After three terms on the Mitchell County Board of Education, Sam Blevins wants to continue to work for the children, teachers and families he has served for so long.
“I feel like I’ve served and did my best for the school system,” Blevins said. “Not only just the kids and the teachers, but also the people in the administration to the custodians to the bus drivers.”
Blevins recognizes four terms would be a long tenure on the board but said he wants to see the new school project and schools reopening before ending his time on the board.
“I know three terms is usually about it for board members,” he said. “But, I still had a yearning to be a part of the system with the young people and the teachers and try to help them, especially as it is now.”
Blevins grew up in Mitchell County and worked with his family’s oil company for 36 years. He has four children and two grandchildren with his wife, Debbie, who he credits for his insight into the life of a teacher.
“As the husband of a teacher, I see how much pressure teachers are under, especially right now,” he said. “If I could double their salaries, I would.”
Other than the new school and getting all kids back in school, Blevins said he wants to get to know teachers better and support them further if he is re-elected.
“In the future, I want to visit the schools more and talk to them about their work and their needs,” he said. “Teachers do so much for our kids and I think we need to remember that.”
At the end of the day, Blevins said it’s all about the children.
“I’ve always had a passion for young people,” Blevins said. “I really want young people to get a good start in life and achieve their goals.”
TABATHA DRUM DICKSON
Tabatha Drum Dickson wants to bring a fresh perspective to the Mitchell County Board of Education.
Dickson was born in New Jersey but grew up visiting Western North Carolina with her grandparents. Over time, Dickson said she fell in love with the state, the people and the culture.
When Dickson and her fiancé Robert Storch were looking to get out of New Jersey, Dickson remembered her time in Western North Carolina. The couple moved to Mitchell County two years ago and they now own and operate Wunderfy, a marketing agency located in downtown Spruce Pine.
“I’m just so drawn to the close-knit nature of communities like Mitchell County,” Dickson said. “So many of my values align with the people around here. We absolutely love it here.”
Dickson is the mother of two sons, now both in their 20s, and said when they started falling behind in public school, she decided to bring them home and teach them herself.
“I was very involved with my kids’ schooling to the point that I even homeschooled them for five years,” she said. “The school system I lived in at the time was just not providing my kids with the safety and education they needed. They were struggling. So, I pulled them out and spent the whole first year sitting at the kitchen table assuring them they could learn these things.”
Dickson said through her experience with homeschooling, she can empathize with what parents are currently going through with virtual learning.
“I understand what parents are going through right now trying to juggle everything that’s going, even though they have the environment with a teacher via online,” she said. “My concern is truancy and kids slipping through the cracks.”
If elected, Dickson said she will always put students first which is why she believes there needs to be better communication and transparency between the board and the families.
“I’ve been around kids a lot and sometimes I think I prefer kids to adults,” she said with a laugh. “When it comes to the board, though, I understand how important it is to balance the bank, provide some transparency and, of course, communication is key.”
BRENDA H. SPARKS
Brenda Sparks believes her 30 years of experience as a music teacher in Mitchell County makes her qualified to continue to be on the Mitchell County Board of Education.
“I was a school teacher here and I’ve worked in every school in the county,” Sparks said. “I taught a lot of people who grew up here, I have a passion for education and I want to continue to see Mitchell County succeed when it comes to our young people.”
Sparks has served on the board for two years and wants to finish what she started, especially in regard to the new school.
“My biggest accomplishment is being able to secure a proper, wonderful piece of property for our new upcoming school that we’re planning,” she said. “With my help and work and really trying very hard, I was able to procure the property we have now with the help of our wonderful county commissioners. It opens up a whole lot of good possibilities for our school system.”
With the new school and the ongoing pandemic, Sparks acknowledged the notoriety of her time on the board thus far.
“I could not have been on the school board in a more chaotic time,” she said. “We had to put the new school on the back burner while we tried to make sure that no one got seriously sick from this virus and trying to make sure everyone was safe.”
Sparks said she is incredibly proud of everyone who works in the school system and how they’ve handled operations due to the pandemic so far.
"Our teachers and staff have done a wonderful job getting everybody back in school and getting our schools ready and our buses going,” she said. “I just can’t be any more confident in our school system.”
Going forward, Sparks said she looks forward to providing a new school for children and providing “high quality education” to all students.
“I have four grandchildren in our school system,” she said. “I just want to continue providing the best education we can to them and all of the children of Mitchell County.”