Name: Christina Gwozdz
Office: Beaufort County Board of Education, District 9-Bluffton
Challengers: Chris Epps, Bill Fletcher, Bridgette Frazier
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Number of years living in the area you seek to represent: 22
Family: Husband, Glenn, and three sons.
Education: M.D., Cornell University. A.B., Bowdoin College, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa
Current occupation/employer: Board-certified otolaryngologist. Owner and manager of Palmetto Ear, Nose and Throat, P.A. Co-founder/co-owner of Outpatient Surgery Center of Hilton Head.
Summary of employment, military and volunteer history: Donated medical and surgical services to Volunteers in Medicine clinic. Volunteered with Beaufort County School District school activities, sports, testing, the Hilton Head Youth Orchestra, and served as Treasurer of Bluffton Boy Scouts.
Please list all public offices to which you've been elected, when and where: None
Please list any unsuccessful candidacies for public office and when: None
Other prior political and government experience: Student representative to a Board of Education in Maine
Key endorsements you've received: State Rep. Jeffrey Bradley (R-Beaufort), Citizens Advocating Responsible Education
Contributions: Self funded
Highest contributor: None
Why are you running for this office?
I decided to run for this office after I witnessed the nepotism fiasco and the Board’s inability to properly handle it. Change is needed on the Board and I am the only candidate focused on change, integrity and transparency. My qualifications and experience do not exist today on the Board. As a physician and business owner with board experience, I am used to critically analyzing situations, solving problems and managing employees. I am willing to deal with difficult issues. I also have the parental perspective as all three of my children went completely through the Bluffton public school system.
What should the board do if its proposed 1 percent educational sales tax does not pass?
The bond referendum on the ballot could pass and fund the same capital project list, which is unlikely. The district already has $15-20 million in its current budget to use on necessary repairs and improvements, e.g. new roofs and HVAC systems, painting, etc.. Trust and transparency needs to be established by the School Board with the community and then the Board and District can reapproach the public with a trimmed down capital project list, i.e. “do more with less.” The public needs to have more information about the projects before taking them to a vote. Knowing the associated maintenance and operational expenses of each project is critical. The district can also increase utilization of its current facilities by redistributing students or implementing staggered school schedules.
What do you see as the district’s biggest strength and weakness in serving students?
Its biggest strength is students can earn a high quality education here. When my two older boys were at Princeton (one a senior and one a freshman), I asked them if they were at a disadvantage because they had attended Bluffton High School instead of an elite prep school. Their answer was “No Mom, we are just fine.” I think that says it well!
A weakness that has been brought to my attention during my campaign by concerned parents is that students are not being issued textbooks and homework has been eliminated in some grade(s). Textbooks allow children to review topics covered in class and usually provide information that cannot be covered in the allotted class time. I think textbooks are necessary for students to do well on standardized tests. Homework teaches our students how to study and manage time effectively. This is a critical skill needed as they advance through school and go out into the work force. Eliminating textbooks and homework seems counterproductive to our goal of educating our children well.
What specific steps will you take to make government more open and accessible to the public?
When elected, vote for Board leaders who value the importance of open and ethical governance. Conduct business in a transparent manner and encourage public input. Have the public be involved in the decision-making process. For example, if we form a working committee to study raising teacher salaries, we should include business leaders and community members on the committee. Communicating with my constituents via a Facebook page I manage dedicated to my position as district 9 School Board representative could be helpful. Workshops and open houses with Board representatives would also allow for an exchange of ideas with the public. We all have the same goal; we want to educate our students well, while spending our taxpayer money wisely.
What is another top issue you would address if elected, and how?
The secret to high academic performance and thriving students is good teachers. The district needs to attract and retain high quality teachers. I am in favor of raising teacher salaries to help accomplish this goal. I would first ask the administration to come up with a plan for a minimum teacher salary which increases stepwise from 40K to 50K. A committee with school district, county legislature and community representatives could determine how the compensation should be structured, i.e. longevity bonuses, COLA, etc.. If done right, it would likely gain overwhelming public support.
Have you ever experienced any of the following: been convicted of a felony; been disciplined by a professional licensing board or organization; had an ethics violation filed against you; filed for bankruptcy; been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes? If so, please give the details.
Are there any personal details about yourself that voters would be interested in knowing?
I’ve been married to my husband, Glenn Gwozdz, M.D., for 31 years. Our three sons were educated in Bluffton public schools and graduated from Bluffton High School (’07,’10,’15) before attending Princeton University (’11,’14,’19).
I serve as president of the SC Society of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, a member of the South Carolina Medical Association House of Delegates, and a board member of a Property Owners Association.
My elementary and secondary school education was obtained in a public school system. I pledge to put more value on community input, be a good steward of taxpayer money and make academic performance the priority when elected.