Filing opens for 4 school board seats
By Greg Oliver
PICKENS — Filing for four Pickens County School Board seats — including a newly created District 7 seat — will begin at noon today and continue through noon Aug. 15, and the three incumbents up for re-election plan to run again.
Phillip Bowers, who represents the Clemson, Six Mile and Norris areas of District 2, and Henry Wilson, representing the Dacusville area of District 6, are both completing their first terms on the school board. School board chairman Brian Swords, elected in 2013 to fill a vacancy in the Liberty area, is seeking his second full term on the board. The District 7 seat, representing the Easley area, was created by the state legislature last year, and a board member will be elected Nov. 6.
Bowers said, if re-elected, he plans to continue his focus “on getting the very best teachers in our schools.”
“I’m thankful the teacher pay gap that existed when I came on the board is fixed,” Bowers said. “Effective teachers are very important to our future.”
Bowers also said he would like the school district to continue its focus on career and technology.
“That was also a goal when I came on the board,” he said. “I’m thankful we’ve been able to expand CTC offerings and help more students during my first term.”
Other priorities named by Bowers include school safety, facilities upkeep and long-term financial management rather than the “hand to mouth” approach the district operated under “just a few years ago.”
“I’m thankful we have a very good board now, and I have enjoyed serving with them,” Bowers said. “Great progress is being made.”
During his time on the school board, Wilson said he has witnessed “bold steps” toward making the School District of Pickens County “one of the best school districts in the country.”
“I know the changes we have delivered will bring strong educational value to generations of our kids,” Wilson said.
If re-elected, Wilson said he plans to focus on the goals of applying a practical business approach to education decisions, including managing school district operations and facilities long-term and addressing issues with competitive pay and professional development, delivering results-driven, student-centered education through fighting for programs directly leading to jobs and or college opportunity and improving on-time graduation rates, providing community-focused leadership through prioritizing student success over special interest group agendas and reflecting community values and delivering transparent school governance.
Wilson said he is proud of doing his part to bring greater focus on world-class, student-centered initiatives through new programs at the Pickens County Career and Technology Center and the K-12 initiative to bring science, technology, engineering and math education to every classroom. He is especially proud to contribute to the promotion and adoption of strategic planning that allows the board to focus on areas “that will bring the most value to our students.”
“Through these efforts, we were finally able to address long-term issues with community-wide impact, such as the turnaround efforts at McKissick Elementary that resulted in a fantastic opportunity to build a STEM academy in the Easley area,” Wilson said.
Swords feels the board “has made tremendous progress working alongside our district administration.”
“The board is working well together, and our main priority the last couple of years has been student safety,” Swords said. “We were one of the first school districts in the state to put an armed officer in each building.”
The school board chairman also pointed to the long-term capital needs plan now in place “to ensure our schools are maintained” and the ability to now fund repairs and ongoing maintenance when needed — something he said was not in place four years ago.
“This has allowed us to budget for repairs and maintenance similar to the way families do with home repairs,” he said. “This has lessened the burden on the taxpayer and ensures that the investment in our school facilities isn’t wasted.”
Swords said the board has also allocated more funds toward technology, making the district a nationally recognized leader in educational technology. That, he added, led to AT&T awarding the district with a $5 million grant to put tablets and take-home rural internet into the hands of every middle school student, as well as being one of the first districts to put one-to-one technology in the hands of every student from middle through high school.
The chairman added the district is far more competitive in teacher hires, making teacher pay more competitive, increasing academic rigor in the classroom by more than doubling the amount of AP, dual-credit and technical career pathway classes in high schools, putting more money toward STEM education and programs that lead to careers, and increasing funding for 3-6 p.m. programs that include athletics and after-school activities into the evening hours.
“Studies show that students who are engaged in these activities are much more likely to graduate,” Swords said.
Swords added the district is piloting a work-study program this summer for high school students, enabling more than 100 students to work alongside professionals in schools — including diesel mechanics, office managers and teachers. This, he said, enables the students to earn a wage and help full-time employees while receiving real-world experience.
“Our current board is working great together, and I want to continue to be a part of that team that is working to support our teachers and administrators as they help our students reach their goals each day,” he said.
Anyone interested in filing should call the Pickens County Registration and Elections Office at (864) 898-5948 or visit pickenselections.org for more information.
firstname.lastname@example.org | (864) 973-6687
Follow on Twitter @ JournalGO