Scott Chambers and Mark Walters, both seeking election on April 4 to the Indian Capital Technology Center Board of Education, were given the opportunity to answer these 10 questions.
1. Why are you running for this unpaid position on the ICTC Board of Education?
As a current board member, I would like to continue serving the ICTC communities. Indian Capital has been doing some incredible things for students, area businesses and industry, and our communities. It would be my hope to keep progress moving forward and in the right direction. I’m proud of the new campus being built in Wagoner County which will initially include a Welding, Plumbing, Information Technology, Nursing, Health Careers and Cosmetology programs.
I am running for this position, because I am a true believer in vocational education. I have “skin in the game,” and I can say that I have lived it. I am a product of Career Tech, and ICTC has been part of my family for many years. Myself and my three older brothers all attended and graduated from ICTC programs. My dad drove the ICTC bus to Roland for 10 years. I credit much of my success in life to my vocational education background. I believe it is time that we put vocational- minded people back in charge of our technology centers. Serving on this board is one small way that I can give back to a school that has done so much for me.
2. Why are you more qualified than your opponent to be on the ICTC Board of Education?
My faith has been a guide for my life and when making decisions as the former president of the Board of Education at Muldrow Public Schools (served 10+ years) and as current president of the Southside Rotary Club of Fort Smith. This experience has continued to be foundational for me as the current board member at ICTC.
Additionally, my 20-year career in the housing construction and real estate industry gives me valuable insight into the construction trades. This helps inform me of the workforce needs of various contractors, the best fields for wages and long-term opportunities for our students as well as changes in construction methods that can be shared with ICTC staff as we continually upgrade our curriculum.
I can also draw from family expertise. My wife and son — teachers of 17 and five years, respectively — as well as my son who’s been a firefighter for seven years.
Having been in the private sector for 20 years, I’ll be able to bring those principles to discussions as ICTC continues to develop great relationships with its business and industry partners.
And, lastly, I always keep in perspective that serving on the board is never about me, it’s about us. The students, the staff, the administration, communities and business and industry. As we grow, they grow.
Starting in my seventh grade shop class is where my love for vocational education began. Throughout high school, I excelled in wood shop and upholstery. I have experienced ICTC from many different views, and I feel that I am the guy for the job and the most qualified.
• ICTC student in the upholstery program, 1984-86
• ICTC Advisory Committee member for the upholstery program, 1988-94
• ICTC night class upholstery instructor, 1992-08
• ICTC full-time upholstery instructor, 1994-08
• ICTC industrial safety specialist, 2008-15
• Masters degree in school administration, 2000
• Small business owner, Mark’s Machinery, 2006-present
• Served 12 years on the Sequoyah County Election Board
3. What do you understand the role of an ICTC Board of Education member to be?
Board members have a tremendous opportunity to invest their time and energy in a cause that has transformative power: public education. Board members who are already serving have much to offer their communities through continued service because they have valuable experience and historical knowledge. Other community members may find school board service a meaningful opportunity to contribute and offer new or different viewpoints and experiences. Boards need diverse perspectives and voices.
Local boards govern local school districts. Board actions affect the families of hundreds — even thousands — of students and employees. The duties of a board member include working with other board members to craft policies, approve a budget and hire/supervise the superintendent who serves as CEO. It’s an important commitment, and should be considered thoughtfully.
I believe an ICTC board member should have a background and a heart for vocational education. They are the ultimate overseers of the school. It is their role to create policies and take actions that provide a means to make our students, teachers and support staff the best in the business. Good board members are always looking out for the best interest of the school and the community. I believe they should be good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars and be totally transparent. A board member listens to members of the community and seeks answers when necessary. It is their job to educate themselves in the operations of the school and to understand the school’s policies. The board members set the direction of the school. I will work hard to ensure that all students in the ICTC district have the best opportunities for success, just as I did almost 40 years ago.
4. What are the biggest ICTC problems that need to be “fixed”? What should be changed or undone?
This is a tough question, as everywhere I go, people tell me they love what ICTC does. Our customized business and industry training for companies like Georgia Pacific, evening short-term adult training in things like Certified Nurse Aide or CDL truck driver training and ICTC’s worldclass full-time programs in ehealthcare, trades, IT and more are truly valued by the communities we serve. So, if I were to identify a primary challenge for the district, it would be, how do we do more of it? Secondarily, how do we do more in an era of rising wages, increased equipment costs, instructor shortages and skyrocketing renovation/construction costs.
My biggest concern is that ICTC is getting away from traditional classes like carpentry, cabinet making, brick masonry and others. In our district, there is a big workforce demand for these types of skilled laborers. The Cherokee Nation even confirmed a need for these types of classes with the recent announcement of its new $10 million training center to be built in Tahlequah. In the last two decades, ICTC has closed four carpentry classes — two in Muskogee, one in Tahlequah and one in Stilwell. They have also closed three brick masonry classes in Sallisaw, Stilwell and Tahlequah. The business and machine shop classes have been closed in Sallisaw, and auto mechanics in Muskogee. It seems that Career-Tech is wanting to move away from the traditional classes. I believe students have different learning styles, and we must provide training to all levels of students. We must also inform parents that ICTC is a huge resource available for their child to gain valuable skills that can open up many future career opportunities at no cost to them. We also need to get the message out that the skills ICTC students learn can take them far in life without inccuring a huge student loan debt. I think vocational education classes are good for everyone, whether they plan to attend college or not, and ICTC is the link between these students and success.
5. What would be the first thing you do as a member of the ICTC Board of Education?
As a current board member, I would like to continue serving the ICTC communities. Indian Capital has been doing some incredible things for students, area businesses and industry, and our communities. It would be my hope to keep progress moving forward and in the right direction.
Transparency. I will push for more transparency. The City of Sallisaw can be used as a model for transparency. They do an excellent job by posting their agenda, minutes and any related documents on their website for anyone in the community to have access to it. I believe this is how it should be. I would also like to move the board meeting times from noon to the evening so that those who work during the day can attend. As a board member, I would like to see the board meetings live streamed on social media for anyone that would like to watch online.
6. What do you see as the top priority for ICTC? What do you want to accomplish?
As the workforce engine of education, we play a major role in the growth of our economy. Very recently, we were critical in the attraction of Provalus to Tahlequah. By adding an IT program in Stilwell to the two great programs we have in Tahlequah and Muskogee, we helped the Tahlequah Regional Development Authority attract Provalus to the area by being able to provide the workforce needed for their expected growth. This has brought over 100 jobs to the Tahlequah community in about six months, and they are still growing.
ICTC is also involved with other economic development teams. Our team meets regularly with the Port Authority in Muskogee in similar types of efforts. The Port is always good to have our business and industry team involved in new company recruitment as well as existing industry expansions.
We like to view economic development regionally. We know what’s good for Sequoyah County is also good for Adair County, or what’s good in Muskogee has a positive impact in Wagoner or Cherokee counties. We do our best to be a helpful partner throughout the area by trying to offer programs that match the needs of new as well as growing industries in our district.
It’s important to be mindful of what is already here. For example, with the VA, St. Francis, Cherokee Nation, Northeast Health Systems and other regional providers, the healthcare industry is continually growing. It’s because of this critical area that ICTC has one of the largest health care offerings of all technology districts in the state. It’s a great match up on industry needs, high wages, high growth, quality jobs and student interest.
Again, my top priority is to bring back traditional programs. I would also survey our community employers to find our biggest workforce needs. This would help us make better choices in implementing new programs at ICTC.
7. What endorsements, if any, have you received?
I’ve received written endorsements from the current president of the ICTC Board of Education, Monte Madewell, and also from Roger Sharp, who served on the ICTC Board of Education for 30 years. The other current board members have offered their endorsements alongside many community leaders, public school principals, superintendents and staff from all surrounding school districts in Sequoyah, Adair, Muskogee, McIntosh and Cherokee counties.
I have been blessed throughout this campaign to receive so much support from my friends and family. I wish to skip this question out of loyalty to my supporters to keep them from receiving any unnecessary harassment.
8. What role should politics play in the ICTC election? Why is that?
If politics is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations among individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status, then this could very well be a good way to see that the future of our community is being improved upon.
The appropriate answer would be none, but reality says politics is present everywhere. Have you heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” There is a lot of truth in that statement. I believe politics are present in our schools, cities and towns, county governments, state offices and just about everywhere and everything we do. I will make my decisions based on what I believe to be the best for the ICTC students, staff and the community, not what is politically correct. Politics have taken place in this very election. I have friends that have been harassed for having one of my signs in their yard. Folks, it is simple. If you like Mark Walters, vote for me. If not, vote for my opponent. We can all disagree sometimes, but still be agreeable. Win or lose, our lives will continue on April 5, God willing.
9. Should the federal government fund vocational-technical colleges? Is such funding a form of socialism?
As an employee for a public housing authority, I certainly see a benefit of having multiple funding streams in helping provide the necessary resources to maintain programs and facilities. I’m not convinced that such funding would necessarily classify vocational-technical colleges as a form of socialism.
I don’t have a problem with tech centers receiving federal dollars. In fact, when I was a teacher at ICTC, receiving federal money was the only way we could make large purchases for new equipment. With all the tax dollars we as taxpayers send to the federal government, it is nice to see some of it come back to benefit our children. However, I do disagree with stipulations being put on federal funds in order to receive it.
10. Please provide two positive remarks about your opponent for the ICTC Board of Education seat.
Having known Mark most of my life, I believe Mark Walters is a Christian, and is also known as a passionate person willing to put in the work to get things done.
Scott is a great guy, a good Christian man and a hard worker. He comes from a good family, and I consider them all friends. He was my friend long before this election, and he will be my friend long after this election is over.