A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Walton-Verona Elementary 4th grader interviews school board candidates, posts videos on her blog

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

Dacy Fallyn Freeman is a 4th grade student at Walton-Verona Elementary School.

She is also a successful child actress and the daughter of a TV news mother.

Nine-year-old Dacy recently took on another project that even high-school students, and most adults, would consider a daunting task

Dacy is an out-of-district tuition student at WVES. The Freeman family does not vote in the school board elections.

In an effort to help her understand the importance of the role these elected positions play in her life, her parents discussed the upcoming process with her.

Tonya Freeman has taken a break from her career in television to focus on raising her children. She remains active in the community, however, and is the Communications/Social Media Chair of the Walton-Verona Elementary School (WVES) PTA.

The Freeman family also includes Chuck, a chemical engineer, and Dacy’s younger sister, Dixon Auralee (Dixie Lee).

The family has lived something of a nomadic lifestyle because of Chuck’s job and settled in Kenton County about five years ago.

They started the blog DFFrent Focus, Retro Rural Parenting in a Modern World, which was taken from Dacy’s DFF social-media handle. The blog is described on the site as an effort to share the family’s crazy life, “from living with a chemical engineer who wants to be a homesteader in his spare time – to a suburban TV veteran mom who spends way too much time volunteering, and two little divas busy doing everything from horseback riding to acting auditions.”

The Freeman Family (l to r) Dixon, Chuck, Dacy and Tonya (Provided photos).

“When we discussed the importance of the local school board election with her, we explained that our family would not vote in the election,” Tonya Freeman said. “She expressed interest in learning more about the board’s plans for her future. As we began our research, she discovered there was little information to be found, so she decided to change that by using her broadcast and journalism skills to create an in-depth look at each candidate’s platform and experience.”

Dacy decided she was uniquely positioned to help educate and inform her community by using her on-camera skills.

She opted to interview each candidate and create video profiles, using the same six questions for each person, which she wrote. She also distributed an in-depth candidate questionnaire which, her mom helped her create.

She came up with the questions using the Google search engine and some input her parents, then made the final decisions.

First, she researched candidate interviews by television and newspaper journalists online and also found some suggested questions from educational groups and the chambers of commerce.

“I separated them into different categories and asked my parents to help me select the best two or three in each category,” Freeman said. “For my video interview questions, I selected a few from my research and added a couple of my own to help me understand how I fit into the Walton-Verona Independent School District.”

She said it was a ton of work, but she enjoyed it.

“I had to do a lot of research to figure out how the election process worked for a school system that covered three counties and had voters in two of those,” she said. “Interviewing the candidates was the easy part because they were so supportive of me.”

She spent more than 40 hours researching, interviewing and compiling the in-depth report on Walton Verona Independent School District School Board candidates.

Dacy Fallyn “DFF” Freeman

“Editing the videos is pretty difficult,” Dacy Freeman said. “I don’t think people have any idea that it takes hours of editing to create a few minutes of video.”

Candidates responded to each of the 11 questions in essay format. The written questions cover the areas of personal goals; government, finance & operations; performance outcomes and equity; and independence of thoughts and actions.

She said the hardest part of the project was waiting.

“I would discuss my next steps with my mom each night,” Freeman said. “If I had questions for officials like county clerks or the people at our school board, I had to make a list of my questions and rely on my mom to make the calls the following day while I was at school. Even though mom was a speedy secretary, it still took me a month to complete the project.”

The interview videos went live Thursday.

Dacy and her family feel that sharing information through the blog will allow voters to access in-depth information and compare and contrast each of the candidates. That was important to Dacy because she understands many news outlets’ coverage of this race are limited by time and publication space.

The project began as a labor of love and the exercise taught Dacy the importance of honest and fair reporting in the election process.

At an age when many children are focused on much simpler things, Dacy took on a complex and daunting task, and saw it through to the end, providing a valuable community service.

The results can be seen here.

She said she learned many lessons along the way including how the General Election process works and how multiple governments work together in her school district.

“I also learned that holding a school board position is A LOT of work,” she said “and that journalists don’t get paid nearly enough.”

When you’re right, you’re right.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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