Lee lists reaching top 10 among primary goals
By Greg Oliver
WALHALLA — Jerry Lee has witnessed a number of changes in the School District of Oconee County during his 28 years of service on the school board of trustees.
But as he runs for another four-year term in the Nov. 6 general election, the Seneca resident said the biggest issue facing the district today is the breakdown of the traditional family.
“The number of dysfunctional homes continues to rise, and schools are increasingly called upon to provide much more than just academic instruction for many students,” Lee said.
Lee added another result of dysfunctional homes is the lack of time parents spend with children working on basic skills prior to starting kindergarten.
“Parental involvement at an early age and increasing our 4-year-old kindergarten program would greatly improve overall kindergarten and first-grade readiness,” he said.
Lee said the board is trying to address overcoming the socioeconomic challenges facing many students, which is often a hindrance to their ability to get a good education. One of the primary goals of the board is for Oconee County to be one of the top 10 school districts in the state.
“State standardized tests are the primary measure, and we rank in the top 25 to 30 percent in most areas,” Lee said. “We need to improve this ranking to reach our top 10 goal.”
There are a number of other areas Lee said the district must improve to reach that goal and provide students with a quality education. One area the Walhalla High School and Clemson University graduate said must be improved is the lack of minority teachers, and particularly black teachers.
“We are not doing an adequate job and need to improve in this area,” Lee said. “Recruiting quality teachers is becoming more and more difficult as the teacher shortage continues to grow, and this includes minority teachers as well. We actively recruit at several predominantly black colleges and universities, but we need to continue to look for ways to improve in this area.”
But Lee said the school district has made improvements in other areas, including the upgrading of school facilities.
“The generally accepted lifespan of a school is approximately 50 years, and we normally use our facilities for that period of time,” he said. “One of the things that makes Oconee a great place to live and work is great schools. Our schools are also a primary economic development driver. Good schools require up-to-date buildings and a highly qualified staff, and we are fortunate to have both.”
Another area Lee feels good about involves the opportunities that students are getting when it comes to online learning, dual credit courses and work-based learning that have given them an early start toward college graduation and technical careers.
“Technology is changing every day and will continue to do so in ways we can’t imagine today,” Lee said. “One thing that will not change is the need to have top-quality teachers in every classroom, and we are very fortunate to have them in the School District of Oconee County.”
During his spare time, Lee enjoys hobbies that include gardening and classic cars. A member of College Street Baptist Church in Walhalla, Lee and his wife, Donna, have a son, Mike, and three grandchildren.
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