Three newcomers seeking school board post | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | October 27, 2016 5:00 pm
Last Updated: October 26, 2016 at 11:31 am
By GEORGE SALSBERRY
Gale Doggette, Noel Ison and Sue Keith are asking voters to send them to the Colleton County School Board to represent the residents of the Third District.
The seat became open when a redrawing of the district’s borders placed the residence of the incumbent, P.A. Pournelle, outside the district.
The three candidates offered similar views when asked to detail what they saw as the role of a school board member.
Ison said that “the school board plays many roles in running the schools.”
In addition to selecting a school superintendent, Ison said board members are also responsible for the education of all the students, takes necessary action to continue to improve the schools and strives to provide facilities and services that will support a good educational program.
“I would suggest that each member adopt a school and visit that school on a periodic basis and be able to talk to the principal and teachers and find out the current news, what do they need and what we can do to make their job easier,” Ison said.
Keith said that she agreed with Ison on the board being responsible for naming a superintendent.
She went on to say that the board is also responsible for setting policy and reviewing the budget.
“We do not have direct responsibility of educating the children on a one-to-one basis. I am not qualified to be a teacher; what I am qualified to do is to monitor performance, troubleshoot, look for issues,” Keith said.
If the family member of a student comes to her about a teacher, she will listen and take those concerns to Dr. Franklin Foster and say “I need a resolution of this, can you tell me what is going on,” she said.
“I don’t let things lie for a while, I will follow-up,” Keith promised.
Doggette, when her turn came, said she agreed with Keith that “the school board’s role is not the day-to-day teaching of our children. The board’s job is to hire someone they think can do the very best job possible, set policy, set a business plan.”
Doggette said she believes the district needs to run more like a business. District personnel should set a business plan for the district and the board members should “monitor progress of plans under the direction of the superintendent. We should be trusting our superintendent,” she said.
The three prospective board members said they were hesitant about offering comments on how the district and board members had handled the cost overruns and construction delays of Bell’s Elementary School.
They did, however, express their thoughts on the district’s difficulty in attracting and retaining teachers and bus drivers.
Doggette said she has friends who are teachers “and they say there are a lot of problems.”
The district attracts young teachers but it doesn’t prepare them for working in a small community — “they don’t know what they are coming into,” Doggette said. When they get in the classroom, she added, they are “not getting the support they need, particularly on the discipline side, and unfortunately, we also don’t pay well.”
The district’s bus drivers, Doggette added, start at $10 a hour and only work limited hours “because we don’t want to pay them benefits.”
Those bus drivers, she said, are handling “precious cargo out there. I am not going to drive those children around for $200 a week and I don’t know many people who will. We have just got to do something, at least give an incentive for some kind of health care or paid vacation,” she said.
Ison said his 35 years experience in management has taught him “when you have trouble hiring someone, you have got to evaluate your pay scale.”
“We pay starting teachers $5,000 less than the surrounding counties. That is a problem. It is especially true when you are trying to hire the best candidates out there,” he said.
The teachers he has talked to, Ison said, “are not frustrated as much as they are tired.” He said that teachers face too much paperwork and too much red tape. “They don’t have enough time to teach their class adequately.”
“This may seem strange, but one problem I see in hiring a young teacher fresh out of college is that there is nothing here for them to do,” Ison said.
Bus drivers “start early, finish late and have a lot of pressure. I will evaluate salaries,” he said.
Keith said in her 40 years of management, “I was taught salary was not a satisfier. I’m sorry, it is.”
Keith explained that she evaluated the data and found that with the exception of Barnwell County, Colleton had the lowest starting pay for teachers. In Colleton County, a new teacher with a four-year degree is paid $30,000.
By comparison, Keith said, a new graduate nurse with a two-year associate degree from a Beaufort technical college receives $42,000 a year. “Without a teacher, that nurse would not be there.”
In her last 10 years in management, Keith said, “My turnover was less than 4 percent. I believe in keeping employees, you have to look at what is causing them not to be happy.”
Keith said she had been told that the school district does an employee satisfaction survey. “Look at the data,” she said, “If you see a commonality, address it.
“I think the same thing applies to the bus drivers. Ten dollars an hour is not enough to pay me to drive a bus,” Keith said. The board, she added, “must look at the salary scale, and to get the money, we must contact our state and local legislators.”