Name: Patricia Felton-Montgomery
Office: Beaufort County Board of Education, District 6-Okatie
Challenger: Incumbent Paul Roth
Number of years living in the area you seek to represent: 3
Family: Two adult, married sons
Education: Doctor of Education in Educational Administration, Teachers College Columbia University
Current occupation/employer: Educational consultant for the International Center for Leadership in Education and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. On leave during the election.
Summary of employment, military and volunteer history: Current board member for the Mitchelville Preservation Project, corresponding secretary and social action chair for the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc, member of the League of Women Voters of Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Area, member of the Social Action Committee of Campbell Chapel AME Church. Formerly, superintendent of Lawnside School System in New Jersey.
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: Director of educational leadership for the U.S. Department of Education’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Educational Laboratory, and education specialist for the N.J. Department of Education
Key endorsements you've received: Beaufort County Teachers Association, South Carolina Teachers Association, Citizens Advocating Responsible Education, Hilton Head Area Association of REALTORS®
Contributions: About $3,000
Expenditures: About $3,000
Highest contributor: Declined to say
Why are you running for this office?
As a retired superintendent, assistant superintendent, principal, teacher, and guidance counselor I am running to become a member of the school board because I believe a coalition of board members who hold integrity and transparency in high regard can be the catalyst for changing the culture of the present board.
This election provides an opportunity for a new majority of the board to be elected and bring about this kind of change.
It is important that I model respectful interactions with the public in responding to concerns and answering questions so that trust is re-established between the board and the community and as an appropriate example to the children the board serves. I also believe that school district staff should provide the board with detailed, ongoing assessments of the effectiveness of established and new programs and at public meetings so that the board and the public can determine whether dollars spent are achieving set academic goals.
Increasing diversity in the staff and administration of the schools and policy to support school leadership teams to address the achievement gap is also one of my top priorities.
What should the board do if its proposed 1 percent educational sales tax does not pass?
Should the sales tax increase not pass — and I do not support this request at this time — the district could make changes relative to the grade configuration of its schools so that low-capacity schools would serve more grades and near-capacity schools would have fewer grades.
For example, a lower-capacity K-5 school could become a K-8 school (in fact in education research literature, K-8 schools which are called Family Schools have been found to have higher student achievement than K-5 or K-6 schools).
In a district that is short over 200 teachers annually, public support for the referendum would be more justified if the tax increase was for significant improvements in teacher recruitment and retention since the absence of quality teachers in classrooms across the school system is having a very negative effect on student academic performance. Out of the box solutions to addressing cost-of-living issues which drive teachers away from the district (and certainly a sales tax would add to that burden) and housing costs and availability in keeping with teacher salaries would be more appropriate this school year.
Finally, it would have been more prudent and fiscally responsible for the district to seek a five-year tax increase rather than a 10-year request since it only has real-time data for school capacity and student enrollment for the next five years. Such a request would have allowed for a more precise assessment of capital improvement and building needs based on more accurate student enrollment projections
What do you see as the district’s biggest strength and weakness in serving students?
On-time graduation rates for the district have improved from a low of 69.1 percent five years ago to 78.3 percent in 2015.
Student achievement as measured by the state’s ACT Aspire has also improved. For example, student performance in English/Language Arts for 2015 was 64.7 percent of students passing the state’s test of literacy skills, but 71.3 percet of students passed the same test for grades 3-5 in districts with students like ours; a 7 percent difference.
Beaufort County 11th graders who took the ACT assessment scored 17.0 vs. 16.5 for the state on this 36 point test.
These data show that although the Beaufort County School District has seen improvements, they pale when compared to state statistics and when compared to national statistics.
For example, only 43.3 percent of BCSD students met the college-ready benchmark in English on the ACT in 2015. Unfortunately, this data is in keeping with South Carolina’s ranking 43rd among the 50 states and District of Columbia or near the bottom for student performance in the nation per Education Week in 2015.
The district’s excellent teacher force needs to be provided with research-based curriculum programs that have been proven to provide significantly higher student performance results.
What specific steps will you take to make government more open and accessible to the public?
I would work with my fellow board members to have open, respectful communications with the public at all times. It is critical that the board provides our communities with the rationale for its actions supported by clear data and alternatives that have been considered.
Given the present lack of trust, the board would also do well to hold forums in each school board election district to hear the concerns and interests of our constituents in a more informal setting than is possible in traditional board meetings. Respect for the public also calls for a reduction in the number of closed executive sessions and that board meetings start on-time rather than going into executive sessions for an hour or more while the public waits for the opening of the main meeting.
What is another top issue you would address if elected, and how?
There has been a huge achievement gap between whites and blacks for the last 15 years and so I want to advocate for research-based remedies to close the gap that have not been tried by our district.
First, the district must make closing the achievement gap a district priority. The Beaufort County School District has given lip service to closing the gap but has not established this goal as its major priority, nor has it specifically devoted resources to new administrative actions and instructional strategies to change its trajectory. In addition, it has not engaged teachers in strengthening curriculum and student assessments. Our educational research is replete with school districts that have successfully closed the achievement gap, with most having taken these steps and the ones listed below. BCSD can and should implement these steps this academic year.
▪ Incorporate cultural competence in instructional approaches and the curriculum and the environment of the district;
▪ Provide comprehensive targeted support for lower-performing students using Response to Intervention Tier 2 and Tier 3 services. Also support students via mentors, tutoring, peer support networks and role models. The district has no research-based intervention program or mandated curriculum in place which is inexcusable in today’s environment of proven effective strategies for closing the achievement gap.
▪ Make outreach to students’ families a priority by using a family-center approach to teach parents how to help their children succeed in school.
▪ Make closing gaps a school-wide responsibility. Develop effective school wide leadership teams of teachers to address the achievement gap and provide ongoing professional development for teachers and school leaders on effective strategies for closing the achievement gaps.
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 have an earned doctorate from one of the foremost educational leadership institutions of higher learning in the United States (not an honorary doctorate). In my educational career of over 40 years, I have been a 4th and 6th grade teacher and have taught aspiring teachers and administrators at both undergraduate and graduate levels.
I am a fourth-generation educator carrying on the tradition of family members who taught in one-room school houses in South Carolina and have over 40 years of service in the public schools of America.
I have been the recipient of numerous community and education awards in my native state of New Jersey, including awards from Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, the Camden County Girl Scouts, the Visionary Leader Award, Camden County NAACP, and the Woman of Achievement Award for Leadership in Education, Kappa Community Development Corporation to name a few.