In the race for the at-large seat on the Rock Hill school board, we endorse incumbent Bob Norwood.
Norwood, chairman of the school board, first was elected in 1996 and is running for his fourth term. We think he has been an able leader of the board during challenging times for the school district.
Norwood faces three opponents in the district's most heavily contested race. Also on the ballot are David Griffin, who teaches the automotive program at the Floyd D. Johnson Technology Center in York, and Lance Fillet, a flight attendant for U.S. Airways. The third challenger, Jose Brito, could not be reached by The Herald and, consequently, we have little information about him.
During Norwood's tenure, he has been involved in momentous changes for the district, including the building of a third high school; redrawing elementary, middle and high school attendance zones; hiring two new superintendents and passing two multimillion-dollar bond issues.
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The passage of Act 388, the state property tax reform bill, also has been tumultuous for this and other school districts throughout the state. The new policy made funding for school operations largely reliant on a 1-cent sales tax and placed much of the authority over educational funding in the Legislature.
To make matters worse, overall state revenues fell well short of projections, forcing more cuts in educational funding. Local board members have had to cancel or delay a variety of new initiatives and cut back spending wherever possible.
Norwood said the first 3 percent cut was covered by a surplus carried by the district. The second 6 percent cut will require going into the fund balance.
He believes that, with a protracted slump, the district will have to work to meet the basic needs of students with few frills. And, with an upturn in the number of students eligible for free lunches throughout the district, teachers will have to be prepared to teach students from lower demographic backgrounds. While the district will have to consider a variety of stopgap measures, Norwood said cutting teachers and increasing class size would be the worst option.
But the economy will not rule out innovations entirely. For example, Norwood foresees a dual-credit program with York Technical College in which high school students could take freshman college classes to earn credits. That would serve the needs of many students not planning on attending a four-year college.
Norwood, we think, offers a greater understanding of the challenges facing the district and a more expansive view of the possible solutions than his opponents. Both Griffin and Fillet bring enthusiasm, a devotion to education and a desire to do what's best for students, but they lack Norwood's experience and knowledge of how the district works.
We think Norwood deserves another term on the board.
Norwood, chairman of the school board, is running for re-election to the at-large seat.