District and my wife and I attend Grandview Christian Church.
Why did you decide to run for the Elizabethton City School Board and why do you feel qualified to do so?
Experience
I have worked with several different school districts over my career. Each of those districts had different administrators, different priorities, different methods…but all of them had the same goal: to give our kids the best education they could.
On our school board, I can take the best from the perspectives I’ve seen across the country and help Elizabethton’s kids reach even higher.

A Team Player
While I received a lot of praise for my teaching, very few things I taught were unique to me. The methods I used were shared with me by others.

I try very hard to see the big picture. It’s easy to get caught up in our own little world, but with education, we have to look beyond that.

Ambitious
I love new challenges. I learned to handle multiple age groups, teaching across both middle and high school students. I stepped up to team-teaching a World History Honors class with the English Honors class in the middle of my career.

When a new school opened, I had to completely re-create how the class was taught as the two sections became independent. Eventually, I was approached to create and implement an AP Psychology class from scratch.

With your support, my next challenge in life will be serving on the board for ECS.

What do you think are the most important issues facing the Elizabethton School System and how would you suggest addressing them?

Survive
We need to get over this pandemic. To do this, we have to monitor progress on attendance and academic work, look at districts across the country to see what has been proven to work well and lay the groundwork for returning to normal.
Budget
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 rainy day is aptly applied here.
Improve
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’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.
What strong points do you feel need to continue in the school system?
When I am in the schools, I find some of the most amazing teaching going on.
I would hope that we will keep finding ways to support and encourage our teachers. Right now, as their schedules to be in a constant state of change they are working harder than ever to continue on with the quality education that the Elizabethton City Schools have come to know!
Do you feel that the pandemic has negatively impacted the school system and what would you bring to the board in helping to overcome those issues if elected?

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.