After more than 10 years of service on the Cherokee County School Board, Canton resident Mike Chapman will soon leave behind his political career advocating for the Cherokee County School District.
Chapman, 52, opted not to seek re-election after the reapportionment process left him without a district to run in. Chapman is a member of the Rotary Club of Canton and also serves as the chair of the Canton Building Authority and the G. Cecil Pruett Community Family YMCA.
Chapman and wife Mary have two adult children, Matt and Mark, who are both graduates of Cherokee High School. They are members of Canton First United Methodist Church.
Chapman has lived in Cherokee County since 1989 when he opened a manufacturing facility in Canton.
In the past, Chapman served for nine years on the former Appalachian Technical College's board of directors, served three terms on the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce's board of directors and was a co-founder and president of the Cherokee Learning Center.
He remains active in United Way of Cherokee County, which he once served as the county's campaign chair.
Chapman discussed with Patch his career and his plans for the future.
1. How are you all feeling now in these last days of your tenure? Are residents reaching out to you to wish you good luck?
There is a sad element to leaving a job that I have been doing for over 10 years. However, it is time for a change and I can take pride in the fact that the school system is better off today than when I took office. The amount of support and positive comments has been overwhelming and humbling to say the least.
2. What are some of the proudest moments you all have had during your terms?
There are many successes and moments to remember when you do this job but the one single event, that occurred every year, was working graduation(s). When you stand in front of 5-7,000 proud family members and hand a graduate their diploma you feel all the hard work and effort was worth it. I also had the privilege of handing my two sons their diplomas when they graduated. That was an unbelievable experience.
3. What do you think you could have done differently on any particular issue?
I am sorry that the charter school issue has veered so far off of what it is intended to be. I and other members of the (school) board are great believers and supporters in what Charter Schools are designed to do. Unfortunately, there are people who have politicized the issue instead of dealing and negotiating in good faith to ensure adherence to the law and ensure accountability to the tax payer. I wish I could go back in time and try a different approach to dealing with the issue.
4. Were there any moments that would be considered trying times? What were some of the hardest decisions you all have had to make?
There are always issues that come up and get controversial. Early on we had the confederate flag issue at Cherokee and then the naming of Creekview and Creekland was a huge issue. But recently the charter school issue has been the most trying. The night we voted for a third time to deny Cherokee Charter Academy's application was very difficult. At that time 11 other systems had denied the same application. The application presented was wholly inadequate in addressing many issues, not the least of which was financial. In addition, we had spent a great deal of effort generating an application that would have met all fiduciary requirements for CCA and they refused to even look at it. Believe me —our board wanted to approve the application. We discussed it often and tried to work out issues in good faith.
6. How do you feel about the future direction of the school board now?
There is no question in my mind that the times ahead for Cherokee County Schools will be difficult. Most board members are very focused on doing all they can to benefit the system. I think the board will be strong under Janet Read's leadership. They will have some very difficult decisions to make in the future.
7. Do you have any advice for the incoming school board members?
Learn all you can about how public schools work. Learn all you can about how state government effects the performance of CCSD. Then do your job the best you can to advocate and set policy for the system. Do not be beholden to those that would destroy, constrict and dismantle CCSD. Keep the local public informed as to what is happening and garner their support. School board members have an extremely important role to play. You oversee the largest taxing authority in the county and are accountable to the taxpayers of Cherokee County not state politicians, never forget that. Continue the efforts to work collaboratively with others who are willing.
8. What are your plans for the near future? Any possibility of getting back into politics?
I plan to focus on my work and personal life. I am blessed with a great family and a very good job. I have had to balance personal, professional and community service for so long that it will seem like there is a vacuum. I really do not know if I would ever re-enter the political world, although I get asked to every day.
9. What do you want to tell residents who have elected and supported you over the years?
My goal is and always has been to do the best job possible and give back to our community. I thank all the people who elected and supported me throughout the years. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to serve on the school board. The support of so many people has been the foundation I have relied on to do my job. Thank you for your confidence!