Name: Robert F. White
Years living in area: 8
Family: Celia S. White, wife; no children
Education: Emory & Henry College, 1966, BA, major: history; University of Virginia, 1971, M.Ed.; 60-plus semester hours of post-master's studies at the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Old Dominion University, Radford University, Virginia Polytechnic and State University from 1971 throughout my career; hundreds of hours of staff development and non-college credit course work from 1966 to 2002
Current occupation: Retired educator
Previous employment: Teacher, summer federal program, 1966, Graves Junior High School, Richmond City Schools, Richmond, Va.; teacher, social studies and English, 1966-71, and department head, social studies, 1969-71, both at Gayle Junior High School, Stafford, Va.; coach, basketball and baseball, 1968-71 at Gayle Junior High and Stafford Senior High School; high school assistant principal, Stafford Senior High, 1971-79; high school principal, 1979, Apalachicola High School, Apalachicola, Fla.; high school principal, 1980-97, North Stafford High School, Stafford, Va.; assistant superintendent for administration and human resources, 1997-02, Stafford County Public Schools, Stafford, Va.; adjunct professor, George Mason University's Educational Leadership Master's Degree program, 1995-02, Virginia; assistant principal, curriculum and instruction, November-February, Bluffton High School, Beaufort County Schools.
Military history: None
Volunteer history: Adopted a Lady's Island Middle School special needs class, 1998-00; work with Habitat for Humanity, 2004-present; served on Beaufort County Schools' Human Resource Advisory Committee, 2006-07; provided "Bullying Prevention" program for students, interested staff and general public at Lady's Island Middle and Beaufort High schools, spring 2008; member of Beaufort citizens group asked to meet with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Visiting Committee for evaluation of Beaufort public schools, 2009; serve on Lady's Island Intermediate/Middle Schools' School Improvement Committee, 2008-present, council chairman for 2009-10 school year
Public elected offices: None
Any unsuccessful political campaigns: None
Other political and government experience: Worked on task forces with Stafford County (Va.) Board of Supervisors' members and staff -- county cable contract, software upgrades, parks and recreation; George Washington's Boyhood Home steering committee -- county-owned site until Kenmore Association took it over, Stafford, Va.
Endorsements received: Jim Bequette, current District 7 representative
S.C. Ethics Commission statement of economic interests: No interests to disclose, except a $5,006 salary received from the Beaufort County School District for work as an interim assistant principal at Bluffton High School.
Campaign money raised: $550 as of report filed Sept. 1.
Top three campaign contributors over past six months (amount): Three contributors gave $100 or less. White loaned his campaign $300.
1. Why should people vote for you?
I spent 36-plus years in education working as a successful classroom teacher, principal, acting associate superintendent, assistant superintendent and university adjunct professor. I worked closely with school boards as part of a central office leadership team during which time I experienced firsthand the selection of a superintendent, helped develop district-wide school budgets and helped create an enhanced benefits program saving many thousands of dollars annually. Additionally, as an assistant superintendent for administration and human resources for a 25,000-plus student school district with 3,800 licensed and classified employees, I am well-versed in a plethora of global issues innate to school districts. I understand the role of the school board and value of both community and system-wide collaboration. Based upon past exposure and successful experiences plus a studied awareness of Beaufort schools/community, I will bring a different perspective to the board, along with new ideas for consideration.
2. What are the three most important issues you would address if elected and how would you address them?
High citizenship/behavioral standards. Clear expectations for good citizenship and behavior with consistent enforcement are critical to a safe, positive learning environment. A detailed, district-wide, behavioral policy with close monitoring for consistency and effectiveness ensures equal treatment for all students. Strong anti-bullying education and programs fostering school pride, student leaders, excellent role models and helping at-risk students must be basic to the policy. Violent students must be placed in alternate settings with expulsion from school as an option. Lesser misbehaving students should be kept in the classroom with utilization of deterrent programs featuring strong study components and parent involvement such as after-school detention and Saturday school. Because missing classroom instruction often exacerbates students' misbehavior, out-of-school suspension should be a last-resort option. Consistency of utilization is absolutely paramount for the effectiveness of any behavioral policy.
Focus on classroom instruction. Structured, focused instruction with clearly expressed, high expectations in a caring environment is the approach that works best with all students and especially needed by those from non-literate households. High expectations extend to all staff with MAP data and end-of-the-book test results providing a wealth of information to assist teachers to become better. Frequent observations of teachers, use of data results to talk concretely with teachers and administrators about instructional improvement and defined School Improvement Plans based on district goals and unique needs of individual schools set high expectations of teachers, administrators and the superintendent alike while focusing on classroom instruction. This process should drive staff development and increase professional dialogue/sharing. Additionally, it would provide a streamlined accountability system, which, I believe, should be the centerpiece of evaluations of all professional staff and a component of the evaluation of classified staff. It would provide a succinct, linear accounting for not only staff to utilize, but also for the school board to use in monitoring and evaluating the district.
Recruitment and retention of staff. Beaufort Schools must have outstanding personnel, the accomplishment of which requires a comprehensive effort as all school systems compete to hire and retain the same caliber people. This includes licensed personnel and classified personnel. Based upon my strong human resources background/experience, I know that recruitment and retention of the brightest and best personnel depends in large part upon high expectations and valuing learning. A district and community that truly value and appreciate education and demonstrate that high expectations for excellence are not only for students but also for staff are far more attractive to prospective employees and a stated reason for them to remain once hired. This requires collaboration between everyone in the school district and all factions of the community -- parents/guardians, businesses, organizations, government.
3. What other issues do you see as important?
Review of state support of education funding. I believe the current tax laws concerning school funding are in need of review. While Sen. Tom Davis has made progress in creating attention to this issue, it is clear that not being able to tax a large part of the real estate property in Beaufort, when this property value is why we receive no funding from the state's major aid plan for schools, is a classic "Catch 22." Additionally, the funding formula, while simple, does not take into account the level of poverty in a school district or the cost of living, both major factors when budgets are built around staff costs. This issue also exacerbates stress between county council and the school board because the only local tax source for operations is second homes and local businesses. While it should be expected to see stress between the two boards at budget time, I believe everyone desires good schools and it is in both boards' interest to have them. I believe a fair tax structure would lower stress and help return positive collaboration between the boards as well as much needed funds to the school system.
Early childhood efforts. In communities that have large pockets of poverty, having all children ready for kindergarten is problematic. Robert Canady, professor emeritus of the University of Virginia School of Education, states that children coming into kindergarten from non-literate homes have roughly 15 hours of literate experiences while children from literate homes have about 1,500 hours. Fielding, Kerr and Rosier state in their book, "Annual Growth for All Students, Catch-up Growth for Those Who Are Behind," that 40 percent of American children are not ready for kindergarten and 30 percent do not make educational progress of one grade level each year. Research tells us that children learn some 60 percent of their knowledge base before the age of 4. True, also, is that frustration and poor self-concept are major misbehavior motivators and children who are behind demonstrate these traits. While Beaufort Schools' early childhood effort has gotten some criticism, it is clear that the local schools are on the right track. This program deserves attention and support for effective development as we cannot afford later to spend the time and dollars trying to make up growth lost.
4. What specific steps will you take to make government more open and accessible to the public?
Public business must be conducted in the open. Illegal meetings must be avoided. I have reviewed South Carolina's Freedom of Information Laws and they are very clear and very reasonable. I also believe that a school board is only as good as the community collaboration it shares. This means actively seeking community input, listening and keeping everyone apprised of factual information. My history is one of going to the people rather than waiting for them to come to me. If elected, I intend to use available media, an interactive Web page, e-mail, on-site attendance at school-affiliated meetings and activities and, most importantly, town hall meetings at multiple local sites.
5. Have you ever been convicted of a crime (felony), been disciplined by a professional licensing board or organization or had an ethics violation filed against you? If so, please give details.
6. Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes? If so, please give the details.
7. Are there any personal details about yourself that voters would be interested in knowing?
I was born into a family committed to public service. My father, grandfather and uncle were all ministers, and my mother was an elementary teacher and administrator. As my first teachers, I learned from them that public service is a noble calling. My wife, Celia, who is also a retired educator, and I donate time and/or funds to many charities including Beaufort Memorial Hospital, the Lowcountry Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, CAPA and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry. We provide two scholarships at a high school in a high poverty area of Appalachia Virginia and we also sponsor two children overseas. Believing in community involvement, we have actively volunteered and worked in, as well as funded, school programs since choosing Beaufort as our retirement home. I have come to the decision to run for the school board because I have a lifelong passion for educating children and truly believe I have a different perspective as well as ideas that will be beneficial to the school community.