AIKEN --- Recurring community questions about the current Aiken County School Board were posed to candidates at the first of two sessions put on by Public Education Partners.
The Monday evening forum, held at the URS Center of Performing Arts, consisted of questions submitted by constituents and included topics on budgets, hiring retirees and bond referendums, but ultimately tied to communication -- or the lack thereof -- between the school board and the community.
The forum featured District 7 incumbent and school board Chairwoman Rosemary English and challenger James Matthews; District 6 newcomers Robert Gossett and Dwight Smith, who are seeking to replace former board Chairwoman Dr. Christine Harkins; and Wesley Hightower, the District 3 incumbent, who will head into November unopposed.
Incumbents Hightower and English played devil's advocate when questioned on district communication on all fronts, including a lack of information about May's $236 million bond referendum. The two defended the board's meetings and forums, saying the community has to respond to their efforts for feedback.
All candidates agreed the district needed to offer more opportunities for input, even engaging community mentors in the classroom.
Candidates in Districts 2 and 5 will participate in the second forum on Oct. 11 at the North Augusta Community Center.
District 2 incumbent Levi Green faces challenger David Didimamoff.
District 5 incumbent Ray Fleming faces challenger Eddie Watkins.
The meeting will begin at 7 p.m.