Fort Mill Times

Fort Mill school board candidates answer 5 questions

There are seven candidates running for four Fort Mill school board seats in the Nov. 4 elections. The field includes three incumbents, two candidates who ran in 2012 and two making their first attempt at this office.

Voting is at-large and these are nonpartisan races. All registered voters who live in the Fort Mill school district are eligible to cast a ballot.

Here’s a thumbnail biography that each candidate filled out and their answers to five questions we asked them via email. Their responses have not been edited, including any changes for spelling or grammar:

Name: Terrin S. Boddie

Age: 47

Occupation: Stay at home Mom and Full time Student

Education: Currently working on my BA in Business Management

Have you ever held elected office? If so, please specify: No

If you have school-age children, do they attend Fort Mill schools?: Yes, I have 2 currently in school and they both attend our public schools.

Do you have school-age children attending a private school?: No

Name: Wayne Bouldin

Age: 52

Occupation: Product Development Engineer

Education: BS Mechanical Engineering, NCSU ‘85

Have you ever held elected office? If so, please specify: Elected in 2009 as Fort Mill School Board Trustee.

If you have school-age children, do they attend Fort Mill schools?: Both children graduated from FM Schools (FMHS & NFHS), the latest in 2011.

Do you have school-age children attending a private school?: No. Given the outstanding reputation maintained by the Fort Mill School District, and the results we experienced, my wife and I never saw any need to consider alternatives.

Name: Brian Boyd

Age: 30

Occupation: Information Technology Director and small business owner

Education: Associates of Arts, Weatherford College; Bachelor’s in Theology, North Carolina College of Theology; Master’s in Theology, North Carolina College of Theology

Have you ever held elected office? If so, please specify: I served on our community’s HOA board for five years and I served as president for three of those years.

If you have school-age children, do they attend Fort Mill schools?: My wife and I have two amazing boys that are currently too young to attend public school. Aiden recently turned four and Tobiah will be turning two in a few months.

Do you have school-age children attending a private school?: No

Name: Michele Branning

Age: 45

Occupation: Self Employed Business Owner

Education: Attended Purdue University

Have you ever held elected office? If so, please specify: No

If you have school-age children, do they attend Fort Mill schools?: Yes, I have a 2012 graduate from Fort Mill High School and a sophomore at Fort Mill High School.

Do you have school-age children attending a private school?: No

Name: Diane Dasher

Age: 60

Occupation: Self-employed as an interior decorator

Education: BS in Education from Indiana University of PA; M Ed from UNC Greensboro

Have you ever held elected office? If so, please specify: Yes. I have served 3 terms on the FMSD Board of Trustees

If you have school-age children, do they attend Fort Mill schools?: Both of my children attended and graduated from Fort Mill Schools.

Do you have school-age children attending a private school?: No, the only private schools my children attended were preschools.

Name: John Petzel

Age: 64

Occupation: Thirty years’ experience supervising security at government contractors including intensive computer and information security awareness programs.

Education: Master of Education with emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction; Bachelor of Arts in Psychology/Sociology; Completed numerous Leadership Development programs and seminars.

Have you ever held elected office? If so, please specify: Elected and served two years on Board of Education in Tolland, CT.

If you have school-age children, do they attend Fort Mill schools?: Not applicable. Both of my children are attending South Carolina colleges.

Do you have school-age children attending a private school?: Not applicable.

Name: Patrick White

Age: 48

Occupation: VP Supply Chain, Comporium

Education: BA, Political Science, The Citadel 1988

Have you ever held elected office? If so, please specify: I have served on the Fort Mill School Board since 2002 and have served as Chairman since 2010

If you have school-age children, do they attend Fort Mill schools?: Jamie and I have two children who graduated from Nation Ford.

Do you have school-age children attending a private school?: No

Q: Many residents would like to see officials from York County, Fort Mill and Tega Cay work with the school district to find ways to manage growth. Do you think the school board can take a more proactive approach to make that happen? Please explain.

A: Boddie: Yes I do. I would speak with the officials about slowing down residential growth and adding more businesses this way we have better places to shop, more tax dollars for operational expenses. Even though the school board has no say in what our officials do, I would make my opinion known as well as take a deeper look at the laws of our State Constitution as to what exactly we can do as a school board with regards to our growth and hold each town and county official to the law.

A: Bouldin: Although our school district has no authoritative control of our community’s growth, it does have to accommodate that growth. The current school board took a proactive approach by creating a spreadsheet that calculates the financial impact to the school district and taxpayers, and then shared it with the leadership of the local municipalities of Fort Mill, Tega Cay, and York County. I encourage joint meetings of these entities 1-2 times annually including the school district.

A: Boyd: Yes I believe that more can be done to work with the officials from York County, Fort Mill and Tega Cay. This will require myself and other school board members to continuously meet and work with officials to facilitate solutions to properly manage our community’s growth.

A: Branning: I believe it is critical for the future of our schools that all parties (county, city and school) work together in the planning process. We have to be responsible stewards of the growth and understand the financial impact growth places on our schools. By working together we will be able to properly plan for growth needs of facilities and staffing. An interdisciplinary approach allows us to better manage the needs surrounding educating our students.

A: Dasher: I would be in favor of the school board and councils meeting at least twice a year to talk about common issues. The school board recently developed a formula to calculate the cost of additional students brought into the district by a development. This formula was presented to all area councils and can now be used by the planning commissions to work with the developers to help off-set the cost of developments on the community.

A: Petzel: The entire community must join this effort. The Board and County Council must join together monthly inviting business and realtor organizations to bring innovative ideas. At a recent School Board meeting, Don Sanders, Rinehart Realty, proposed plans for the vacant Banks Street School property: a “commercial residential” model, such as, High-End Assisted-Care Living. These increase commercial tax revenue while reducing operating costs since these residents would not have children to go to District schools.

A: White: The board has been, and will continue to be pro-active in dealing with these entities. We developed a template that shows the impact the many new developments will have on the district in the next 4-5 years. There are approximately 12,000 new homes that could be built, which would bring 7,000 new students. Even though the district does not have the authority or responsibility to approve new developments, it is critical that we keep FM/TC/YC informed regarding the impacts their decisions have on our schools.

Q: Considering the rising cost of college and the fact that not all students wish to attend college, what is your position on expanding the district’s skill-based education options (plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, computer repair, culinary arts, etc.)?

A: Boddie: Having been an employer in the HVAC industry I would love to have specialized training in these areas. We need more skilled workers in our workforce. One way this could be addressed is internships with local companies. Hands on knowledge can be the key to someone’s future. I would also like to see us have students attending York Tech’s programs they can be a huge resource. The school district that my older children graduated from had a technical center training. with all of these areas being available to our kids. I saw first hand this work successfully with my older children on a multiple district basis.

A: Bouldin: As part of the current high school expansion project, plans are in place to expand the current CATE program. In order to offer a larger variety of opportunities, I support development of expanded partnerships with York Tech (dual credit courses) and local businesses (internships). This would better leverage our available resources as it is difficult to economically justify courses where only a few students are interested.

A: Boyd: I am in full support of providing students the opportunities to learn hands on skills through classes and local internships. These skills will be useful to obtain a job that can lead to a career or help pay for college. I would also like to see an expansion in the AP and dual credit courses offered to allow our students to have as many college credits as possible before they graduate.

A: Branning: We have a responsibility to our children and their future to give them the best foundation for their future. Partnering together with Technical Institutes as well as Universities to ensure we meet the needs for both continues to be a focus at our high schools. Adding additional technical classes and training is always under examination based on the demand from our students for those course offerings.

A: Dasher: Our schools are always considering additional programs that would be of interest and benefit to our students. We need to consider the demand for various programs with the cost associated with those programs. As our high schools grow, I would be in favor of expanding additional skill-based options, working with local businesses on internships, or working with York Technical College to meet the needs of the students.

A: Petzel: I am in favor of expanding the district’s skill-based education options. Technical skills programs and apprentice positions could be developed. Computer repair offers, not only technical knowledge, but also opportunities to pay student interns to fix District equipment rather than outsourcing this on-going need. Culinary arts coursework may be involve classes at the Art Institute of Charlotte culinary school.

A: White: The district has added several skill-based courses over the past few years, and we will always be open to adding more if there is demand expressed from our students and their parents. One barrier to adding these programs is the high cost to start and maintain them. Our district is struggling to add enough teachers to maintain our desired ratios in core classes, so adding teachers for smaller classes is going to be tough without a financial commitment from our legislature.

Q: Back to the growth issue: Name one thing in the school board’s control you would support as a measure for mitigating the effects of rapid growth in Fort Mill and Tega Cay.

A: Boddie: Adding additional impact fees to the builders, the small amount they are being charged does not even begin to touch the expense we as a district experience.

A: Bouldin: Planning/forecasting is the key. Continue updating the ten-year build plan annually and foster innovative solutions to capacity needs so as to mitigate taxpayer costs. An example is how the board chose to expand the current high schools so as to delay construction of the third high school while also eliminating the need for a fourth high school down the road. Limit school changes for students by continuing to consider growth areas when setting attendance lines.

A: Boyd: I will support hiring new teachers to maintain a small class size and ensure that we our utilizing all of our facilities effectively. As we continue to grow it is important that we maintain a high standard of education for every single student.

A: Branning: The biggest contribution the school board has is continuing to work with County and City Officials regarding the growth and types of growth being approved. Working together to not overload the education system without a strong funding source for the growth results in a win for everyone. People are moving to our communities because of the quality of life and the quality of our schools. We have to protect that!

A: Dasher: Building schools to prevent our schools from becoming overcrowded. The school board can hold bond referendums to fund and build new schools to accommodate the growth. We have developed a 10 year building plan using the projections of several agencies so that we have an idea when our schools will be full and plan ahead. Keeping teacher – student ratios as low as possible also helps to limit the effect of growth.

A: Petzel: Funding of all (not just sports) extracurricular activities should be examined annually by the Board with the return on investment calculated. If the return is a good investment for the student participants, retain it, otherwise give the parents opportunity to fund it through a booster club or the individual parent’s expense. Referendums will be required to construct the seven new schools. Deliberate communication with our legislators is also needed.

A: White: Rapid growth puts a severe strain on all of the infrastructure in our community: roads, schools, etc. I would like to see more of a requirement for developers to help finance infrastructure improvements at the same time they are building out their developments. If we continue to add rooftops in our area without adding new infrastructure, the quality of our schools as well as our overall quality of life will suffer.

Q: Since budget cuts led to middle school sports becoming self-funded a few years ago, the parent-led booster club that formed has been able to rally community support and keep the programs going. Should all sports and extracurriculars become self-funded so the district can divert more revenue to hire teachers and pay for core functions?

A: Boddie: Why not? I believe most people do not want to have taxes raised so that a few students that choose to participate can do so. I would like to see these booster clubs spread out the fundraisers rather than bombard the community in the fall. Our local town’s have many festivals throughout the year why not have our booster clubs have a booth and share in the profits. I love our community and how we rally together and fully believe our programs can continue. This community is very giving and I'm positive there would be support for the children of all income levels to participate.

A: Bouldin: Sports and other extracurricular activities are important aspects of our students’ learning and development into young adults. Setting the district’s budget is a balancing act between state and federal mandates, operational needs, and desired program enhancements, with classrooms being my priority. However, shifting all sports & extracurricular activities to self-funding would be a huge burden for our already taxed parents and businesses. Based on the current finances, I support district funding at the current levels.

A: Boyd: I am not in support of cutting the funding for all sports and extracurricular programs. They play a key role in the success to many of our students and the school district as a whole. These programs allow students to learn and grow beyond academics. It is amazing how our community continues to raise funds for middle school sports and I want to say thank you to everyone involved. For more information on how you can support middle schools sports you can visit www.fortmillathletics.com.

A: Branning: All Athletes and Marching Band students pay a $100 participation fee. Most extracurricular sponsors do not receive a stipend for their efforts so a fee is not charged across the board. Elimination of a student's participation because of a fee they perceive an inability to pay is not an option, these opportunities can be critical. Independent fundraising efforts can achieve similar results but still may not support the stipend like a participation fee might.

A: Dasher: I hope it never comes to that since academics are the top priority. Our community stepped up to help fund middle school sports, but it would put too much strain on the businesses and families to have to fund all the extra-curricular activities. Extra-curricular activities help to make a child well rounded and provide many life lessons that are not learned in a classroom and help to make a productive citizen.

A: Petzel: Yes, the District should conduct a review of the return on the District’s investment of all sports and extracurricular. I see this as a cost reducing goal, to move those activities to become self-funded. The community members, who are interested in continuing an activity with a lower return on the investment, will sustain the full costs of that activity. The parent-led booster club for middle school sports is an excellent example for parents to follow.

A: White: The board had some very tough decisions to make with our budget after the recession hit. We were forced to eliminate $5.4MM in one year, which led to many unpleasant cuts. While classroom teachers are our first priority, I believe extracurricular activities play an important role in educating the whole student. Participation in the arts, sports, and clubs keep students engaged, and our community benefits in many ways when our children are involved.

Q: Name one realistic action the school board can take to have a positive impact on local education.

A: Boddie: Attend meetings with the State School Board and be forceful on our children’s curriculum, we are one of the best school districts in the state so why should we not push for the best rather than bow down to state mandates

A: Bouldin: Continue putting our “children first” by ensuring the district hires the best, most talented educators and administrators. The second order of business is retaining these valuable resources through such measures as fostering a family atmosphere, minimizing class sizes as much as possible, and providing necessary teacher support and continuing development opportunities. In addition, as funds become available, the board should expand the early childhood education programs which have proven to have a huge impact.

A: Boyd: There are many actions that can be taken to have a positive impact. One example is to increase transparency by web streaming the School Board meetings and facilitate more input from our local community. These things can easily be accomplished through modern technology and our community’s input will be valuable when making decisions and it will have lasting impact for years to come.

A: Branning: The most realistic action our school board has is to continue to foster relationships with our elected officials in Columbia. To continue to work towards a more equitable funding process for public education without penalty to the students or the tax payer. Faster growing districts need stronger support. There is a reason they are growing at record numbers and they deserve the support needed to maintain high standards.

A: Dasher: As funding becomes available, I would like to see an expansion of our early childhood program. Many families are unable to afford preschool, and it would help all children achieve their highest potential. Since we live in a global world, I would like to reinstate the elementary foreign language program. A priority should be hiring and retaining the best teachers and administrators and making decisions based on what is best for children.

A: Petzel: Plan and execute a Public Relations campaign to foster regular participation of the community in the activities of the Board. Perhaps have quarterly meetings dedicated to community input and Board informing on pre-agreed-upon topics. This will create the dialogue that appears to be lacking currently. Continue to reward teachers and students, who are doing a great job. Ensure curriculum have outcomes of achievement.

A: White: The model of funding public education in SC is severely broken when it comes to fast growing districts. School operations are no longer funded by local property tax since a penny was added to the sales tax in 2008. This new model has been disastrous for our district and has resulted in a loss of $50MM since 2008 and over $10MM this year alone. The board must educate our citizens about this issue, and appeal to our legislature to address this disparity before it is too late.

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