Fortune challenges incumbent Wilkes for PCBOE seat

Published 10:21 pm Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Deb Fortune, director of the Center for Excellence in eTeaching at Troy University, will challenge Pike County School Board President Chris Wilkes for his seat on June 5.

Wilkes is the co-owner of Insurance Solutions Group and has served in the District 6 seat on the Pike County Board of Education for the last 12 years.

Wilkes said the board has been doing great things and that the current makeup of the board has been able to click.

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“We have a lot of projects in the works that I would love to see completed,” Wilkes said. “Our school system is definitely moving in the right direction; we’re being recognized all across the state and nation as far as the things that we’re implementing and doing and I want to continue along that same path that we’re going down …

“We’re real close to the completion of our new stem/academy building on U.S. Highway 231. It should be open shortly to house our stem academies. We have long-range plans for new buildings at a couple of different campuses in the county. We’re always looking at adding new programs and academies.”

Wilkes said his tenure on the board is an advantage in the race.

“It takes a few years to get your feet wet and become an effective board member in my opinion,” Wilkes said. “I’m in a position now where the other board members felt comfortable enough naming me president of the board; I think I can be a very effective board member. I think I’m at a point where our board works very well together, as evidenced by the results we’re showing now. I think we can continue to be a very effective board with the current makeup.”

Fortune said she has been involved in education for 35 years and that she felt now was the time to get involved in the local school board.

“I think now is a critical time, not only for our county, but also for the state of Alabama to start to look critically and strategically,” Fortune said. “We need to be moving as quickly as we can to have a solid foundation in the school system.”

Fortune’s educational background includes multiple years in the K-12 environment and over 30 years in higher education. She also served in the State Department of Education and helped write a proposal for the ACCESS program in the state to deliver high school education online.

Fortune said the board needs to stay on the forefront of technology, using the example of moving away from textbooks completely as an example.

“It provides a low-cost or no-cost textbook option,” Fortune said. “In the long-run, the taxpayers are doing their share. Whatever money comes in, K-12 gets an allotted amount; if we use open-education resources, that money can be spun off to use in other areas, plus we’d be saving taxpayers dollars.”

Wilkes said a background in education is not required to serve on the board and is not necessarily the most important skill set to have.

“The biggest challenge for any school board is funding,” Wilkes said. “There are lots of things that we would like to do as a school board, but it all comes down to having money to do it with. We have a lot of plans and there’s a lot of money needed to do it … I don’t think an education background is as important as being business-minded and being able to look at financials and make sound financial decisions. Being a small business owner the past 14 years and having a financial background, I think I have a unique perspective on how a business should operate.”

Fortune said her educational qualifications should be considered though by voters.

“I think you need to look at a person’s qualifications, look at some areas they have been involved in for several years,” Fortune said. “One thing I can assure general public and school teachers staff faculty will have a true servant’s heart at the table.

Both Wilkes and Fortune are products of the Pike County School system and both were born and raised in Goshen, which is included in the district they are seeking to represent.

The candidates will compete in the Republican primary on Tuesday, June 5.