Clover school board candidates face challenge of growing district, population

CLOVER -- Three school board candidates, who each believe they're uniquely qualified, will square off Nov. 4. The race pits a parent, a teacher and a school board chairman for one at-large seat.

Steve Brown, 51, is a 12-year board member and lifelong resident of the district.

Bryan Ghent, 38, is an educator with experience at the elementary, high school and collegiate levels.

Melanie Wood Wilson, 46, hopes to add the voice of a parent to the board.

Only one issue offers much contrast between the candidates, with Brown believing Clover should remain a one high school district for the near future while Ghent and Wood Wilson say work should begin on a second high school.

"Over-crowded classrooms are no fun for anyone, and it should be no surprise when those kinds of schools begin to fail," Ghent said. "I envision a Clover High School that sets the standard for the world."

The current school board, chaired by Brown, decided in February that the district would continue to grow Clover High School for up to 10 years before adding a second high school on the eastern side of the district.

That plan remains in place even after a decision by the board last week to send middle school students to the Clover Junior High School building, originally planned to add capacity for another 800 students at the high school.

Act 388, which substituted property tax funding for schools in South Carolina for sales tax, is opposed by all three candidates. Brown said if it's not changed, "cuts will have to be made." Ghent wants it reformed while the district looks for other funding options, perhaps even developer impact fees.

"It has had a disastrous impact on the funding and day-to-day running of school districts and our property taxes did not go down that significantly," Wood Wilson said of Act 388.

All three candidates have high hopes for the position, which is an unpaid post that serves the entire Clover school district.

"When the economy rebounds, handling growth will be our main issue," Brown said. "Addressing and contending with school funding issues will also be very important."

On the surface, Ghent agrees.

"Our greatest challenges, on the surface, are growth and funding, but deep down our greatest challenge is giving our students a love of learning," he said. "Tests and codes have their place, but schools should also be places of exploration and fun."

Wood Wilson agrees with the concerns of her fellow candidates, and hopes she can address them.

"The greatest challenge will be to effectively manage growth proactively, not reactively, and the same time increase the performance of our district," she said.

Clover school board members serve four-year terms.

Meet the candidates

• Name: Steve Brown

• Address: 2506 S. Hwy. 161, York

• Age: 51

• Work: Co-owner of Brown's Heating and Plumbing

• Education: High school diploma

• Family: Two children, Stacie and Sam

• Political experience: Clover school board member for 12 years

• Name: Bryan Ghent

• Address: 217 Waterside Trail, York

• Age: 38

• Work: English instructor at Winthrop University, formerly taught at South Pointe High School in Rock Hill and John Wayne Elementary School in Brooklyn, NY

• Education: BA from University of California at Berkeley, 1993, and Masters of Teaching from Winthrop, 2005

• Family: Unmarried

• Political experience: None

• Name: Melanie Wood Wilson

• Address: 19 Shipmaster Court, Lake Wylie

• Age: 46

• Work: Realtor with Allen Tate

• Education: BSBA in Marketing, Winthrop University, 1989

• Family: Married 15 years to Chad Wilson, mother of one sixth-grader and one seventh- grader

• Political experience: None