Columbia, SC — Date of birth, including year: 1954
Number of years living in the district you seek to represent: I was born in SC, left for about 8 years when first married; but, returned in 1984 to raise our children.
Family: Spouse – Bill Spearman Children – 3 children – both grown – Mitchell & Katie, 1 deceased
Education: Graduate Hollywood High School – Saluda County Schools; B.A. Music Education – Lander University; M.Ed. Supervision – George Washington University; Ed. Specialist – University of South Carolina
Current Occupation/employer: Executive Director of SC Association of School Administrators
Employment/Volunteer History: 18 years as a teacher in the classroom/served as assistant principal 2 years; House Member – elected 4 terms; 6 years as Deputy Superintendent for Governmental Relations at the SC State Department of Education; 9 years in current position;
Volunteer – have worked with Palmetto Girls State Program for over 40 years – Counselor, Director; Director of Girls Nation; President SC American Legion Auxiliary; Church Choir Director and Organist – 35 years
Offices I have been elected: SC House of Representatives – 1992 – 1998 District 39 – while there served on Education Committee and Ways and Means
Key endorsements: Senators Wes Hays, Ronnie Cromer, Billy O’Dell; Representatives Gary Simrill, Ralph Kennedy, (others to be named)
1. What makes you the most qualified person to hold this position? (Be specific.)
I am the most qualified candidate because of the in-depth experience I have held in education as a 18 year- teacher, principal, policy-maker, and advocate for public education here in the state of South Carolina. I have fought my entire professional career for strong policies that will improve student achievement and the quality of our system in SC. I understand the challenges of the rural districts in SC having returned to teach and live in my native Saluda County and yet, I appreciate the possibilities of our thriving urban areas. I worked recently with education and business leaders to establish a 21st Vision for the Graduate in SC and helped organize and fund the TransformSC Project which is focusing on innovative strategies to prepare students as graduates for our new economy.
2. What will be your top three priorities if you are elected? (100 words for each issue)
A. I will focus on preparing every graduate to be college & career ready upon leaving high school. This will include a close collaboration between parents, educators, higher education, technical systems, and business leaders to first, set high standards for all students. Then, we must communicate with students and families about the careers available and the preparation needed for those opportunities. I will negotiate with rural districts to offer cross-district transfers to Career and Technology Centers so that students may match their interests with programs available. I will also work closely with districts, State Board of Education members, and legislators to remove any regulations or statutes that might be obstacles for implementation of changes in districts. I will focus on programs that are working effectively and help replicate them in other districts.
B. I will focus on the quality of the leadership and classroom instruction in every school in the state. To have a great school, you must have a great principal who understands instruction, how to support teachers, work with parents, and lead. This will be done through establishing a Principal Assessment Program so that potential candidates will be evaluated prior to selection. Effective teachers will not stay in a school if they do not have the support of a strong principal. I will work closely with partners in higher education to review and improve teacher preparation programs so that new teachers are better prepared for the challenges of the classroom – particularly in reading. I will advance opportunities for outstanding teachers to serve as professors, mentors, school leaders while continuing to teach in the classroom.
C. I will focus on making sure that SC has the safest schools in the country. This will be done through collaboration with law enforcement agencies to review and improve school safety plans so that they are specific for each school building. I will work with Mental Health Agencies to provide needed services for students. Improving the culture in schools through positive behavior interventions and bullying prevention initiatives will be pushed for statewide implementation.
3. How would your approach to your job differ from the incumbent’s?
My style of leadership would differ from the current State Superintendent. My greatest strength is my ability to bring people together for collaboration and consensus. I will set a positive climate of collaboration for all stakeholders – educators, parents, students, business leaders, state board members, legislators – and bring these leaders to the table to make decisions together. We must stop the chaos and negativity and work together to improve the quality of our K-12 system in South Carolina.
There is no silver bullet in education that will address every issue we face, and no one, including myself has all the answers. However, I have built relationships with people throughout the field who have great ideas and answers to many of the problems we face in reforming education. I believe by bringing all of these people to the table for a free exchange of ideas, we can work together to come up with the best ways to advance education in South Carolina.
4. Describe at least one significant political position you hold that would clash with your political base.
I will always protect the right of parents to choose the type of schooling they think best for their children. However, I will always speak out for the right of every child in this state to be educated. Currently, the vast majority of home-school parents are following the law and participating in an active home-school association and teaching their children properly. However, there are a few bad parents who realize that no one is checking to see how, or even if their child is being educated. Sadly, they choose not to be involved with one of the many fine home-school associations across the state and completely neglect the education of their children. This is wrong. In one school district we had a family of five children arrive and the oldest - a fifth grader – could not read or write. Family court judges and other school districts have similar stories. This must be corrected for the sake of those children. While some in my party disagree, I believe there should be basic registration for all home school students and they should be held to minimal standards so we are certain to fulfill our duty to ensure every South Carolina child can read, write, and do simple math. I believe this is not only important for those few home school students who are not being properly educated; but, also important in re-affirming the credibility of the vast majority of home-school families who faithfully educate their children and ensure the safety and future of other children who cannot speak for themselves.
5. Have you ever been convicted of a crime, been disciplined by a professional licensing board or organization or had an ethics complaint filed against you? If so, please give the details.
No, I have never been convicted, disciplined, or had an ethics complaint filed.
6. Have you ever filed for bankruptcy or been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes? If so, please give the details.
No, I have never filed for bankruptcy or been delinquent on taxes.
7. Are there any personal details about you that voters would be interested in knowing?
I grew up on a dairy farm and had wonderful experiences in 4-H and Farm Bureau. The lessons learned showing dairy cows and completing 4-H projects taught me a lot about hard work, how to get along with others, how to respect other people and their beliefs and talents. I will use those lessons to lead our state forward.