CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The District 2 candidates for the Bradley County Board of Education say school safety and teacher investment are among their top priorities.

Vicki Beaty, who is seeking a third term representing the northern Bradley County district, faces challenger Chris Cassada in the Aug. 2 general election. Both shared reasons for their electoral bids in recent interviews.

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Vicki Beaty

"I have spent my entire life in education," Beaty said. "I've just had a great opportunity to serve the community and would like to continue to do so."

She cited 48 years, combined, spent as a teacher, administrator and board member have given her a "unique perspective" of the school district.

Cassada, an account developer with a soft drink bottling company and a former president of the Tennessee Hemophilia and Bleeding Disorders Foundation, said he sought the seat as means to serve.

"To be part of something bigger than myself outweighs everything I've done in my life," Cassada said. "I want to be someone who listens to teachers' and parents' concerns."

Both candidates said school safety ranked as the most important issue facing Bradley County Schools, although it was not the only concern. They have personal stakes in the matter, as well; Beaty's grandchild starts school this fall and Cassada's children attend county schools.

Every school has a resource officer supplied by the Bradley County Sheriff's Office and a safety plan, Beaty said. Armed guards protect the district's two high schools.

She said she has pushed for additional measures, including intruder locks for all classrooms and upgrades to campus camera and radio communications.

"We need to look at grants and study what other school systems are doing and adapt it to make it work," Cassada said. "I don't have all the answers, but I'm willing to listen and I'm passionate about getting involved."

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Chris Cassada

The candidates said it will take partnerships for the school system to succeed and cited support for teachers as a means of investing in the county's children.

"Teaching is a calling," Cassada said. "If we invest in them and show them they are valued, they will put more into it for the kids. When we invest in our teachers, we are automatically investing right back in our kids."

Supporting teachers means ensuring they have competitive salaries and benefits, Beaty said.

It also means giving them needed classroom materials and technology, she said, also calling for all county schools to have certified STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)learning labs.

Beaty cited collaborative efforts between the Bradley County Commission, the mayor's office and the school board resulting in recent milestones: the rebuilding of Lake Forest Middle School and the repurposing of the old American Uniform plant as the Partnerships in Industry and Education Innovation Center, a work-based learning hub.

"We have very exciting times ahead," she said.

Those same collaborations will be needed to prepare for the future, Cassada said.

"We are expecting huge growth," he said. "Something we have to look at is how to adapt to that down the road. Collectively, we are headed in the right direction, but we need to continue down that path for the students and teachers."

Contact Paul Leach at Follow him on Twitter @pleach_3.