Meet the Lexington 4 school board candidates

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There are three open seats on the Lexington 4 School Board to be filled in the Nov. 6 election. Six candidates are running: Robert B White III, Bradley “Brad” J. Frick, Sadie Kirkland Wannamaker, Zachary “Coach Zack” Smith, Donna Franklin Goodwin and Viola “Frances” McDaniel.

Lexington 4 School District contains: Frances F. Mack Intermediate, Lexington Four Early Childhood Center, Sandhills Elementary, Sandhills Middle, Sandhills Primary, Swansea High Freshman Academy and Swansea High School.

The State did not receive responses from Robert B. White III.

Meet the candidates for Lexington 4 school board:

Donna Franklin Goodwin

Occupation: Retired teacher and principal from Lexington 4

Education: Masters of Educational Leadership at USC

Why I am running for the school Board?

I was fortunate to work my entire career in this school district. As a former teacher, I believe that I have an understanding of the issues that face teachers today. My years as a principal at Sandhills Primary and Frances Mack Elementary will give me insight into the struggle to meet the challenges facing students, staff and parents at the leadership level. I feel a tremendous bond with this community and want to serve in any way possible that supports student success.

What are the school district’s strengths?

The dedication of teachers in this district to help every child is definitely one of its greatest strengths. Teachers go beyond the call of duty day after day because they want to see all students excel. The district also has a very beneficial parent outreach program to help educate parents of younger students through its PALS sessions offered each month. Coordinating relationships between teachers, students and parents is vital to student success. The district combined students from both the Gaston and Swansea communities to be able to group students together with only a few grade levels at each school. This provides the opportunity for students to focus on project based learning in real world situations.

What are the district’s biggest opportunities for improvements?

Retaining effective and qualified teachers is a problem faced by our entire state and especially Lexington Four. Finding ways to entice our good teachers to stay and new teachers to come is a great task. The district is not wealthy and faces the inequities of our state’s formula for distributing funds. The school board has an awesome responsibility to meet student needs while not placing undue burden upon our taxpayers.

Viola “Frances” McDaniel

Occupation: Retired and owns Tidy Up Carpet Cleaning Service

Education: Degree in business administration from Midlands Technical College

Why I am running for the school Board?

I am a candidate for board member in Lexington School District 4 because I am an advocate for education and children. My primary concerns are the low ranking for Lexington 4 and the low standardized tests scores throughout the district — no. 79 out of 83 school districts in South Carolina.

According to data published July, our third-grade reading level scores are the lowest in the Midlands. Moreover, the district’s test scores have been on a downward trend for the past 10 years. Some attribute this to different tests that have been implemented by the state. Others say it is the social and economic status of the district itself.

In any case, I would think that the district would not wait 10 years to try to do something about its ranking and the low test scores of our students. Low test scores are not the end of the world, but it matters when there are very few, if any, viable employers contributing to the economy in the Lexington 4 area.

Business and families are not willing to locate to an area where the district’s ranking and students’ tests scores are far below standard. Our children’s education should be a partnership between the school board members, district administration, teachers and parents.

What are the school district’s strengths?

Lexington 4 has had its share of students who are now doctors, lawyers, professors, judges, professional athletes, teachers, superintendents and hard-working citizens. Our pre-K and elementary schools have been recognized for their Montessori institutes.

The district has families who are willing to sacrifice and help do their part for the advancement of the district. The district has implemented steps that allow more competitive salaries for new hires and to better retain current employees. Hopefully, the new employees will be more diverse, also.

What are the district’s biggest opportunities for improvements?

Lexington 4 hired a new superintendent, Robert Maddox, who will start in June 2019. Maddox was once the assistant superintendent for the district. Hopefully, under his guidance and new leadership within the school board, the district can implement changes that will help improve all areas to the benefit of the children and students of Lexington 4.

Bradley “Brad” Justin Frick

Occupation: President of enhanced golf management and managing partner of Hidden Valley Golf Club

Education: University of South Carolina 1998-2000, Golf Academy of America 2000-2002

Why are you running for the school board?

I am running for re-election because “Our Children Matter!” My wife, Amanda, and I are lifelong residents of the Swansea-Gaston area. I am a local business owner and my wife is a pre-school special education teacher in Lexington 4. I have three wonderful children. My two sons, Hagen, 9, and Hollis, 4, attend school in Lexington 4. My daughter Hailey, 16, whom I have joint custody of, goes to school in Lexington-Richland 5, where her mother lives.

My journey started after my oldest son was diagnosed with autism at age 3. I felt the need to be more involved. I joined the school improvement council and began to volunteer in other classrooms than just my wife’s. I became a mentor to some children who the guidance counselor thought could use a friend. I helped with Special Olympics, volunteered to teach golf in our schools, and coached baseball and basketball in our community. It was later that I was encouraged by my wife’s principal and my former third grade teacher to run for school board. I was fortunate enough to be elected in 2014.

Since being elected I have learned so much and become an even stronger advocate for Lexington 4. I see that the playing field is not level for all public schools across the state. I have a unique perspective because my oldest child attends another district that has more resources than our district. I see the opportunities she has that students in Lexington 4 do not have. I strongly believe that all children should have the same opportunity regardless of their zip code!

Over the past four years I have spoken to lawmakers, business leaders, influential people and anyone who will listen to discuss the inequities within our schools across the state and I always advocate for Lexington 4. My job is not done, and change takes time. That is why I choose to run for Lexington 4 School Board!

What are the school district’s strengths?

Our district’s biggest strength is our people! I am amazed by the passion they have for all of our students’ success, not just academically but also personally. It is not limited to just the teachers, but every one of the employees. Every time I visit a school, I see a custodian giving high-fives to students in the hallway, a bus driver providing words of encouragement, a cafeteria worker sharing a smile, a nurse fixing a boo-boo or administrators greeting students as they come to school. Everyone is invested in the success of the child.

Because of our people, our district has courage to teach to the child and not just teach to a test. While the old teaching method of “Skill and Drill” is still important to help students succeed on tests, this is not the primary indicator of how successful the individual will be in the future. Lexington 4 has implemented Project Based Learning in all our schools so that our students can be problem solvers, critical thinkers, communicators and team players. This not only helps our students succeed in school, but also prepares them for their future.

What are the district’s biggest opportunities for improvement?

Lexington 4’s biggest opportunity for improvement is being able to provide more resources to our students. We need to offer more classes, make technology more available and provide experiences outside of school. Our students are our future and we need to offer the tools needed for them to grow and succeed.

I believe Lexington 4 is on the right path after the voters in our district overwhelming supported the creation of the fine arts facility and upgrades to our athletic facilities. After the completion of the facility, Lexington 4 will be able to offer more classes and CATE Programs giving our students choice in careers they are interested in.

Zachary “Coach Zack” Smith

Occupation: Owner of Bless 1 Enterprise Collision Repair & Auto Detail

Education: Certificate in auto body repair from Lynnhaven Career Center

Why are you running for school board?

I’ve been working in my district for over 20 years, from being a youth football and baseball coach to also working in the school district as a substitute teacher. The kids I meet as early as the age of three come from many different backgrounds. I feel obligated to make sure they receive the best education they deserve, just like I made sure that they learned to play sports and be responsible. I want to be a voice for our students, parents and community. Most important of all, God made me to be a servant, willing to help others whenever I can.

What are the school district’s strengths?

I believe our strength as a district is we are able to go through difficult times but able to keep our community together. Being in a small town, sometimes it helps that we can still come together to move forward. We have a long way to go, but I see great things yet to happen in our district

What are the district’s biggest opportunities for improvement?

To improve our test scores. I know that’s going to require a combination of things, such as making sure we get the best teachers, along with making sure they have the necessary tools they need to become a great teacher. Parents have a big impact with test scores, too. They help make sure our kids are reading during summer, completing assignments and they attend PTO meetings. It’s going to take the community to make sure the district is held accountable.

Sadie Kirkland Wannamaker

Occupation: Retired from DHEC, serves on S.C. State Employees Association and SC State Retirees Board of Directors

Education: University of South Carolina

Why are you running for the school board?

I am an incumbent seeking my third term. My primary motivation for seeking the opportunity to continue serving on Lexington School District 4 Board is that I am a concerned tax-paying citizen and I am an avid supporter of all student activities. I attend functions in which the students are involved, for example, JROTC, athletic awards banquet, prom and graduation. At the ECC, on the first day of school I volunteered to escort 3-year-olds to their classroom.

As a part of my past work history, I experienced numerous budget cuts, downsizing and consolidation efforts. I not only know the degree of assessment planning, implementation and evaluation involved in managing, but also its impact on employees. I experienced doing more with less as we had to downsize the workforce. I recognize the challenge of supporting the school district efforts to operate in a climate of budget constraints and also achieve quality education. We have to recognize the importance of balancing the discrepancy between school district needs and resources available.

Currently I serve on the Board of Directors of the SC State Employees/Retirees Association. In this capacity, I am involved in setting organizational goals, objectives and priorities. We place emphasis on initiating and developing working relationships and dialogue with legislators at all levels to achieve goals such as working to get funding for teacher/employee salaries increased while maintaining current benefit levels at no additional cost.

What are the school district’s strengths?

Leadership has created a common focus that communicates clear goals and strategies to accomplish the vision of the system. The school district consistently provides a purpose, mission and vision of high expectations to ensure student success. Leadership has purposefully strategic planning, which provides the system with clear direction, targeted focus and shared accountability to accomplish the goals and objectives of the organization. Our leadership should continue to set the tone for a culture of high expectations and achievement for all students.

At our Early Childhood Development Center, all children from 3K to 5K are served.

What are the district’s biggest opportunities for improvement?

One of the issues Lexington 4 faces is inadequate funding. We also face a teacher shortage. We should work on recruiting the best teachers — both attaining and retaining them.

All children are entitled to a quality education. The district should offer every child, regardless of their economic status, professional programs that can follow them throughout their lives.

Our district presently is experiencing absenteeism in excess of the state requirement. Parents should be held accountable for ensuring that their children attend school, as required.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Cueto can be reached at 803-771-8621, @isabellacueto