Education

Meet the Richland 1 school board candidates

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There is one open seat on the Richland 1 School Board to be filled in the Nov. 6 election. Three candidates are running: Yolanda Anderson, Jackie Barker and Dwayne Smiling.

Richland 1 School District contains A. C. Flora High School, A. C. Moore Elementary, A. J. Lewis Greenview Elementary, Alcorn Middle, Annie Burnside Elementary, Arden Elementary, Bradley Elementary, Brennen Elementary, Brockman Elementary, Burton Pack Elementary, C. A. Johnson High School, Carolina School for Inquiry, Carver-Lyon Elementary, Caughman Road Elementary, Columbia High School, Crayton Middle, Dreher High School, Eau Claire High School, Edward E. Taylor Elementary, Forest Heights Elementary, Gadsden Elementary, H. B. Rhame Elementary, Hand Middle, Heyward Gibbes Middle, Hopkins Elementary, Hopkins Middle, Horrell Hill Elementary, Hyatt Park Elementary, J. P. Thomas Elementary, Logan Elementary, Lower Richland High School, Meadowfield Elementary, Mill Creek Elementary, Pendergrass Fairwold School, Pine Grove Elementary, Richland One Charter Middle College, Rosewood Elementary, Samuel A. Heyward Career and Tech Center, Sandel Elementary, Satchel Ford Elementary, South Kilbourne Elementary, Southeast Middle, St. Andrews Middle, W. A. Perry Middle, W. G. Sanders Middle, W. J. Keenan High School, Watkins-Nance Elementary and Webber School.

Meet the candidates for Richland 1 school board:

Yolanda Anderson

Occupation: Career consulting

Education: Master’s degree in business administration

Why are you running for the school board?

Running for school board is the next level of involvement and engagement that I want to pursue. For the past year, I’ve been involved with the School Improvement Council at Alcorn Middle School and the SIC/PTO at Arden Elementary.

As a community leader/liaison, I began an after school and summer enrichment program for kindergarten through middle school-age students in an apartment complex where I used to live. This enrichment program included tutoring and an introduction to arts and culture through educational workshops. An opportunity to serve on the school board is a greater way of making a difference.

What are the school district’s strengths?

The district’s Career And Technology Education Program offers excellent opportunities for students to learn about vocational and skills-based careers. These types of programs help keep children engaged in school thus minimizing school drop out rates.

I agree with the statement attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “Tell me and I forget; teach me and I remember; involve me and I learn.”

The CATE philosophy is exactly this. We should invest more effort into this program in Richland 1. I also support the district’s initiative to implement mentoring programs in all schools.

What are the district’s biggest opportunities for improvement?

I feel that Richland 1 is too divided. If we pull together using our strengths, we could become number one. There is a great opportunity for schools to share resources with one another. Schools that are located in the lower socioeconomic areas could be partnered with those that have more resources; this would benefit all our students equally.

Jackie Barker

Occupation: Mom, homemaker, volunteer

Education: Bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of South Carolina, Master of Arts in Teaching, Elementary Education from USC

Why are you running for the school board?

I am running for the Richland 1 School Board because I’m passionate about education and neighborhood schools. As a former educator, I know firsthand the difference caring teachers and supportive school administrators can make in children’s lives.

I am invested in Richland 1 because both of my children attend schools in the district, and I see how so much of who we are as a community is shaped by our schools. Teachers are working hard every day to make our schools even better, but clearly there’s room for more improvement. I believe a new perspective is needed at the school board level and I can bring to the position the energy and dedication that it demands and that our children deserve.

What are the school district’s strengths?

Our school district has many strengths. Of these, three stand out to me:

  • We have highly dedicated and qualified teachers. This is an essential ingredient to any successful school.

  • We have a multitude of diverse academic programs available to our students, including the Montessori programs, the International Baccalaureate program, the Capstone diploma and the Language Immersion Program, just to name a few.

  • Richland 1 has always done an exemplary job of attempting to serve all students equally. That’s not an easy task, but it is essential to ensuring all students have the chance to grow and become inspired to achieve their goals.

What are the district’s biggest opportunities for improvement?

Our school district has areas for improvement. I’d like to find ways to get more of the budgeted funds into the classrooms where they can have the biggest impact. We must also eliminate some of the obstacles and red tape that our dedicated teachers deal with on a regular basis if we want to keep them.

In addition, there needs to be improved communication between the district office and the schools. Teachers and school administrators need to know that the district is not there to encumber their work, but that it “has their back” and they are working toward common goals.

Dwayne Smiling

Occupation: Director of Career Pathways Initiatives at Voorhees College

Education: Bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Benedict College

Why are you running for the school board?

I have served on the Richland 1 Board of School Commissioners for 16 years, representing Election District 4 and currently serving as an at-large member. During my tenure, I have served as board chairman, vice chairman, secretary-treasurer and parliamentarian.

All students and families deserve equity and access to quality teachers and core and extracurricular opportunities, as well as facilities and programs. Our efforts include the creation of the Language Immersion and firefighter training programs, the expansion of Montessori and International Baccalaureate programs, and a host of other programming to help prepare our students for college and careers.

I am running for re-election because with all that we’ve accomplished in Richland 1, the work continues. I am even more excited and committed to ensuring that the district remains focused on our core business, which is teaching and learning, and providing opportunities for students and families. By working collaboratively with our stakeholders, we can accomplish even more in the future.

What are the school district’s strengths?

Richland 1’s strengths include outstanding students and dedicated teachers, administrators and support staff. From academics to arts to athletics, we excel. We continue to see growth in student outcomes, including a 15-point increase in our graduation rate over the last eight years and increases in AP and end-of-course exam scores. I’m also proud of our expanded Career and Technology Education (CATE) offerings because we want our students to be college and career ready. Richland 1 also received a $15 million magnet schools grant to aid in expanding our ever-increasing choice opportunities for students. We are completing district-wide upgrades to our stadiums and athletics fields. Moreover, at over $83 million for the Class of 2018, our student scholarship earning continues to increase.

What are the district’s biggest opportunities for improvement?

Our opportunities for improvement include expanding the number of pre-K classrooms across the district so that more students are exposed to early childhood learning experiences. We also must proactively address the teacher recruitment and retention issues that face the district, the state and the nation.

Being the diverse district that Richland 1 is, we also must continue to support the needs of the students that we serve, including ensuring that their social and emotional needs are being addressed in the learning process. Increasing our partnerships will support this effort. We must continue to face the challenges of the district with a spirit of collaboration and intentionality, and with the mindset of what is best for our students.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style.

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