Clover school board candidates take on issues

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comOctober 31, 2012 

— Incumbent Liz Johnson and challenger Ginger Marr are seeking election to the Clover school board’s Seat 3.

Clover school board candidates are chosen in at-large voting. Two other board members are up for election — chairman Franklin Pendleton and at-large member Melanie Wood Wilson — but are unopposed.

Johnson is a retired educator; she worked 30 years as a music teacher with the neighboring York school district. She taught at Harold C. Johnson Middle and Cotton Belt Elementary schools. She was appointed by the board to a vacancy that followed a board member resignation earlier this year.

Marr is a lifelong resident of the Clover school district. She now works at Queens College in Charlotte after more than a decade at Winthrop University as director of admissions. She has two children in the district.

Johnson and Marr talked about local issues this week:

As the school district continues to grow, there will be increased discussion of having one large high school or two smaller ones. What's your take on having two schools compared to one?

Johnson: “I really see a better advantage by having one large high school. The present high school is well established and highly advanced with technology, athletics, the arts, career preparation, the media center, advanced placement courses, and more. An additional high school can and will reduce and dilute human and financial resources. The progress will decline and our students will not have as much variety in curriculum which is much needed for preparing them for future challenges.

“In having two high schools, I doubt if either will get beyond mediocrity. With our communities bonding and supporting all the wonderful programs that are continued to be implemented, our children can walk away with an exceptional public education prepared for jobs or a higher institution of learning globally.”

Marr: “It is the board’s responsibility to be good stewards of our resources and make sure the school system is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible. I agree with the current board’s determination that, based on enrollment and budget projections, it makes the most sense to continue operating as a one-high school district for now. While there are, of course, ‘pros and cons’ to the issue, the ‘con’ of adding $5 million in operating budget each year (in addition to the initial building costs) is significant. I think that adding a second high school will be inevitable at some point in the future, but right now, it is not a ‘must do.’

Adding a second high school would, in my opinion, splinter the district. We’ve already seen that to some extent, with the opening of our second middle school. Dividing resources among two high schools would also make it more difficult to efficiently offer the level of academic and extracurricular programs available to our students. Examples include advanced placement and specialized courses, the Applied Technology Center, and athletic and student interest organizations.”

Recently the Superintendent Marc Sosne spoke about the need for a 2014 bond to build another elementary and middle school in the next five years. Are you in favor of a bond for additional schools and, if so, how would you propose “selling” the idea to the community?

Johnson: “I think the community will understand that overcrowded classrooms is an obstacle for the learning process. Most parents I've spoken with are sympathetic with teachers and admire them for just having the desire and courage to teach any amount of children, let alone having too many at once. If one does not understand, he/she may take a job subbing for a day.”

Marr: “I believe our community is proud of the success of our school system. We have a great reputation in the state and region, and our school system is major piece of our town’s foundation and a draw for newcomers moving into our region. If additional schools are required to keep and improve the current level of achievement, then we should be willing to support new construction. Maintaining low student/teacher ratios and providing a safe environment conducive to learning is vital.”

What still needs to be done to improve student achievement?

Johnson: “Much needs to be done. To name a few, we are working on special education, advanced placement courses, career readiness.”

Marr: “Ensuring that our curriculum is meeting the needs of an ever-changing world and work force is imperative. We must continue to focus on all student populations and provide training and instruction that will support their development as productive citizens. We must also attend to the welfare of our students (physically and emotionally, as well as academically). We should consider bolstering our counseling and student support staff, as well as continue partnering with community groups to help meet the needs of our students who live at or near the poverty level. The Second Harvest Food Bank’s Backpack program is one such example of a program that has been very successful.”

What's one more issue that you most want to tackle as a new board member?

Johnson: “I have a desire to work on finding ways to help our communities bond with the school system and support it as much as we can. The school cannot do it all. We must support its productivity and that it may not be disrupted. We need each other-and support each other. Unity is important in today's society. Working together for the cause is an excellent model for our children.”

Marr: “If elected, it is my hope that I will be able to promote and encourage even more idea sharing and collaboration among our schools. There are a tremendous number of programs, activities and opportunities being made available in individual schools throughout the district, and sometimes other schools could benefit as well. We have faculty and staff with diverse backgrounds, interests and experiences, and it would be great to work together when possible to expose all of our students to things that are working well elsewhere. We should strive to offer equitable educational experiences throughout the district, and activities or opportunities made available at one school should be available to all, when possible.”

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