A frequent critic of the Beaufort County Board of Education on Tuesday announced his candidacy to run for the board’s District 6 seat.
John Dowling, 70, submitted paperwork to the Board of Voter Registration and Elections of Beaufort County to run on a platform of increased financial oversight, restoration of board functionality and a commitment to “doing the public’s business in public.”
The seat, which covers Sun City Hilton Head and Okatie, became vacant when board member Patricia Felton-Montgomery resigned June 20 for health reasons. The special election will be held Oct. 17.
“The board needs to return to their governing role by paying attention to financial oversight, the needs of constituents and parents, and to the performance of its employee, the superintendent,” he wrote in his announcement papers. “That is how they deliver ‘for the children.’ ”
Dowling moved to Sun City Hilton Head in 2003 and began attending board meetings last December. In the eight months since, he has butted heads with some of the board members who typically align with Superintendent Jeff Moss.
After an April board meeting, he confronted board member Mary Cordray, a confrontation that ended with a district official escorting him out of the building. Cordray declined to comment on the incident immediately afterward, but later said she is sometimes apprehensive before board meetings and that, when available, her husband accompanies her to and from those meetings.
Asked how he would work with board members he has publicly criticized, Dowling pointed to the three terms he served as a board member of the Narragansett Regional School Committee in Massachusetts.
“I could not have been re-elected twice to serve on the Massachusetts school board if I didn’t have some understanding of how to forge coalitions and be diplomatic,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday. “The role of a board member and a member of the public are different in how they speak and work. Different strategies and tactics are employed.”
Dowling’s resume also includes three years working for the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, an organization similar to the South Carolina School Boards Association, which oversees and advises schools boards across the state.
Dowling said he will draw on his business background — he spent two decades as a project manager with Digital Equipment Corp. — to effectively manage Moss.
“Just as you would not expect a board member at General Motors to know how to assemble an auto, board members do not need to be education experts,” he said. “Board members need to know how to steward a budget of a quarter of a billion dollars a year, make sure that money is spent wisely and honestly, and to make sure that their CEO, the superintendent, is doing what the board requires of him.”
Dowling has three daughters and six grandchildren.