Northern Beaufort County Board of Education candidates lay out priorities

rheaton@islandpacket.comOctober 27, 2012 

A change on the Beaufort County Board of Education is not just a possibility this election year; it's an inevitability.

At most, five current members of the board will remain after the Nov. 6 election. But as few as three of the 11 current members could remain standing.

The turnover is due in part to redistricting. New boundaries based on the 2010 Census left four of the 11 districts with no incumbents. Ten of the 11 seats are up for election, and in one race in northern Beaufort County, two incumbents are pitted against each other, with a challenger also vying for the seat.

Three of five seats representing areas of northern Beaufort County will be contested. Incumbent Earl Campbell is running unopposed in District 1, and board member Bill Evans' District 2 seat is the only one not up for election.

Here's a rundown of candidates for the other three seats and highlights of their platforms.

DISTRICT 3

Current school board Chairman Fred Washington, Jr., incumbent Michael Rivers and retired educator Bernie Schein are vying to represent District 3, which was re-drawn to include most of Rivers' old St. Helena Island district and a smaller portion of Washington's downtown Beaufort area.

Washington has served on the board since 2006 and touts what he calls his track record of collaboration with different community groups during his tenure and in his former job as director of the county's Department of Social Services. Selecting a new superintendent is the board's most pressing matter, he says. He also advocates early-childhood education and performance-based compensation for teachers and staff.

Rivers was first elected in 1998, making him one of the board's longest-serving members. He wants the district to close a student-achievement gap and secure adequate funding. Selecting the new superintendent is also a top priority. Rivers also wants to expand early-childhood education.

Schein, a former school principal and a education consultant, said his main goal is to "de-emphasize, reduce and ultimately rid the system" of the federal "No Child Left Behind" law and standardized testing. Schein said this would allow teachers to nurture and teach students, rather than subject them to frequent tests. Schein also wants to start an anti-bullying program, grant greater autonomy to schools so that they can develop their own curriculum and instructional programs, and bring more school choice to the district.

DISTRICT 4

Two newcomers are vying for the District 4 seat.

James Beckert, who manages a family-owned business, said selecting a superintendent is the top priority for the new school board. Other priorities include improving academic results and developing "meaningful" school choice for families. Beckert has said his business background gives him the budgeting experience needed to deal with tough economic times, as well as insight into human-resource management.

Brian Herrmann, a community planner for Beaufort County, is currently the chairman of the Port Royal Elementary School Improvement Council. Herrmann believes the district should "endorse and embrace" community schools -- schools that thrive through partnerships that support students and families, that share space or resources with other government bodies, and that allow students to walk or bike to school. Herrmann also wants the district to cooperate more with Beaufort County and guarantee the rights of disabled students.

DISTRICT 5

A former Riverview Charter School board member is facing off against the District 5 incumbent.

Geri Kinton, a founding board member of Riverview Charter School and office manager of Beaufort Memorial Hospital, said she most wants student outcomes to improve. That includes increased graduation rates, kindergarten readiness and other measures of student achievement. She's also wants more transparency and accountability from the school board and district administration. She also wants the district to find ways to achieve results while spending less money.

Ron Speaks was first elected to the board in 1996. Speaks, who teaches math at the Technical College of the Lowcountry, said he wants the district to advance in technology, literacy and math literacy because each is critical to the 21st century. Speaks said he wants students to use more technological tools in addition to iPads.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content:

Upcoming elections spell change for Beaufort County school board; June 23, 2012

Incumbents, retired educator to face off in Beaufort County school board race; July 16, 2012

More southern Beaufort County representatives to hold seats on countywide boards; Oct. 18, 2012

School board, state senate candidates face off in forum; Oct. 18, 2012

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