School board candidates answer questions
Seven candidates vying for three seats on the Dorchester School District 2 Board of Trustees appeared at a candidate forum Monday night to talk about their visions for Dorchester School District 2.
The candidates, Harry Blake, Sam Clark, Barbara Crosby, David DuBose, Justin Farnsworth, Louis Smith, and Lisa Tupper come from a variety of backgrounds. Crosby, a retired educator, and Tupper, a small business owner/operator, are incumbents seeking second terms. Clark is also a retired educator with some 32 years spent as a teacher, coach, and principal in DD2. Blake is a business owner and has served on the board previously. Smith is a business manager and community volunteer and activist. Farnsworth, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, works in high-tech finance; DuBose has been a full-time volunteer with the district since retiring from the U.S. Air Force.
All of the candidates are parents/grandparents whose children have or are attending DD2 schools. All agree that the well-being and future of the children are major motivators to run for school board. DuBose, who has been a PTA volunteer at local, regional, and state levels, called that experience, “The most rewarding work I’ve ever done.” Clark noted that he wants to give back to the community and the district that has been so good to him and his family.
“My family always held great value to education and I want to pass that on to future generations,” Smith said. “I want them to understand that education is what makes life sweet and I want to work to continue to make our district great and provide our children a world class education.”
The candidates shared their views on questions solicited from the public by the Summerville Journal Scene. The questions covered such topics as the proposed $180 million school improvement bond referendum and the accompanying $7.5 million addition for a community swim center, the use and implementation of technology in schools, and their personal motivations for running for school board.
All of the candidates emphatically and enthusiastically support the referendum as it pertains to school improvements; only Tupper and Smith came out in support of the aquatic center. Blake, Clark and Crosby all agreed that a swim center is an important community amenity, however, none of them were willing to support it and school improvements at this time.
“I think it’s a good idea, but tour focus really needs to be on school facilities right now – we’ve got to get that done, and now,” Clark said.
“I believe that children can learn anywhere, and I believe this district has proven that we can teach children anywhere,” Tupper, who as a board member serves on the facilities committee, said. “However, when you visit the schools, when you go through the actual needs, it’s staggering. There are serious safety issues. The needs we have are actually at $500 million – we’re not asking for that, but that’s what we actually need.”
Farnsworth said he, too, believes the facilities needs are critical, but as for an aquatic center, he needs more information.
“I’ll leave that one to the judgment of the voters,” Farnsworth said.
Farnsworth also noted that as a board member, he would be continually looking for ways to creatively reach goals, stretch existing revenues, and ensure that revenues are spent as wisely and as effectively as possible.
DuBose agreed that facilities needs are critical, but he does not support a swim center at this time as he has misgivings about where the money would come from to operate it. He also said that as a board member, he wants to help find creative ways to stretch dollars even more.
“Summerville High School was wired for computers by PTA volunteers – it didn’t cost taxpayers a dime,” he noted.
All agree that the district needs to provide students with the most up-to-date and useful technological advantages possible.
“I work in the real world, in high tech finance, and the company I work with executes hundreds of millions of transactions per day – hundreds of millions per day,” Justin Farnsworth noted. “Think about that. I see what the real world requires – we have to provide those opportunities to help them be competitive.”
Crosby noted that everything comes back to money.
“If you don’t have the money, you can’t do these things,” she said. “I will continue to study and implement effective programs to improve the dropout rate, continue working on improving test scores and graduation rates, and continue to consistently work to be better stewards.”