3/30/14 Forum to focus on education

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Community Connections

Forum to focus on education
Times-News is co-sponsor of April 16 event at Elon
The Times-News 3/30/14  
Reprinted with permission.

   ELON — The superintendent of Alamance-Burlington schools, a state lawmaker and an advocate for education freedom are among the panelists who will take part in the third Community Connections forum at Elon University in April.

   The Times-News is a co-sponsor with Elon for the forums, which began in the fall. The third one for this school year is set for 7 p.m. April 16 in the McKinnon Room of the Moseley Building on the Elon campus. The public is invited.

   The topic for the forum: Education in North Carolina. Dr. Lillie Cox, superintendent for the Alamance-Burlington School System, has accepted an invitation to take part. She will be joined on the panel by state Rep. Dennis Riddell, R-Alamance, and Darrell Allison, president of the pro-voucher group Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. A fourth panelist from Elon University is expected to join. Kenn Gaither, associate dean in the School of Communications, will again serve as moderator.

   Times-News editor Madison Taylor said organizers anticipate a great discussion with lots of questions from the audience and interaction with the panel.

   “Based on the success of our two forum sessions earlier this year, we expect a very large crowd to attend this one,” Taylor said. “We had about 200 people for our Community Connections discussion about health care in November, and around 300 were there in February when the topic was poverty. Education is perhaps the hottest issue in our state at the moment. We’re hoping to draw the interest not just of educators but parents.”

   To make more room for questions from those in attendance, the format for this Community Connections has been altered. Instead of guest presenters who speak for five to 10 minutes at the beginning, organizers will instead deploy guest questioners.

   “We will select five of the best questions submitted in advance. Those chosen will be able to ask their questions directly to the panelists at the forum,” Taylor said. “Those five will be guaranteed their question will be asked. But we also hope this will spark more questions from others in the audience and initiate a larger discussion. We will be seeking questions from audience members during the forum as well. Our moderator will determine which questions from the larger audience will be asked.”

   Those in Alamance County who want to be considered as guest questioners can apply to do so by sending the question they wish to ask to Taylor at mtaylor@thetimesnews.com   or by U.S. mail to The Times-News, Attention: Madison Taylor, P.O. Box 481, Burlington NC 27215. People also may send questions to Catherine Parsons, an Elon University program coordinator, at cparsons@elon.edu  . The deadline to apply to be a guest questioner is April 8. Those selected must attend the forum to ask their question.

   Taylor said the format change came about because organizers felt that too many submitted questions from audience members were not being asked due to time limitations. The forums begin at 7 and end at 8:15 p.m., followed by a reception where discussion is encouraged to continue over coffee, lemonade and cookies.

   “We want to develop a larger discussion during our forum with more back and forth between the panel and people in attendance,” Taylor said. “We have a strong group of guest panelists who should be able to field any number of questions concerning education in our state. We also hope that, through the questions, multiple views about the subject will be heard and addressed.”

   The night will also include information conducted by the Elon University Poll concerning views on education in Alamance County. People in attendance will be polled throughout the forum.

   Taylor said the university was making more room available in McKinnon in anticipation of a large crowd.

   “We started Community Connections in order to have meaningful discussion about the most significant issues we face today, and also to let the Alamance County community know that Elon University is a resource for all,” Taylor said. “So far, I think it’s succeeding.”