Candidate Q&A

South Tippah School District

School Board Election 2021

Our public education questionnaire was offered to school board candidates in the November 2 school board elections. Search for candidates’ questionnaire responses below.

Kevin Barefield (WINNER)  •  Philip C. Hearn

Kevin Barefield



Philip C. Hearn

1. What is your experience with the school district? (Did you or your children attend school in the district? Have you volunteered in or been employed by the district?) I graduated from Blue Mountain High School in the South Tippah School District.
2. What is your previous community involvement? I currently serve as the Municipal Judge for the Town of Blue Mountain as well as the City Attorney for the Town of Blue Mountain. I formerly served as the City Prosecutor. My father was an alderman for the Town of Blue Mountain. My mother was a Tippah County Election Commissioner. My family has a long history of public service in this community and county.
3. Why do you want to serve on your school board? Because Blue Mountain High School has not been treated properly by the South Tippah School District for many years as far as funding and resources. My goal as a member of the School Board is to ensure that funds and resources are fairly allocated across the entire school district and to bring transparency to the decision-making process of the Board.
4. What are your goals for your district’s preschool program? To hire and retain the best teachers we can for the program. I believe that retention of employees in general, and of teachers specifically, increases the institutional knowledge of a facility and creates a stable and harmonious learning environment.
5. Students from low income households often need additional resources to achieve academic success. What should the school district do to ensure that all students are successful? The median family income in Tippah County is $39,000.00, making it one of the poorest counties in Mississippi. As a Municipal Judge, I see firsthand the effects of living in poverty and near poverty–broken families, substance abuse, food insecurity, and on it goes. Education is the key to breaking this cycle and we owe it to our children to give them every possible tool to succeed. Technology (computers, laptops, etc.) access needs to be emphasized as does proper nutrition. I also believe that a home economics curriculum should be mandatory to prepare students for life after high school–basic skills like opening bank accounts, balancing a check book, nutritional education, and the like will go a long way towards helping these students prosper. That should be the ultimate mission of our schools–nurturing and developing responsible and healthy citizens fully prepared to succeed at life.
6. Mississippi school districts are funded by a mix of federal, state, and local funds. The State contributes to local school districts through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). What role will you play in advocating for full funding of MAEP for your district? I have been, and will continue to be, a stout advocate for full funding of our public schools, including raising pay for our teachers to the southeastern average.
7. Do you agree that tax dollars should be used for only public schools and not for non-public schools such as vouchers, private school tuition, and on-line schools? Why or why not? Public dollars should be used for public schools. Period.
8. Mississippi is experiencing a severe teacher shortage. What strategies will you support to recruit and retain high quality educators? Pay is obviously the issue as we lag relative to our neighboring states in teacher pay. And that drum should be beaten with the Legislature every year. However, we are also seeing teachers drop from the profession due to quality of life issues. I think that we should encourage active and aggressive recruitment of teachers at job fairs, on college campuses, and the like. I also think that when we cannot compete on salary and benefits, we should take other opportunities to recruit and retain teachers–better insurance, tuition credits for continuing education at public colleges and universities, and tax credits for remaining in the profession are all vehicles that can attract and retain teachers at a minimal cost to the State.

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