Forum introduces Colleton County School Board candidates
by The Press and Standard | November 1, 2018 5:00 pm
Last Updated: October 31, 2018 at 10:04 am
The four candidates for the Colleton County School Board’s Fourth District seat came to the high school’s Performing Arts Center to share their views on the state of education in the county.
Challengers William Bowman, Cyndi Roberts and Alroy Headden on one side of the dais joined the incumbent board member from District Four Darlene Miller.
On the other side were the three school board candidates who did not face opposition on the Nov. 6 ballot: Tim Mabry from the Second District, Sharon Witkin from the Third District and Harry Jenkins from the Sixth District.
Jenkins and Mabry are on the ballot seeking a second four-year term. Witkin is on the ballot to fill out the remaining two years of Gale Doggette, who resigned her Third District seat because she was moving out of the district.
In her opening remarks, Miller said “I have a confession to make and I am going to make it right now. I love my job. I love what I do, I love being a school board trustee.”
Finishing her first term, Miller said, “Everyone knows my character — it speaks for itself in the things I have done being in office for the last four years.”
Among the highlights of her first term, she said, were the implementation of the afterschool program in the district’s elementary schools; improving the teachers’ salaries (salaries frozen by previous board members); and implementing an aggressive security plan.
Her platform, Miller told the sparse audience, has security, “safety for our children and our staff” as the number one issue. She went on to include “a world-class education for our children and equitable pay for all of our staff” to her platform.
Bowman, after offering some biographical information that included two previous terms on the Colleton County School Board, said his platform revolved around his goal “to make a better school district.”
Enhancing the transparency of school district operations, ensuring that the school district is financially sound and providing competitive staff salaries would accomplish that improvement, in part, he said.
Roberts told the audience her goal was to produce an environment where “the teachers have a voice without fear of termination or reprimand.”
“I believe teachers deserve respect, they deserve meaningful professional development. But most importantly, they deserve a voice; they are the ones who know what is going on in the classroom,” Roberts said.
“We have lost many outstanding and influential teachers and staff in our community for a lack of support,” Roberts said. The current board, she added, “is not currently doing what needs to be done.”
Headden said “My goal is to work as a team member to better the initiatives (school superintendent) Dr. Foster presents. To try and be a representative of all of District Four, not just Round O or Cottageville, but the entire district.”
“I would like to be the voice of the teachers, the students and the parents. I would like to see each school receive the financial package they need.”
Colleton County Senior Class President Lance Calcutt, serving as the moderator for the candidate forum, asked the candidates what they would do to ensure that students graduated from Colleton County High School with the knowledge and skills they need to be career and college ready.
Bowman said the school district’s “student academic progress is not where it needs to be.” He said that was because “our curriculum is extremely deficient. The curriculum needs to have an overhaul.” He suggested that the school district’s principals should be given the task of making that overhaul.
Roberts told the audience to produce successful high school graduates, the district needs to look at the beginning of the student’s education.
“I believe that the love of school comes from your elementary school teachers. Teachers who show the young students that it is exciting it is to learn,” she said.
Then, she added, continue that on through the middle school and high school, “continue encouraging them to learn.”
Headden agreed with Roberts. “I feel you have to have a good foundation, like under a house. It starts in elementary school carries over to middle school and high school.”
He suggested laying that foundation requires more reading coaches and interventionists in the elementary schools.
It would involve “retaining our teachers. That is a valuable asset,” he said. “I think the teachers that teach our children are the second most important people in the world. The first person is the preacher trying to save our souls,” Headden told the audience.
Parents, he said, entrust the future to the teachers. “If we don’t protect our kids and try to train them when they are younger, when they get middle school and high school, those teachers will have a difficult time getting them ready for graduation.”
He also said that the school district has to look at its high school vocational education program. “We need to be more diverse in our training.”
Miller said the school district’s “goal is to make every child career and college ready.”
“We expect our students to learn, we gave goals and expectations. We know what they are learning through assessments.” When the assessments show a need for improvement, the school district responds by implementing interventions to generate that improvement.
Those assessments and interventions can found as low as third grade.
Things like implementing the New Tech style of collaborative learning from kindergarten through 12th grade and adding new programs to the curriculum at Thunderbolt Career and Technology Center are all part of the effort to meet the goal of producing career- and college-ready graduates, Miller said.
The Colleton County School District Teacher Forum, a group including past and present Teachers of the Year in the school district, conducted the school board candidate forum.