Education

Meet the District 2 candidates for Rock Hill school board

In just over three weeks, voters will go to the polls to determine who will sit on Rock Hill School District’s Board of Trustees. School board members serve four-year terms, and three of the board’s seven members are up for re-election this year.

Four candidates are vying for the seat in District 2, currently held by Ginny Moe. District 2 is in the north and northwest areas of the school district and includes many neighborhoods near Heckle Boulevard, around West Main Street, and west of Twin Lakes Road along Mount Gallant Road. Here’s a look at the candidates.

Sarah Harper

Age: 71

Occupation: Retired

Family: Husband, three children and 10 grandchildren.

Background: Harper is originally from Alabama. She attended college in Florida and spent her career in education as a teacher, guidance counselor and administrator in Florida. She spent the last six years of her professional career as the director of exceptional student education in the Rock Hill School District.

Why did you decide to run for election?

I love children, and I love to see the district is providing appropriate, meaningful education. We have a lot of big decisions coming up. I believe I have the expertise to make appropriate, informed decisions. It’s a job you can’t take lightly. I can be a voice of reason and expertise.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the school district today?

Funding is the first one. We’re looking at a $1.4-million budget shortfall, and when you look at the overall budget, it’s only about 1 percent. It’s something I think we can deal with, but I want to make sure we don’t get behind. Second, for teachers, we have to make sure they’re keeping up with the curriculum and keeping up with all the paperwork. There’s an enormous amount required from teachers today. Third, health and safety. We need to make sure our children are getting nutritious food. The safety of our children and teachers is very important. Fourth, keeping up with changes in technology. The Rock Hill School District has done an amazing job keeping up with technology. This is the time for us to take a breath and figure out which way we’re going with Apple or Microsoft. Fifth, communication. Part of the excitement of being in a small community like Rock Hill is that you can really get your pulse on what’s happening in our schools and our community. We have to make sure our schools are not the best-kept secret in town and put information out there.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

My educational experience and background. I’ve worked within the community, with the Winthrop athletic board, as chair of the scholarship auction and as an adjunct professor at the University of North Florida. I have experience at the elementary, middle, high school and college level. I’m a person of vision, and I can look down the road and see what’s best for in the future, not just right now. We need to be on the cutting edge.

Contact information

803-327-3808; harper1210@comporium.net; www.sarahharperforrhsd3.blogspot.com; www.facebook.com/sarahharperforrhsd3.

Helena Miller

Age: 36

Occupation: Stay-at-home mom and school volunteer.

Family: Husband, three children ages 5 to 11.

Background: Miller is Swedish by birth and came to the United States for a semester while she was in college. While here, she met her future husband. She has a degree in communications but worked in real estate until she had children. She and her family have lived in Rock Hill since 2003. She serves as parent-teacher association president and School Improvement Council Chair at Mount Gallant Elementary School. She is also a board member of the Rock Hill Schools Education Foundation.

Why did you decide to run for election?

The main reason I ran is that I think we need a parent’s voice on the school board. There is a lack of communication going back to parents and a void. Over the past six years of having children in the public schools, I’ve seen several areas that need to be addressed. I’ve got a vested interest in our schools.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the school district today?

Communication is huge. What we have going on right now is one person (the school board) sees (communication) as happening and the other (the community) does not. The second is the budget. We’re facing a budget year that is frightening. We need a fresh set of eyes. There are areas that need to be taken into consideration. The board has been hurting sometimes more than helping. The third is technology. Holding off (the expansion of the district’s 1:1 technology initiative called iRock) is the same as stepping back. I’ve never seen this kind of interest in education as we have with iRock. But the buzz is gone.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

I have a unique skill set. I have experience volunteering in schools while having children in schools. I’ve proved I’m willing to dedicate my time. I have a lot of insight through my work with the foundation, the school improvement council and the parent-teacher association. I also have a year of high school experience because we hosted an exchange student from Norway for a year. I would be approachable. It’s a big step to “contact your representative,” but it’s easier to come up to me at a ball game and say, “Hey, these are my concerns.”

Contact information

704-488-4950; contact@electhelena.com; www.electhelena.com; www.facebook.com/electhelena.

Ginny Moe (incumbent)

Age: 60

Occupation: Church musician

Family: Husband, daughter in college.

Background: Originally from Alabama, Moe went to the University of Alabama-Huntsville. After college, she spent time with a dance company and then ran a business selling sheet music before going to graduate school to study church music. She and her family moved to Rock Hill in 1995.

Why did you decide to run for re-election?

When I ran before, I was very interested in the finances, so my business background helped a lot. To my knowledge, the school board has never had any set goals. We now have some: improved academics, improved teacher training and improved communications. I feel like we’re making progress, and it seems we’re making real changes. I feel like the first two years, I was just bumbling along because the learning curve was so steep, but now I feel like I know the issues.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the school district today?

There are a lot, and a lot of issues facing education in general. Everyone’s critical of education. We’ve realized it’s not working as well as it ought to, and everyone’s gotten interested. The financing of education in South Carolina is really problematic. Nationally, everyone wants to have a say in education. Worldwide, we have some outside influences, but I need to do what my community needs. If we don’t have a local school board that has some control, why do we have a local school board at all? We also need a greater focus on communication. Right now, we don’t have any good vehicles for communicating with the public.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

Experience and constituent service. I answered every contact I got. I go around and knock on people’s doors just to find out what they think. I answer what I can if they have questions, and then I go find the answer if I can’t. I respond to the public well because I want to communicate and I want to involve the public in the schools. I want to seek people out and give more opportunities for feedback.

Contact information:

803-322-0021; ginnymoe@comporium.net; www.ginnymoe.net.

Leon Putman

Age: 44

Occupation: Facilities manager for Ballantyne Village shopping center in Charlotte.

Family: Wife, two children in high school.

Background: Putman is originally from Iowa, but his father was in the military, so he lived all over the country. He attended high school in Summerville before going to college, then managed movie theaters before becoming the manager for the entire shopping center. He and his family have lived in Rock Hill since 2001.

Why did you decide to run for election?

My kids are incredibly successful in the school system now. I hear horror stories (through my role as a troop leader for the Boy Scouts) from fellow parents. I want every kid to have the same opportunities that my kids do. I just feel like with the current direction the school system is going, we’re not prepared for (the future). We need more opportunities for parents to be involved in the schools. Most kids aren’t engaged, and all those kids need something to engage them.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the school district today?

Student engagement, having an updated curriculum, the graduation rate and balancing the budget. The way the board is now, there’s a lot of patting each other on the back, and it seems like they’re not getting enough done. The iRock initiative is a great example. The trustees used to be more involved with starting the conversation. Now there’s an us (board) and them (administration) mentality. I feel like we need to have more conversations, and we need to help everyone get along better and communicate better with administrators. Money won’t solve it. We need to remind everyone (board, district administrators, principals, teachers, students and parents) what their role is.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

What I bring to the table is I’m really aggressive about getting things done. I’m a day and night active parent. I want every kid to have the same experience my kids had. As a scoutmaster, I’ve really learned and believe that one person can make a difference. I’m ready to get down to making things happen.

Contact information:

803-415-7458; putman.leon@gmail.com; www.facebook.com/LeonPutmanRHSB.

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