Washington, Herrmann, Kinton our choices for school board

info@islandpacket.comOctober 31, 2012 

Three of the five seats representing areas of northern Beaufort County will be contested Tuesday.

Here are our recommendations in those races.

DISTRICT 3

Fred Washington Jr. offers the leadership experience the school board needs, especially since as few as three current board members could remain on the 11-person board after the election.

Washington's leadership -- marked by a reasonable, calm approach -- make him the best option among those running for the seat.

He has been elected chairman since becoming a school board member in 2006. He seeks collaboration over conflict. This is a rare and valuable skill in society today.

Washington has earned respect in a lifetime of leadership in the community, both in his jobs and in his private life.

He graduated from the segregated Robert Smalls High School, went on to Boston College and came home to be manpower director at the Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services. He worked for the school district before his 27-year career as director of the Beaufort County Department of Social Services. This state agency's responsibilities prepared Washington well to know the challenges schools face and the value of education.

Washington also was elected at-large to serve on the Beaufort City Council from 1979 to 1993. And he has consistently been a leader in nonprofit and governmental agencies and commissions.

He wants school board members to be more active with parent and community organizations, as well as boards that deal with planning and economic development.

Washington wants to establish standing committees for the school board, which should help bring more give-and-take on proposed policies into the public eye. He rightly sees a need to focus on the youngest children and would like to see academic results play a larger role in teacher and staff compensation.

Washington is particularly experienced with both the minutiae and the larger umbrella of human services offered and needed in Beaufort County. He has been an effective and reasonable leader in addressing the issues. The public would be well-served to continue to tap that resource.

DISTRICT 4

Brian Herrmann gets the edge over another promising newcomer to politics, businessman James Beckert.

Herrmann has worked hard to make his neighborhood school better. When the small Port Royal Elementary School was threatened with closure, Herrmann got busy to help preserve this important anchor to an important community in the county.

He did it in a positive, proactive way. He made long-term connections in the schools that have far outlasted and outperformed the more common emotionalism that came with the school-closing trauma.

Herrmann got active in the Port Royal Elementary School Improvement Council, which he served as vice chairman and now chairman. It was a finalist for the best council in the state this year. This experience opened Herrmann's eyes to the value the councils have to get parents and member of the community involved in the schools -- and the responsibility the school board has to engage the schools.

He chaired the committee that planned Port Royal Elementary's 100th anniversary commemoration. And he has volunteered with an innovative program for artistically gifted students.

Herrmann has a child in the schools and is the former spouse of a school speech-language pathologist. He sees a need for schools to reach out better to all families and all parents, including single fathers. The School Improvement Council has found ways to get more fathers into Port Royal Elementary.

Herrmann is a community planner by profession, working for the Beaufort County Planning Department. He champions schools as an integral part of a community, partnering with other institutions to make both schools and neighborhoods stronger.

Herrmann's insights would be good for the school board.

DISTRICT 5

Geri C. Kinton would bring a strong dose of energy and common sense to a school board that needs it, making her our choice.

She and her husband, Colin, are parents of two daughters, a second-grader and a fifth-grader. She would bring to the board the perspective of a mother who has worked in the trenches to make the schools better.

Kinton was a founding board member of the Riverview Charter School. While she is no longer on the charter school board and says her interests are not limited to the charter school movement, the experience provided her skills that will help her serve the public. Kinton knows what it's like to sit for hours in the audience at a meeting, straining to know what's being talked about because the public does not get the information packet the board members work from. She knows what it's like to search for information on the school district's website. She knows what it's like to try to connect the dots in a thick school district budget.

Kinton knows the transparency and accountability issues from the citizens' perspective. The experience has helped form her values.

"The board and administration need to determine methods of achieving results while spending less," she said. "Larger budgets will not resolve our dilemmas."

To improve results from graduation rates to kindergarten readiness, she said, "Teachers must be given back the opportunity and resources to teach and connect with families." Outcomes should be measured by more than test scores.

Kinton would serve the board well with these viewpoints.

But we're most encouraged by her willingness to do research and ask questions and do it with a positive attitude.

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