Bowers sees ‘extraordinary progress’ on school board
By Greg Oliver
SIX MILE — Pickens County School Board of Trustees District 2 incumbent Phillip Bowers said extraordinary progress has been made since he was elected to the board four years ago.
“Four years ago, teachers were two pay steps behind, the career center had been underfunded for years, our accreditation status was uncertain, maintenance was being deferred due to poor budget planning and employee morale was very low,” Bowers said. “All of these issues have been resolved, and we’ve kept taxes low as well. I’m confident this board can overcome any obstacle.”
Bowers is facing opposition from challenger Lynn Wike in his bid for a second term representing the Central, Six Mile and Norris areas. A lifelong resident of Six Mile, Bowers is a graduate of Daniel High School and also holds degrees from Clemson University, Southern Wesleyan University and Tri-County Technical College. He and his wife, Martha, have a son and a granddaughter who attends Six Mile Elementary School. Bowers has been employed by Duke Energy for 38 years and, prior to his school board election in 2014, served on the South Carolina Board of Education and the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee.
While saying safety and student performance will remain his top priorities, Bowers said he would like to see the average class size “incrementally lowered.”
“It will take time, but I believe it’s doable,” he said.
The lack of minority teachers, especially African-American teachers, has been a source of frustration expressed by many in education and throughout the county. Bowers said it is a problem the district has sought to address, with teacher recruitment in general becoming an area of focus.
“When I went on the board, budget planning was so poor that we were unable to hire teachers early,” Bowers said. “The board has since corrected that by giving the superintendent the freedom to hire almost any time a good candidate becomes available. This is an important improvement for minority recruitment, because the minority pool is so small that when the district hires late, there are limited candidates available.”
Bowers said he understands the frustrations expressed about the number of new schools built in recent years but points out no new buildings have been built since his election. While Bowers admits the new facilities were a necessity, he said maintaining them is even more important in order to help them achieve their expected 40-50-year useful life.
“One of the priorities when I came on the board was establishment of a recurring maintenance fund to preclude wholesale building replacement,” Bowers said. “That funding source has been established, and we’re doing a good job maintaining facilities for the long haul. I expect the current buildings to meet student needs for decades to come.”
During the next five to 10 years, Bowers said he envisions the school district in several ways.
“Our graduation rate steadily improves, but our aim is to be the best, we have great facilities but must maintain them for longevity, we have the best teachers and administrators but must continue to wisely budget compensation to keep them here,” he said. “The board has proven able to meet challenges head-on and find solutions, and I’m confident we’ll continue to work collectively to meet student needs while also being considerate of taxpayers.”
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