The four candidates running for the open at-large seat on the Rock Hill school board took questions from the NAACP at a Thursday forum at Flint Hill Baptist Church.
The gathering, hosted by the Rock Hill NAACP and the Alpha Kappa Alpha and Delta Theta Sigma sororities, was the second school board candidate forum this week.
Questions came from the NAACP members and people in the audience at Flint Hill Baptist Church.
The candidates are:
Dan Ballou, a civil attorney and parent of two children in Rock Hill schools, who says the seven-member school board needs a parents perspective because no sitting board member has a child in school.
Terry Hutchinson, an automotive technician who believes his perspective as an outsider, a father whose children went to school in Connecticut, would benefit the board.
Tyrie Rowell, an after-school program associate in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools who graduated from South Pointe High in 2009 and says he offers a much-needed youthful perspective and a desire to serve.
Wayne Wingate, owner of W Square Advertising Specialties and a Rock Hill native who touts his business experience and years of volunteering for the school system.
Here is a sampling of the questions from the forum and candidates summarized answers:
Seventy percent of students received a D or failed the end of course exam on U.S. history and the constitution. What steps would you implement to improve the academic performance of Rock Hill students?
Ballou: That's distressing. The district should look at other efforts, such as Sandra Day O'Connor's iCivics program. Students do better when they understand historical context.
Hutchinson: The statistic is surprising but not surprising ... If you've watched Jay Leno Jay Walking, for instance ... It's amazing how many children don't know state capitals. We need to switch the curriculum back around. Some schools focus on foreign matters, not domestic matters. We need to teach the full history and the constitution.
Rowell: I remember when I was in high school and had this teacher, his name was Coach Belk. He would actually involve us ... and ... portray characters. It made us more engaged in classroom. That's what teachers should be doing a lot more of ... I passed that class with a 95 because of him and his method of teaching.
Wayne: Tyrie hit on something. Its the responsibility of our teachers. Technology tools can help. Principals should work as coaches for teachers, guiding them to be more effective.
How would you handle bullying? What sort of discipline should accompany that?
Rowell: I see it in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. Some students have issues going on at home. We see it in the news. The punishment should be expulsion. Bullies are creating a havoc to school, teachers and the person being bullied.
Wingate: I do not know what is going on in the schools in regard to pre-emptive behavior modification. That type of program works better when it starts with kids. The district should have pre-emptive programs. Bullying shouldnt be tolerated, but the focus should be on preventing.
Ballou: Bullying has been in schools as long as we've had schools. The challenge we have is that there are so many more opportunities for bullying face to face, Internet, cell phones. It can take the form of intimidation and harassment. The district should raise awareness through proactive programs. Guidance counselors should aggressively address the issue.
Hutchinson: Bullying, I hate to say it, its a fact of life. Board of trustees set precedence on policy. Punishment? I don't know what to do about that. There are too many mitigating factors involved. A lot of bullying can be stopped at home. If the parents would get involved we will curb bullying. I was bullied in school. Mr. Wingate a couple forums ago said he was a bully (referring to a comment Wingate made at an earlier forum, where he told Ebenezer Avenue Elementary students that one of his greatest regrets is bullying a child when he was in elementary school).
How would you convince parents that the Rock Hill school district is the best choice over charter school, private school or virtual school?
Hutchinson: That's easy. We have school choice, to a degree, within the district. We have IB (International Baccalaureate). Ebinport Elementary offers Chinese ... They have a choice. There are fine schools within our own district. We even have York Preparatory Academy (a charter school in Rock Hill).
Rowell: I would like to invite our parents to our classrooms. Let them see how our teachers are performing and look at the different programs.
Wingate: Theres no perfect school. Theres no perfect teacher ... Within Rock Hill schools, there are lots of options. The district is the right size. We're big enough to offer Advance Placement and different types of programs but not so big that it's completely out of control.
Ballou: Its been said already, but rather than try to convince them ... I would take them to schools. A visit to the Childrens School at Sylvia Circle, which offers a hybrid Montessori program, convinced Ballou to send his daughter there. It's not just Montessori. It's at Northside (Elementary School of the Arts). The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) schools ... There are amazing things going on.
To see more of the questions asked during the forum, visit www.heraldonline.com.
Other than funding, what are the three primary problems that will face the district in the coming year?
Rowell: 1. Communication. That's one thing our district is lacking.
2. The district needs a mentoring program that would allow students to be more engaged and come for mentoring.
3. Over population.
Wingate: 1. Digital learning. Not everyone is on board right now. We need to bring folks along and integrate that in our classrooms.
3. Changing population.
Ballou: 1. How best to implement technology. I've been characterized by Wayne Wingate as being anti-technology. There's nothing farther from the truth. Technology needs to be implemented with a thoughtful plan that incorporates ways to measure results.
2. Special needs services need more attention.
3. The district needs to do a better job providing good opportunities for gifted and exceptional students.
Hutchinson: 1. Communication. Its probably one of the biggest fall backs. From the superintendent all the way down ... Communication is key to any organization.
2. Digital technology. Take a look and slow down. If we don't, the budget is going to be a shocker. It needs to be brought in through a structured manner that everybody can handle.
Are you in favor of random drug testing for 2,400 employees? Why or why not?
Wingate: I don't think so ... We certainly should have drug testing before anyone is hired. After that, only if there is a reason to suspect an employee is using drugs and if theres evidence.
Ballou: I would certainly want a very detailed legal opinion from the school board attorney ... That is an aggressive approach. The district should be on the lookout for substance abuse. The districts outsourcing of services is a concern because you lose control over monitoring employees.
Hutchinson: Absolutely. At any major employer, drug testing is pretty much standard ... In order to safeguard our children, drug testing should be mandatory.
Rowell: We have to be mindful of the money we're spending. Drug tests beyond an initial test for hiring should be used as needed if drug abuse is suspected. Employees shouldnt have to feel like theyre being attacked.
Do you support the use of expensive, out-of-state, non-stakeholder consultants to guide the decisions and policies set for our schools? Why or why not?
Wingate: You use consultants when appropriate. Education is a very complex issue. Board members shouldn't be reluctant to call on consultants if needed. But Im never in favor of excessively expensive.
Ballou: Agreed with Wayne. Sometimes you need that expertise and outside view point. Sometimes in the district we get tunnel vision.
Hutchinson: There are times when a consultant is needed. It depends on the goal ... They're not cheap ... Nine times out of 10, I think the consultant cost more than what the deal was worth. But there are times when it makes sense.
Rowell: Use consultants when needed. As a man, I don't like to spend a lot of money ... We have to be mindful of what we're spending the money on. When deciding on a consultant, ask if the issue is absolutely important or can it wait?
Shawn Cetrone 803-329-4072