Many years of toiling at the grindstone to improve public education in South Carolina make Frank Holleman the clear choice for state superintendent of education on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Holleman brings a rare set of skills and experience to the job.
He is a graduate of our state's public schools in Oconee County. So are Anne, his wife of 34 years, and their three children, the youngest a freshman this fall at Clemson University.
Holleman knows the great potential of our public schools because he embodies it. He went on to graduate from Furman University and the Harvard Law School. He earned a master's degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
South Carolina public schools a dismal failure? Hardly. Look at Holleman. He proves that the public schools can produce high quality, and it will help to have one of our own star pupils lead the state Department of Education.
Holleman, now a 56-year-old attorney with a law firm in Greenville, has turned his public education into a lifetime of service -- to his community, where he has been a United Way leader; his church, where he and his wife are Presbyterian elders; to his alma mater, where he helped organize Furman's Richard W. Riley Institute; and to higher education, as a past board member of the historically black Voorhees College and chairman of the board of visitors of the University Center in Greenville. He has contributed to the state's quality of life as president of a land trust to protect our mountains and president of Friends of the Reedy River. He is endorsed by the Conservation Voters of South Carolina. And he has contributed to the principles of democracy as past chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party.
He opposes tax-credit vouchers, which would do nothing to help public schools. He knows that parents, students and families must be held responsible for education success, as well as teachers and principals.
But what really separates Holleman is his long record of work for public schools, with a concentration on early childhood education.
Holleman's push for greater access to early childhood education is right because it offers the soundest way to improve student performance, from elementary school reading to high school graduation rates. He is realistic enough to understand that this requires myriad public-private partnerships. This is not theory for Holleman, but a passion based on hard work. He was the founding vice chairman of the board of S.C. First Steps to School Readiness, and chairman of the United Way's early-childhood initiative, Success by Six.
He also has led Graduate Greenville, a public-private partnership to increase the high school graduation rate; and the Alliance for Quality Education, which since 1986 has "invested, on behalf of hundreds of corporate, foundation and individual donors, close to $9 million in Greenville County public schools," according to its website.
Holleman also has contributed at the national level as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education and chief of staff to former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley of Greenville. As governor, Riley built bipartisan support for the landmark Education Improvement Act, which ushered in accountability and a number of initiatives, all of which Holleman knows like the back of his hand.
Practical education improvement -- and the grinding minutiae involved in making it happen -- is not an election-year interest for Holleman. It has been a vocation and avocation throughout his adult life, making him uniquely qualified to lead our public schools.
Editor's note: Frank Holleman practices with the Wyche, Burgess, Freeman & Parham law firm, which has represented The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette in the past.