Meet the Richland 2 school board candidates

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There are four open seats on the Richland 2 School Board to be filled in the Nov. 6 election. Seven candidates are running: Cheryl Caution Parker, Teresa Jones Holmes, James Manning, Amelia B. McKie, James A. Mobley, Craig Plank and Darrel President Sr.

Richland 2 School District contains Bethel-Hanberry Elementary, Blythewood High School, Blythewood Middle School, Bookman Road Elementary, Bridge Creek Elementary, Catawba Trail Elementary, Dent Middle, E. L. Wright Middle, Forest Lake Elementary, Jackson Creek Elementary, Joseph Keels Elementary, Kelly Mill Middle, Killian Elementary, L. B. Nelson Elementary, L. W. Conder Elementary, Lake Carolina Elementary Lower Campus, Lake Carolina Elementary Upper Campus, Langford Elementary, Longleaf Middle, Muller Road Middle, North Springs Elementary, Polo Road Elementary, Pontiac Elementary, Rice Creek Elementary, Richland Northeast High School, Richland Two Charter High School, Ridge View High School, Round Top Elementary, Sandlapper Elementary, Spring Valley High School, Summit Parkway Middle, Westwood High School and Windsor Elementary.

The State did not receive responses from Teresa Jones Holmes and Darrel President, Sr.

Meet the candidates for Richland 2 school board:

Cheryl A. Caution-Parker

Occupation: Richland 2 board member and retired Richland 2 deputy superintendent (2014)

Education: Doctorate degree in education

Why are you running for the school board?

I began my career in Richland 2 in 1980 and retired in 2014. I served as a classroom teacher, District Teacher of the Year, school administrator, principal of Forest Lake Elementary, principal of Dent Middle School, district chief administrative officer and deputy superintendent. My experience in Richland 2 prepared me well to serve on the school board. I plan to continue to focus on safety and security, make decisions in the best interest of all students, and focus on fiscal effectiveness and efficiency. I continue to be committed and dedicated to Richland School District 2.

What are the school district’s strengths?

There are many strengths of Richland 2. Our students, employees, administration and programs are but a few of the strengths. Our parents, community and partnerships are a vital part of the foundation of the district. Another great strength is our diversity and the continuous effort to learn and understand cultural differences — a great learning experience for all!

What are the district’s biggest opportunities for improvement?

The challenges to our district are school safety and security, which includes funding needs. Each of our facilities is in need of safety and security upgrades, such as door replacements, security locks, cameras and intercom systems. Some of our schools were built in the 1950s and need to be replaced. The plumbing, heating and air systems need to be replaced in numerous schools. We have students in portables and need permanent facilities as replacement. The majority of our buses are old and some are in dire need of replacement. Others need to be upgraded for safety reasons.

It is my hope to continue to serve on the leadership team to ensure Richland School District 2 is a premier school district!

James Manning

Occupation: Director of enterprise risk management and compliance

Education: Master’s degree in education

Why are you running for the school board?

I am running for the Richland 2 Board of Trustees as “A Parent’s Voice.” It is imperative that we have the voice of a parent who understands how the policies the board creates affect our students and families first hand. I am a former teacher, I am married to an educator and my mother is a retired teacher. Education has always been very important to our family.

Education is the cornerstone of our democracy, our national security and the success of our community. My experience on the board allows me to be immediately effective in the ongoing work of the district to ensure our students are safe, our teachers are respected and effective and that our school district continues on its path to be premier.

What are the school district’s strengths?

Richland 2 has many strengths, including a premier superintendent, an incredible faculty, a diverse population and great financial stewardship. Baron Davis, our superintendent, has done a tremendous job of working with the board to create clear strategic initiatives which are designed to ensure all of our students are college and/or career-ready. He has also ensured that we have the right culture, climate, facilities and training so we are able to retain and recruit the best qualified staff so our students are provided with great opportunities for learning.

Richland 2 comprises a diverse population of people with different ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds. The Richland 2 board and staff work hard to ensure that we use these diverse experiences to create a rich educational environment which complements our district and our student outcomes. Richland Two has received both state and national awards for our financial practices, which is reflected in our bond rating, which is one of the highest of any school district in the state.

What are the district’s biggest opportunities for improvement?

The most needed improvements in our district are reflected in our request for a bond referendum this November. The referendum is primarily focused on improving the safety and security for our students through capital improvements. These improvements address issues such as secure entrances, shatter-proof film on windows, additional security cameras, bus improvements, and more. We have focused on policy and practice improvements in the area of safety and security, but we must also ensure our facilities are adequately funded to keep our students and staff safe.

Amelia McKie

Occupation: Governmental relations and communications consultant.

Education: University of South Carolina

Why are you running for the school board?

I am running for a second term to the Richland 2 School Board of Trustees because I absolutely love educational advocacy and enjoy collaborating with passionate educational champions to make a difference in the lives is the 28,000+ students of Richland 2. The biggest champions in our question for educational success are our teachers. I was an actively engaged parent long before I was elected to the school board, with a concentration in School Improvement Council activities. As a result, I gained a keen eye for the pursuit of equity and parity as it pertained to being mindful of resources, both physical and intellectual.

What are the school district’s strengths?

The district is filled with passionate educators, administrators, staff and support service personnel. We are blessed with strong community partnerships that work together to create educational opportunities for our students. Our diversity is a strength I embrace. We are rich in diversity of background, community, culture, socioeconomic standing and even learning styles. What makes us different ultimately works to make us stronger as a premier and inviting school district.

What are the district’s biggest opportunities for improvement?

It is always important for us to be mindful of long and far-ranging implications of each decision we make. According to the laws of physics, each action has an equal and opposite reaction. As policy makers, we as board members are tasked with being mindful of the decisions we make to ensure that they are positive for all involved.

We are also mindful of all populations of students, paying particular attention to achievement gaps, ensuring equitable resources and employing additional measures required to close those gaps.

James Mobley

Occupation: Cosmetologist of 41 years

Education: College

Why are you running for the school board?

I have worked in a service-oriented industry for many years. I am able to interact with people from various walks of life. I have been a resident of District 2 for over 30 years. I was employed with District 2 for over 15 years and have had two sons and three grandchildren graduate from the district. I strongly support anti-bullying education for all — differently abled/special needs, ethnicities, gender, LGBTQ, race and religion — to ensure a safe learning environment. I am a dedicated, compassionate, detail-oriented leader. Together we can tackle the quality of education, equity and fiscal challenges while representing diverse interests.

What are the school district’s strengths?

Numerous magnet and special programs to choose from. However, we need to be careful not to turn this strength into weakness through unfair opportunities for all students to participate.

What are the district’s biggest opportunities for improvement?

Blended learning where students are able to spend half of their day in the classroom with teachers and the other half using an online method. The benefits and opportunities are to reduce student burnout. Secondly, being able to serve more students without building new facilities. The new generation learns differently, therefore we need to reach them differently. This may also be done with the teacher shortage we’re experiencing.

Craig Plank

Occupation: State Farm agent

Education: Bachelor’s degree and chartered financial consultant (ChFC)

Why are you running for the school board?

I am seeking re-election because the service is challenging, rewarding and I love it! I genuinely enjoy leading and supporting a complex enterprise that seeks to maximize the best in its people. From the students, educational support teams, teachers, administrators and families, it is exciting to be a part of the Richland 2 culture of excellence and to remain an accessible beacon of support.

With 20 years of business ownership in the district, I serve with a strong leadership and financial background that gives me a unique perspective in the oversight of safety and security needs, academic performance, leadership effectiveness, succession planning and the execution and implementation of the superintendent’s strategic plan.

What are the school district’s strengths?

A long-range vision-oriented leadership group and a talented faculty team at Richland 2 have created a robust district of choice where access to an excellent education is available. Our district is strong in delivering multiple educational options and magnet programs. This has afforded the students and parents the opportunity to build a holistic learning experience tailored to their educational needs, avoiding the one-size-fits-all myth.

Richland 2 sets the table for a quality educational environment, using evaluative tools to identify student successes as well as uncovering student struggles. There are several programs in place to help every student be as successful as possible. These include honors programs, dual-credit opportunities and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) schools. And for those in need of additional support, we have the Response to Intervention (RTI) specialists who serve in our elementary and middle schools, giving extra support to track and monitor student progress, thus reducing the achievement gap.

What are the district’s biggest opportunities for improvement?

Three areas to keep improving include safety in and around school grounds, the acquisition and retention of teachers and strong financial stewardship.

I believe strengthening our district will require improvements to our facilities: secure entrances, added cameras, electronic pass keys, school resource officers and infrastructure maintenance updates.

To acquire and keep teachers, I will continue being an advocate for solid recruiting programs, improved teacher pay and planning times, support systems for teachers in their beginning years, a clear strategic mission and a culture of excellence.

Strong financial stewardship is necessary for the successful growth of our district. My expertise in business management enables me to take complex concepts and put them in a way people can understand. I can help the district handle the increased growth and annual budget with prudent and efficient financial management.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Correction, Nov. 5, 2018: This article previously misspelled a candidate’s name. The candidate’s name is Teresa Jones Holmes, not Terese Jones Holmes.

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