EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of two articles on candidates in the Clover School District Board of Trustees races leading up to the Nov. 4 election. These are volunteer positions. Two candidates –Joe Gordon, seat 1, and Mack McCarter, at-large – are running unopposed.
The two candidates vying for seat 5 on the Clover School District Board of Trustees have different views on several issues.
Incumbent Rob Wallace, 36, a Clover businessman with three children in the schools, is running for election for the first time, after being appointed more than a year ago to complete the four-year term of the late Barbara Parrish.
Wallace is being challenged by Jamie Henrickson, 43, who works for AvidXchange and has two children in the schools. Both are Lake Wylie residents. Seat 5 represents the central Lake Wylie area.
Wallace says he’s seeking election “to continue to get positive results from students, and to keep a good thing going.”
But Henrickson said she’s running because she disagrees with some of the decisions the board has made and with Wallace’s votes.
“I don’t agree with him supporting the last bond,” she said, referring to Wallace and the $67 million bond approved by voters in March as part of a $99 million school construction package.
Henrickson, who is involved in the Crowders Creek Elementary School PTA and helps in the classrooms, said she hasn’t met Wallace.
“I’m at a lot of civic and community events, and he’s my district representative,” she said. “I’ve never met him, but I’ve met most of the other school board members.”
Henrickson said she would like to see the board appropriate money differently. She believes the construction package approved by 57 percent of voters in the spring “had a lot of waste.”
“Up until this last bond, they were managing well,” she said. She said the construction package included unnecessary spending for three fields of artificial turf, a new aquatics center to be operated by the YMCA, and spending to build a new $40 million middle school in Clover that she said won’t help expand capacity.
“Upgrades to the middle school would have cost less,” she said, adding she believes the bond spending was short-sighted to the amount of growth coming in Lake Wylie and Clover.
Wallace supported the bond, though he said the aquatics center should have been put to voters as a separate question. He also said he’d rather see voters decide on the cost of the whole $99 million construction package rather than using a down payment saved by the district to reduce the size of the bond.
However, Wallace said what’s important now is preparing for a second high school that he says will be needed in the future.
The candidates also have differing opinions about the district’s Connected Classroom one-to-one computer project, which has put iPads or Macbook Airs in the hands of all students in third grade through high school.
“The amount of money that goes into that, I don’t know if it’s necessary,” said Henrickson of the three-year, $4.6 million program. “I don’t see where every student having an iPad to bring home is necessary.”
Henrickson said the devices should be available for student to use in class, but she also said the cost of $50 insurance per year for each student is a hindrance to parents.
Wallace supports the Connected Classroom project.
“Every company that I deal with uses technology,” Wallace said. “The further we can get them (students) ahead of the curve, it’s going to help. I see more schools going in this direction.”
Both candidates agree that growth in the district is the biggest challenge.
“It puts a lot of pressure on our schools,” Henrickson said.
Wallace said redrawing attendance lines when the new middle school is ready to open will be challenging. He also said managing growth for a new high school will be the next challenge.
Maintaining the district’s “good financial position,” Wallace said, is a priority.
“The way we go about obtaining taxes is something we need to look at,” Wallace said, referring to the property tax levy on businesses and homeowners.
He added: “We definitely need to look at what rate we tax businesses and individuals, and doing what’s right and in line for them.”
Under South Carolina’s Act 388, enacted in 2007, owner-occupied homes don’t pay any property taxes for school operations, though they do continue to pay property taxes for debt repayment.
Wallace said he doesn’t have an agenda of change in mind. He said after being appointed to the school board in 2013, he better understands why certain decisions have been made.
“When I started looking at numbers, I learned it has pretty good reason why the school does what it does,” he said.
Henrickson said she would like to see changes in how the board votes. “If they disagree on issues in private, they should vote their conscience in public,” she said.
Both candidates agree communication from the schools to parents and the public is good. For example, Wallace said when the recent homecoming football game day was changed, he received several messages via the district phone app and emails.
However, Henrickson said when notifications are sent out about school-related incidents, “they could do a better job communicating using those resources in a more timely fashion and to keep people updated.”
She said, for example, that last spring when a Clover High School student attacked a peer, “by the time information was sent out, all the parents knew something had happened.” But because information was released 24 hours later, “so many rumors and misinformation circulated.” Plus, there was no follow up information, she said.
In regard to Common Core state standards, Wallace likes the concept, but isn’t sure how it will be put into practice. Common Core is an educational initiative that details what students should know in English language arts and mathematics at the end of each grade.
Henrickson does not like the Common Core plan, and she is glad the state is rewriting it. “Definitely keep an eye on what the state is doing for the rewrite,” she said.