School board candidates address current issues facing Lexington 3
Seven candidates are facing off for the three available seats on the Lexington District Three School Board during the November 6 general election. The candidates are incumbents Billy Berry, Cheryl Burgess and Gariane Gunter, and challengers Frances Bouknight and Eddie Cogdill. There are also two announced write-in candidates – Jermaine Barr and Patrice Jones.
As is The Twin-City News’s custom, all candidates were provided with questionnaires covering current issues and their individual qualifications. Their responses follow, in alphabetical order. Please note: Small edits for typos, clarity and space were made by the TCN editorial staff.
- Do you support the $90 million bond referendum to build a new high school, refurbish the primary school, and make repairs to other District Three facilities? Why or why not?
- In light of the recent information released on District Three student test scores, that in several instances were below state standards, what changes would you make to improve the outcome for Lexington Three students? (Complete 2018 scores for some of the assessments taken by Lexington Three students may be found on the state website at www.ed.sc.gov. Click on Data, and then scroll to Test Scores. Choose one of the tests. On any of those pages, choose 2018 and then choose Lexington Three district for any specific information that is available).
- According to the BLPD incident reports, there seems to be an increase in discipline problems at the middle school and high school. What do you feel needs to be done to “nip this type of problem in the bud” so to speak?
- Do you think District Three is top heavy? In other words, are there too many administrators and not enough faculty and other personnel?
- Why are you running for a seat on Lexington District Three Board of Trustees?
- What qualifications do you have that you think will benefit this position?
- What do you feel are the three largest obstacles facing Lexington Three at this time?
- What do you feel would be the best way to approach these obstacles?
- Please list briefly your current personal information – age, job, organizations you belong to, family and any other info you feel is pertinent.
Please read each candidate’s comments carefully and choose the three you feel would be the best assets for the school board.
- [Support bond referendum?] I truly don’t feel that there should be an individual opinion or decision, simply because it is all about being a “TEAM PLAYER.” I feel that it is a decision that should be made by the entire Batesburg-Leesville community.
- [Test scores?] I feel that there are a number of things that could be done to assist the students in improving test scores: A) Facility – Having a designated area that has study guides available for the kids to have access to prior to testing. B) Facilitators – Having diverse staff that would like to display leadership skills [and/or] that are willing to provide tutoring or test prep for students. C) Fact Solvers – Making sure that curriculum courses that are being taught are thoroughly implemented and understood by students.
- [Discipline issues?] Providing a forum of parenting classes to allow the parents to be made aware of the schools Behavioral/Disciplinary problems that are occurring at both schools. We need more communication between the parents and the Police Department to make this a more safe and caring environment.
- [District top-heavy?] Faculty is the prime concern because there is always a great need for educators.
- [Why running?] Because of my experiences from my area of social work, I have seen the effects and challenges that are before our children and how important it is to address all needs (social, educational, economic, and developmental) to ensure not one child goes lacking from the basic needs or opportunity they deserve.
- [Qualifications] I have a vested interest in continuing to make this great community better. The measure of all I am, all that I have, and all that I have become as a man, started at Batesburg-Leesville. We have greatness in our district and we can only get better. I am a believer in a strong PTO that has effective lines of communication between the community and the board. There is a need for a mentoring program for single parents and grandparents who are raising our community’s 21st-century children. We need a foundation to keep our young boys and girls focused on learning and social development. We need to assess the risks and create a viable plan that meets these needs.
- [Three obstacles?] The three largest issues facing the district are teacher shortages, teacher pay and school safety. In terms of school safety, we have to deal with issues of bullying, school violence (school shootings), and transportation safety. We have had 18 school bus fires from old buses that should not be in service. In terms of teacher’s pay and teacher shortages, we have to come up with a mandate, a consensus from all parties about what is best for the education of our children. To establish this mandate, we must create funding and use those monies effectively. We have to address the students in their academic pursuits be it vocational training, a direct path to the workforce or the more traditional track of pursuing a college education. Each child deserves the best opportunity to be successful in their endeavors.
- [Solutions to obstacles?] We need open discussions and to create a strong PTO so we are aware of the challenges that are before the district. Communication is key to begin the dialogue that will assist the board to address these areas.
- [Personal info] This great community, Batesburg-Leesville is founded in the people, the preachers, the teachers, and the great people that helped raise me and most importantly in this educational institution that we have here. I am vested. My family, my friends, all the great people that I know are still a part of this community and I have one idea that we all share. That idea is that our children have a great education, a place where they can grow; they can learn and become anything that they desire in life. I bring to the table what I call “Panther Pride”, a love for education, scholarship and the development of young minds through athletics and social activities. This is how we continue to make this great community better for the 21st century and beyond. I am 47 years old and I have lived here all my life. There is no other place like Batesburg-Leesville. I always tell people, once you come to Batesburg-Leesville, everything else is Bug Tussle; it really just does not measure up to the rich legacy of our community. I am the owner of Ryan’s Process Service where I provide area law firms with legal services. I am a long-standing member of the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church of Leesville, where I serve in the capacity of the Brotherhood Association. I am a Christian. I am the grandson of the late Kathleen and Miles Barr who lived in this community, were educated in this community, and helped me to establish my foundation of service and commitment. I am the son of Linda and Thomas Marshall from Silver Springs, MD and the nephew of former Batesburg-Leesville High School Coach, Joe Lee Barr. As a product and student of Batesburg-Leesville High School, I lettered in varsity basketball and football. I participated in other sports, including baseball and track. I was selected to the North/South All-Star game in 1990. In addition, I was All-Regional, All-Area Outstanding Athlete during that year as well as selected to be listed in the Who’s Who of American Students. I received a full athletic scholarship to Hampton University where I graduated with Honors with a BA in Social Work. During that time, I was a member of two (2) MEAC Championship teams and a National Champion team. I am a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
- [Support bond referendum?] Yes, I support the bond referendum. As a member of the present Board of Trustees, our proposal to build a new high school, refurbish the primary school, and make other changes to District Three facilities came after a facilities study done in 2016 and much discussion. It became evident that both campuses faced safety issues which had to be addressed. With those two schools being the oldest in the District, the primary school had outgrown the building with no extra rooms left for the educational programs needed to meet the growing needs of the school, such as a larger [and] more technologically-connected media center and expanded cafeteria to serve the children breakfast and lunch in a timely manner. We determined that the high school had numerous issues which, after much deliberation, would only be addressed through an extensive change in the layout of the entire school. Issues of concern were safety for the students, needed upgrades with our science labs, increased vocational opportunities, and a number of other upgrades. Building a new high school we felt was a better investment of district’s taxpayer [funds] since the cost to renovate the high school would exceed 50% of the value of the sq. footage of the current buildings. Our schools are the backbones of our community and we should strive to provide our children with the best education possible within a safe environment as they are our future.
- [Test scores?] These test scores are competitive with other schools with similar demographics, but we do not want to assume we can’t do better. There [are] already a number of initiatives being used to make a difference, increased vocational courses, personalized learning, dual enrollment, Montessori, AVID, Lucy Calkins and other strategic interventions just to name a few. The test scores show whole sections of students and subgroups are exceeding the state scores. There may be several instances where scores are below state standards, but with some of the initiatives already mentioned I feel that our administrators, teachers and other staff members are continuing to work to make improvements across all grades on all subjects.
- [Discipline issues?] Upon my investigation, we have not necessarily had an increase in discipline problems at our middle and high schools. There have been a total of thirteen incident reports between the two schools of which only two resulted in some type of charges. Incident reports aren’t arrest records. SROs [School resource officers] create an incident report when investigating any issues of concern. An example of an incident is when the SRO was called to one of our schools to investigate a possible recommendation of an issue to DSS; therefore, incident reports do not necessarily indicate that there are increased discipline problems.
- [District top-heavy?] I do not think District Three is top heavy. When the general public sees a lot of vehicles at our District Office, it’s because there’s various networking/meetings that take place throughout a work week involving many of our District staff members. In today’s world, we’re overwhelmed with many policies, rules, and regulations set forth by both state and federal levels with regards to accountability and we have District staff whose jobs are to make sure we’re compliant. Others are directors of various departments that are necessary for the functionality of our District. Examples: Director of Finance, Accountability, Instruction, etc… We are not understaffed as far as other faculty and personnel in regards to the notion of being Top Heavy at the administrative level.
- [Why running?] I’m presently serving on the Lexington District Three Board of Trustees and would like to have the opportunity to continue to serve as a Trustee. We have a lot of great things taking place within our District and if re-elected it would allow me the opportunity to continue the work at hand. I would work to ensure that our administration and its staff would have the support to make sure our children are provided with the best education possible and within a safe environment.
- [Qualifications] I’m a native of Batesburg-Leesville and have lived here all my life; therefore, I have a vested interest in this community. My occupation is in sales and production management with a family owned lumber/timber company. My love for my community and over 40 years of experience in my workplace has helped me in the years that I have served on the District Three Board. Helping to run a business and manage people is important with respect to serving as a Trustee. Experience in previous years while serving on the board in helping to make decisions to ensure our District was financially sound, especially during the tumultuous years of the past recession, I feel helps with regards to my qualifications for this position. My wife taught for 33 years in elementary education and I can assure you I’m aware of the teaching aspects of our education system as well as the educational needs of our children.
- [Three obstacles?] Lexington School District Three, along with many other districts, are faced with many of the same obstacles. A) We need to find ways to get more parents of our children involved in their children’s education. B) Setting budgets each year with lower than average base student cost i.e. less dollars being provided by our state legislature. C) Teacher retention is becoming increasingly difficult due to lower salaries than the Southeastern average. These are just a few of the obstacles facing our District.
- [Solutions to obstacles?] Ways to approach these obstacles: A) With regards to parental involvement in their children’s education, maybe we could work to get our local churches involved. We need to continue to encourage our parents to get involved in the various Parent Teacher Associations. B & C) In dealing with our base student cost and teacher retention due to lower salaries, we need to reach out to our legislators. Invite them into our schools to better inform them of our needs with regard to the cost of educating our children and the concern of teacher salaries. Also, contact them through emails & phone calls to have conversations of some of our concerns.
- [Personal info] I am 63 years of age. I am a sales and production manager with Collum’s Lumber Products, LLC in Allendale, S.C. I am a member of the Southeastern Lumbermen’s Association and member of Leesville United Methodist Men & Church Council. My wife, Beth Bouknight Berry, and I have two children and two grandchildren: Leah & Mason Sanders, their children, William & Carlee; and Will & Victoria Berry.
- [Support bond referendum?] School safety is a challenge facing all educators throughout the world. We all want a safe learning environment, buildings conducive to learning, and exceptional opportunities provided to our students in Lexington County School District 3. This bond referendum was decided upon by the current School Board after many discussions. I have attended five of the public meetings provided by the District. Information was shared about the needs of the District and the reasons for the referendum. The bond referendum is now in the stage where the final decision rests with the voters in the District. When I vote, I will reflect on the information gleaned from public meetings, newspaper articles, community members, school district employees, etc. during the past several months. My vote will be a sound decision based on input received. In fact, if elected to serve on the School Board, I promise that all of my sound decisions will be based on real experience and will represent the beliefs and values of the community.
- [Test scores?] At a minimum, Lexington County School District 3 assessment data should mirror the state results. I am committed to a strong instructional focus ensuring the success of students by preparing them for the future – now! A high commitment to student success and excellence, along with high expectations for all, should continue throughout the District in order to improve the educational experiences of our students. With our dedicated teachers, high expectations of student achievement, and a shared vision of excellence, the District assessment results should exceed the state results. I would like to help make this the best school district possible. The use of data permeates every level of the District – Board of Trustees level, community level, District level, school level, staff level, classroom level, and student level – in order to promote student achievement. Data are analyzed and trends should continue to be documented. When areas of concern are identified, the District should continue to develop strategies to address the needs. The analyses of assessment data drive instruction. Also, the analyses guide decisions and determine effectiveness in the program evaluation process. District efforts may be expanded to reduce the achievement gap between subgroups. Innovative educational strategies may be used in order to improve student achievement of the South Carolina College- and Career-Ready Standards. All students are encouraged to achieve in a rich instructional environment. The District’s continuous improvement efforts should remain a focus area.
- [Discipline issues?] Since I have not had an opportunity to review the data on the BLPD incident reports, I would first inquire if any changes in the reporting of the data, in the procedures of reporting the data, and in the classification of incidents have occurred for discipline issues. Certainly, I encourage and empower the administrators and staff at all schools to strictly adhere and to equally and uniformly enforce the Discipline Policy. With input from staff, all district administrators must analyze the Discipline Policy, study the types of disturbances, and review data annually to ensure the policy covers all facets of discipline issues. Adjustments must be made to the policy, as necessary.
- [District top-heavy?] I believe all positions are valuable. As any business or school district grows and develops over time, it may be necessary to add a new position or positions in order to meet the needs and/or requirements of the business or school district. In the educational setting, a specific evaluation occurs annually for each staff member. In addition, a study of every job description and the evaluation of the need for every position must be reviewed on a regular basis. Adjustments to any position should be made, as determined.
- [Why running?] Deciding to retire after serving 42 years in this one district was a difficult personal decision. I find it very difficult to detach myself from my interest in the welfare of the District. For approximately 32 years out of the past 44 years, I have had at least one child or grandchild in Lexington County School District 3 schools. Two of our grandchildren currently attend our schools. I remain active in the District and attend many academic and extra-curricular functions and activities. I am committed to educational excellence. I want to contribute what knowledge, experience, and expertise that I have in the field of education to help make this the best school district possible.
- [Qualifications] I received a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from Newberry College, Master of Mathematics from the University of South Carolina, and Master of Education in Educational Administration from the University of South Carolina. My educational career began as a Mathematics teacher at Batesburg-Leesville High School. Later, I moved to the District Office and served as the District Basic Skills Coordinator. As more instructional responsibilities were assigned, my role became the Director of Instruction. I retired as the Director of Accountability and Assessments. In addition, I worked in the Adult Education Program at the Lifelong Learning Center for 20 years. I taught for 12 years and became the Director of Adult Education for eight years prior to my retirement. I have been an Adjunct Professor for The Citadel with coursework focusing on the use of technology to enhance instruction and an Adjunct Mathematics Professor at Newberry College. My tenure in this District afforded me the opportunity to work with all segments of the district population. Having lived in Batesburg-Leesville for approximately 45 years, I have a broad understanding of our community and population coupled with a clear perspective of the District.
- [Three obstacles?] A) Searching for additional financial resources. B) Improving employee salary scales for classroom teachers and support staff. C) Recruiting, hiring, and retaining highly qualified and motivated certified and non-certified staff members
- [Solutions to obstacles?] A) We must continue the process of sound fiscal management and practices. In order to maintain the integrity of the budget, it is reviewed and monitored on a regular basis. Expenditures within the District are monitored closely. I believe and trust that the level of state and federal funding will continue to increase. School climate, staff morale, communication, appropriate planning, and other related areas may be improved without significant increases in funds. We must be creative and efficient with the use of available resources, and we must continue to seek additional funding in the form of educational grants that are available. My background will prove to be very helpful as decisions are made for the efficient operation of the District necessary for the continued success of our students. B) As in other districts, much of the district budget is allocated for salaries and fringe benefits. However, improved salary scales for classroom teachers and support staff are a major factor for the recruitment and retention of highly qualified and motivated personnel. This is an essential component in the budget in order to foster a culture of excellence. C) Employees are the force that directly affects the main objective of the District – to educate our children. There is a growing teacher shortage in our state. It is very difficult to locate teachers for specialized areas such as mathematics, science, and special education. If the salary scales were more in line with other districts, the recruitment and hiring process may yield the best staff for our children.
- [Personal info] I am married to David W. Bouknight, Jr. We have three children and four grandchildren. Although age is not relevant to this election, I am 66 years old. This is simply a number; it is not a factor in the Board of Trustees election. In addition, I retired from the District and work part-time at Carolinian Consultancy and Gifts Unique. Also, I am an active member of Faith Lutheran Church in Batesburg-Leesville. Moreover, I serve on the Information Committee of the South Carolina Poultry Festival. I am a member of Alpha Delta Kappa (ADK). I am very thankful for the opportunities that this District and community have afforded me. Throughout my working years in this District, I have seen a high level of interest, support, and commitment to education by our students, parents, district employees, and the community. My knowledge of the school system, my educational experience, and my clear perspective of Lexington County School District 3 are valuable assets for a School Board member as policies are set to govern the District.
- [Support bond referendum?] I do support the bond referendum for up to $90 million to build a new high school and repairs to the primary school. In looking at the costs to repair the items at the high school, I feel that the best use of taxpayer dollars would be to build a new facility as opposed to putting a large amount of money into repairing a 45-year-old building.
- [Test scores?] Even though there were several instances that were below state standards, scores have improved in a vast majority of areas. I think the programs we have installed, along with instructional coaches, are going to give us continued improvement in these areas. The addition of our BOOST program for 2 and 3-year-olds as well as adding Montessori classes at the Primary School give us the opportunity to begin school readiness at an early age. The AVID program at the Middle and High School are also ways we can reach middle school and high school students with an individualized advancement program.
- [Discipline issues?] What we need to realize is that Lexington County no longer supplies us with an SRO so we now receive our SRO from the town. Incident reports are not arrest records and we often call on our local police department if we have issues and we want to be assured that no law has been broken. But for documentation purposes, the SRO will usually create a report. This incidence report does not always involve disruptive behavior at our schools.
- [District top-heavy?] I think we have assembled a well-qualified staff of administrators, teachers, support staff, and non-certified personnel to offer the students of our district every opportunity to succeed and be ready for the future. Our Elementary School was one of two statewide awarded the honor of Palmettos Finest, our district has been designated a Google Reference District, our high school has received an AP Capstone Designation, we have partnered with Midlands Tech and are able to offer our high school students the chance to not only graduate with a high school diploma but an Associate’s Degree as well at no additional cost to the student. Drive by our LLC/Adult Education facility most nights of the week and you will see the number of cars of students taking advantage of the chance to complete their GED and earn certificates in other programs.
- [Why running?] Simply put – for the students in our community. I am seeking re-election so that I can continue to work for expanding the career options for the students once they graduate. I am excited about expanding out CATE/vocational classes to include welding and CNA certification. I want to assure our community that we are concerned about each student, whether they want to pursue a four-year degree, a two-year degree, or a trade or vocation.
- [Qualifications] Having served previously on the board, I feel that I can continue to be a valued contributor for the overall success of the educational opportunities afforded to our students. I currently serve on the Midlands Technical Advisory Board for our local campus; I am the Treasurer for the Board of Directors of the South Carolina School Boards Association as well as the board for The South Carolina School Boards Insurance Trust. The opportunities to network with board members from all over the state as well as the advocacy opportunities to fight for public education are positives that I can bring to our local district.
- [Three obstacles?] A) Financial issues will always be an obstacle. B) State funding is still not up to 2018 standards. C) Improving test scores are the top on the list.
- [Solutions to obstacles?] A & B) We all need to be advocates for public education and continually impress upon our legislative assembly the need to properly fund public schools. C) As stated in an earlier question, I believe we are implementing programs and practices that will keep our test scores improving.
- [Personal info] I am a life-long resident of this community and a Panther Proud 1975 graduate of Batesburg Leesville High School. My husband John and I are the proud parents of two children, Julie (Ben) Ruff and Jeff as well as three grandchildren, Hollis, Addy Lynn, and James Ruff. I am currently employed by Columbia Eye Clinic as a licensed Optician. I am the Treasurer for the South Carolina School Boards Association, on the Board of Directors for the South Carolina School Boards Insurance Trust, serve as the Columbia Area Rep for the South Carolina Opticians Association, and I sit on the Midlands Tech Advisory Board for our local campus. I am an active member of Faith Lutheran Church where I am a member of the WELCA #2 Circle and I am an active member of a UMVIM Medical Missionary team where I spend 10 days each year assisting in eye exams and cataract surgeries in the country of Haiti.
- [Support bond referendum?] Yes I do. I believe that the improvements are necessary at the Primary School and that we need a new High School. I know that the high school has been maintained well over the past 40 years, but I don’t think upgrades or improvements have been made to keep up with the changing times. We need a secure high school where the students are safe and we need a high school with the infrastructure and facilities to support current and future technology as well as classrooms and labs to support STEM classes and career training. However, I don’t know if a new high school should cost $72 million. The referendum allows the district to borrow up to $90 million, but doesn’t mean that it has to. I would want the board to look at all of the options for building a new school and make the best choices for our district. I want to have a school we can all be proud of but at the same time realize that it is the hard working people of District 3 that are going to be footing the bill. I would hope we could accomplish our goal substantially under the current estimate.
- [Test scores?] I don’t believe it is fair to judge the performance of our district on the basis of “Several Instances” where we are below state standards. Teachers used to challenge students to think and solve problems. Now it seems they are teaching the information needed to score well on standardized tests. I wish our teachers had the freedom to do what they have been called to do which is to let our students truly learn and not memorize answers. I believe we should be preparing our children for college, and to enter the workforce or military. Our students are being accepted into colleges. We have a very successful JROTC program that is providing a pathway to a successful military career. I believe that moving forward we will increase our partnerships to provide career training that will allow our students to enter the workforce with the skills and training needed to secure high paying jobs right out of high school.
- [Discipline issues?] Last year the SRO was from the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department. Any incident reports for the high school would have been made by the county and not the town. Now that the town provides the SRO, the reports are being filed by the town. That is why there appears to be an increase. Without comparing last year’s sheriff’s reports with this year’s police reports, there is no basis for this assumption. That being stated, disciplinary issues originate at home. We have too many single-parent households in our district. We have too much poverty in our district. Children need to learn respect and need to realize that to get somewhere, they are going to have to persevere. It isn’t easy to break the cycle of poverty and single-parent families, but a solid education is one of the best ways to overcome these barriers to success. An expanded mentoring program is something that will help as well. We need more male role models in our community. We need one on one time with our youth showing them how to be responsible. We need programs outside of school for our youth. Dream Catchers is a great program that is affecting the lives of students. Church youth groups are also another opportunity for them. All of that being said, we do need discipline in our schools and shouldn’t allow a few that can’t behave keep the rest from learning.
- [District top-heavy?] The board is responsible for the organizational structure of the District. If elected, I will bring a new perspective to the board. I believe that operations should be efficient. The organizational structure and student to teacher ratio are two things I am interested in assessing.
- [Why running?] I love Batesburg-Leesville and chose to move here 13 years ago to raise a family. There is no other place I would rather be! Six years ago I was diagnosed with Acute Leukemia. God granted me the strength to beat it for a reason. That reason was to be a witness for Him and give back to my community and fellow man. I want to see all the children in District 3 (including my own) receive the education that WE OWE THEM. They are our future. I can’t guarantee my child a high paying job, a nice house, or a perfect wife and kids. But I can make sure they get an education that, if they put forth the effort, will offer them the chance at being successful and having all those things. I will serve with Honesty, Integrity, and Passion for our kids.
- [Qualifications] I have been a parent/volunteer for 13 years. I have been involved with the school district since my son started 4-K. I am a good listener. I will listen to the concerns of parents, teachers, and taxpayers to develop school policy. I am a servant leader. I have 25 years of business management experience. This has given me the opportunity to manage people, processes, and finances. I will be a great steward of the taxpayer’s money.
- [Three obstacles?] A) Perception B) Opportunities C) Overcoming socioeconomic barriers.
- [Solutions to obstacles?] A) Perception – The only way to change people’s negative perception of our district is to continue to improve and communicate these successes. BLES won the state’s top award, Palmetto’s Finest! We should still be talking about that! Building a new high school will also change the perception that we are stuck in the 70’s or 80’s. A new high school will be the new face of the school district and will be something we can be proud of. B) Opportunities – Because we are a small district, our limited revenues constrain what we can do. But, creative thinkers should be able to come up with ways to provide new opportunities in a cost-effective way. Partnering with Midlands Tech and other school districts may allow us to expand our offerings. Remote or satellite learning along with internet-based courses may also allow us to provide courses we wouldn’t otherwise be able to offer. C) Overcoming socioeconomic barriers – This is harder. This is a cycle. In order to break the cycle, we must work together as a community to promote our town, and our school district. If we do this we can become economic development ambassadors and bring industry in and provide higher paying jobs to our citizens. We must be able to provide an educated and trained workforce for companies to want to locate here.
- [Personal info] I am 52 years young! I am the plant manager at the Hartwell Plant (CSS Industries). I am married to Melissa Cogdill (22 years). We have two children. James is 15 and Claire is 11. Both are students in District Three. I attended Laurens District 55 High School and the University of South Carolina. I am presently serving as Deacon, First Baptist Church Batesburg, Master Mason, Palmetto #19 AFM, President, Batesburg-Leesville Rotary Club, Chairman, and Midlands Tech Batesburg-Leesville Campus Advisory Board. I served as Chairman, Batesburg-Leesville Chamber of Commerce, on the Midlands Workforce Development Board, Manufacturing Steering Committee, SC Chamber of Commerce, Batesburg-Leesville Economic Development Committee, and Cancer Cares Advisory Council, Lexington Medical Center Foundation.
Dr. Gariane Gunter
- [Support bond referendum?] “The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.” – Benjamin Franklin. As a student educated in Lexington District 3, a graduate of Batesburg-Leesville High School, University of South Carolina and USC School of Medicine I have spent the majority of my life in an academic setting. I value the importance of quality education and choose to send our children to school in this district where I believe they will receive it, with or without the referendum. Lexington County School District Three strives to provide students not only with this quality education but a 21st-century learning environment. The current facilities limit our ability to provide this innovative environment. The improvements outlined for B-L Primary School, along with the construction of a brand new B-L High School, will allow us to provide flexible, collaborative learning spaces that mimic the workplace. As a 1:1 technology district (meaning every student in grades 1 through 12 is equipped with a Chromebook), the improvements will also enable us to continue to use updated technology with improved infrastructure in our classrooms and buildings. Additionally, the improvements at B-L Primary School and the newly-constructed B-L High School will provide enhanced safety for students and staff. The proposed building plans will offer welcoming, student-centered media centers, cafeterias, classrooms, labs, music and art spaces as well as physical education and athletic areas that will serve as secure and multi-functional spaces to support our overall education program and prepare our future leaders for successful lives after graduation. The difference between school and life is that in school, you are taught a lesson then given a test. In life, you are given a test that teaches you a lesson. Our students will be prepared for both.
- [Test scores?] Districts are constantly striving to improve standardized test scores which is a moving target as standardized tests and state standards are constantly changing. We have been working and will continue to work on any areas of weakness and have shown overall progress in most areas. Our schools continue to be recognized for expanding opportunities while delivering exceptional education. Panther Pride was all over town as Batesburg-Leesville Elementary School was named a 2018 Palmetto’s Finest School! Additionally, Batesburg-Leesville Primary and Batesburg-Leesville Elementary School were both named as Transform SC schools and are committed to implementing innovative instruction as part of their three-year partnership. The early college experience at Batesburg-Leesville High School continues to expand, as does Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) at both the middle and high school. Batesburg-Leesville High School was named 1 of 16 AP Capstone schools in South Carolina which allows students to earn AP Capstone diplomas as part of their high school experience. The district was selected for an Innovation Collaborative Pilot which will enable a partnership with Saluda County School District to receive funding to expand Career and Technology Education (CATE) opportunities which will include welding and firefighting for students in both districts. We are also focusing on additional skills that are encompassed in the 21st Century Student. These skills are intended to help students keep up with the fast pace of today’s modern markets. Each skill is unique in how it helps students and is broken into one of three categories: Learning Skills, Literacy Skills, and Life Skills. These skills will also become part of school’s evaluation process and ratings.
- [Discipline issues?] After reviewing information from the BLPD, BLMS and BLHS there is no evidence for increased concern. When looking at police incident reports filed by schools it is important to understand that incident reports do not necessarily equal discipline problems. Incident reports are also made when DSS is called due to possible abuse in the home or when a student is having thoughts of self-harm, neither of which are discipline problems but do need special attention. Nevertheless, discipline issues are becoming more prevalent across the nation and world so we are more mindful than ever to recognize early signs of disruptive behavior and try to intervene prior to escalation. Both BLMS and BLHS have Student Resource Officers on campus to monitor and assist if an issue should arise. There is also a school-based mental health counselor who serves the mental health needs of students at these schools. Behavior programs and incentives are in place to encourage and reward positive behavior as well.
- [District top-heavy?] Absolutely not. Each administrator in our district serves a specific role and is a valuable member of the team. Good teamwork creates synergy where the combined effect of the team is greater than the sum of individual efforts. Running a successful district involves much more than providing education. It is the behind the scenes work by individuals who specialize in areas such as finance, transportation, special education, curriculum management, maintenance, technology, data collection, human resources and more that ensure the district has a solid foundation on which futures can be built.
- [Why running?] “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin. I am proud to be from Lexington Three and am so grateful for the opportunity to have served our students and this community the past 8 years. Over this time, I have learned so much about the intricacies involved in delivering quality education and have the utmost respect for those who work tirelessly delivering it. I am running for re-election because I believe in this district and community. I genuinely care about the success of each student who walks through the doors of our schools. I am committed to seeing these same students walk out of our doors prepared for success in college, the workplace, military or whatever path they choose for their lives. I have seen firsthand the transformation of our district and am excited for the greatness that is yet to come.
- [Qualifications] While serving on the Lexington District Three Board of Trustees the past 8 years I have had the opportunity to participate in numerous trainings and have gained knowledge not only of our district but of state and federal issues that affect education. Both of my parents were lifelong educators in the SC public school system so I have witnessed and have great appreciation for the dedication and love that are poured into being an educator. Batesburg-Leesville is my home. Having been raised and educated in Lexington District Three, I have a connection with this community that serves as a bridge when hearing and voicing their concerns. I also have two children who attend school in this district so I am involved in events across the district and see firsthand our schools at work.
- [Three obstacles?] A) Sadly, at this current time, the largest obstacle facing Lexington Three is negativity. Much of this negativity is coming from sources with no vested interest, confidence, or contributions to our district which is disheartening. Hence the saying, “Only the guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.” I choose to keep rowing. B) Funding will always make this list. SC public schools continue to be grossly underfunded so we are forced to try and figure out a way to provide exceptional education at a bargain price. Fortunately, within our district, we have many employees who are also ambitious, talented grant writers and who have been awarded funds to support programs and initiatives we otherwise could not afford. Funding also limits our ability to raise salaries as much or often as desired. C) Small Size. I love living in a small community, however, this can also be a challenge. Having a limited job pool and increased distance from job opportunities can be a deterrent when families are looking for a new place to call home.
- [Solutions to obstacles?] A) Negativity – Continue to highlight the wonderful things that are occurring every day in our district and let our district employees, staff, and administration know how much their dedication and hard work are appreciated. “If everyone is moving forward together the success takes care of itself.”- Henry Ford B) Funding – Continue to act as advocates on the local, state and national levels. It is our responsibility to let our legislators know how funding shortages affect our district and what that looks like in our classrooms. C) Small Size – Continue to build on the strong relationships between our local business community and schools while reaching out to other businesses for collaboration. Ensuring that our graduates are ready to be productive employees for these businesses will also strengthen our workforce and promote growth.
- [Personal info] I am 41 years old and a 1995 graduate of BLHS and 2006 graduate of USC School of Medicine. Specializing in Child & Adolescent and Adult Psychiatry, I treat the mental health needs of our community through Lexington County Community Mental Health Center B-L and SouthernMed Pediatrics. Other activities include: Youth and Children’s Director Steadman Baptist Church, Dixie Youth Softball and T-ball Coach, SCORE Sports Soccer Coach. My husband Tracy and I live in Leesville with our two children; Isabella who is a 7th grader at BLMS and Capers who is in K-4 Montessori at BLPS.
- [Support bond referendum?] A school is not a school without the students, teachers, faculty, and staff. I support our schools in any way that will assist with the development and progression of our students.
- [Test scores?] To improve testing outcomes, implementing strategies that encourage teachers to make topics understandable so that all children grasp the concepts is extremely important. Every child does not learn the same way and it is necessary that teachers show students different methods to reach the same result. Along with what is being taught in class, these topics should be reinforced either at home, in after-school programs or both. In order to retain our students we have to meet them where they are and assist with their educational foundation.
- [Discipline issues?] Some middle and high school students have extenuating circumstances and the only way they know how to express themselves is to act out. I think it is important to get to the root of the underlying issues our students face, so that we can take necessary steps to get them back on track. We also need more parent/guardian involvement to reinforce disciplinary actions. It takes a village (Batesburg-Leesville community) to raise a successful Panther.
- [District top-heavy?] In order for a district to flourish, it requires having people on all levels who are devoted to the well-being and education of the students. As long as our administrators are working alongside our faculty and personnel to improve our schools, enhance instruction, and educate our students, we are on the correct path to success.
- [Why running?] Growing up, my family, support system, and community provided me with everything I needed to succeed. As a token of my appreciation and love for children, I am looking to give back to the community that has given me so much. Serving as a Trustee will allow me to foster relationships with faculty, staff, students, families, and other board members. This role will give me the chance to speak up for those who do not feel they have a voice in this community.
- [Qualifications] My degree in Business Management and 10 years in managerial positions have equipped me to evaluate financial documents, develop plans and collaborate with others in order to achieve a common goal. My experience in meeting with families to develop case studies will be extremely beneficial in this position because I believe it is important to communicate with the people being directly impacted by board decisions. I also have volunteer experience working with children of surrounding CME Churches and Girl Scouts.
- [Three obstacles?] The three largest obstacles facing the district are low test scores, constant decline in class size, and post-high school preparedness.
- [Solutions to obstacles?] It is important that we introduce multiple methods so that students can learn the material no matter what their learning style is. I also believe it is imperative that we focus on retention by building lasting relationships and a solid educational foundation beginning in primary school so that students excel and are prepared for the next grade level. We must show the students that we care about their success and that we will do whatever it takes to ensure they are prepared for life after high school.
- [Personal info] I am Patrice Jones, a 38-year-old single mother and proud 1998 graduate of BLHS. I currently hold the position of Accounts Receivable Specialist at a linen and uniform rental company. I am the daughter of Rachel and Burnett “BJ/Sarge” Jones and both were advocates for assisting others. I have a love for the youth of our community and want nothing but the best for this generation and generations to come.
Go online to find polling places for Lexington County, Lexington County Registration and Elections Commission or call 803-785-8361, for Saluda County, Saluda County Elections and Voter Registration or call 1-864-445-4500 ext. 2200. For further information on Elections please refer to the following website: https://www.scvotes.org/. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 6.