Students steal the show at debate

Thursday, November 4, 2010

CORNERSVILLE --The high school here was well represented on Thursday last week by four juniors selected from a history class to ask questions during the Marshall County Tribune's political debate for candidates campaigning to represent Marshall and Giles counties in the state House.

About 140 people attended the third such debate organized by the newspaper this year as the House debate had to be postponed because of a death in the family of one of the candidates. The state Senate debate was 10 days earlier at Marshall County High School and, in July, the Tribune conducted a debate at the community theater in Lewisburg for two candidates running for county mayor.

The debate was between state Rep. Eddie Bass (D-Prospect), and his challengers: Former Marshall County Commission Chairman Billy Spivey, a Republican; and Former Spring Hill Alderman Ted Roop, an Independent now living at Lynnville.

The students asking questions were:

* Britteny Crowell, Cornersville, daughter of Troy and Laurie Crowell;

* Jacob Gentry, Cornersville, son of Matt and Ruth Ann Gentry;

* Martha McMasters, Pulaski, daughter of Joy and Brad McMasters; and,

* Drew Zudel, Petersburg, son of Amy and Mark Herman.

On the morning after the debate at Cornersville High School, it was back to studying history in Brent Adcox's class because students are preparing for the Gateway Exams.

"Student accountability on the Gateway tests kind of trumps a discussion about the debate," Adcox said Tuesday afternoon on his mobile phone while picking up his children at their school.

"They were all excited that the turn out was as good as it was," the teacher said, reflecting on the audience of 140.

Attendance was about 60 for the Senate debate and about 130 for the mayoral debate.

"They were a little nervous about getting up and speaking, but they had a good time doing it and learned a lot about the importance of politics and staying abreast of currents events," Adcox said. "I got positive feedback."

Before the debate, the students got some help from their teacher as the questions for the debate were drafted and finalized.

"We came up with the questions together," Adcox said. "I typed them up for them, and corrected grammatical statements and I even took them to an English teacher to be sure they worded correctly.

"I'd told them, 'You shouldn't just ask a question, you need to build into it.' They wanted to ask questions like you might ask someone in the hallway. It was a joint effort."

The questions were:

* In recent years Marshall County has hired and fired at least two individuals as director of schools, which leads to this question: Do you believe the job of director of schools should be selected by a few school board members or directly elected by the people as it once was? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current selection process and also the direct election process?

Crowell asked that question.

* Marshall County has had a rich history of manufacturing jobs. Industries such as Heil Quaker, also known as Inner City Products, Cosmolab, and Faber- Castell at one point, employed nearly 4,000 people from this community, as well as our neighboring towns and cities. With manufacturing jobs on the decline in this country what is your idea or game plan to lure jobs back to this area, and also what type of jobs do you see coming to Southern Middle Tennessee?

Gentry asked that question.

* With the current state of the economy and the lack of funding for schools, the following question develops: Should schools be allowed to have soft drink machines returned to the hallways to help improve revenue? Also should soft drink companies be allowed to sponsor schools as well help out with the current budget deficits affecting schools? Have there been any studies done to prove that student health and weight have improved due to removing soft drink machines from with schools?

McMasters asked that question.

* As a resident of Marshall County which is struggling economically I think what most voters would find interest in knowing is -- How are you funding your campaign?

Zudel asked that question.

Two stories posted on the newspaper's web site,, report answers by candidates who now include one winner and two who also ran for the state House seat.