Meet the District 4 candidates for Rock Hill school board

In just over two weeks, voters will 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.

Three candidates are vying for the District 4 seat, held by Jane Sharp. District 4 is in the north and central areas of the school district and includes the most populated portions of Cherry and Celanese roads.

Here’s a look at the candidates.

Steve DiNino

Age: 53

Occupation: Software developer and engineer

Family: Wife, seven children and stepchildren, some still in Rock Hill schools

Background: DiNino was raised in the suburbs of Chicago and has lived all over the country. He “escaped” the high taxes and cost of living of southern California to move to Rock Hill in 2007. He has worked for 28 years in software development. He is involved in his church and is a Boy Scout leader.

Why did you decide to run for election?

I have so many kids in the school system. In California, we were boxed in with school choice. There’s a lot more freedom here (with school choice). The thing that piqued my interest was iRock (the Rock Hill school district’s one-to-one technology program). As a technology guy, there’s something I have to offer there. I have industry experience. I’m also a parent, so all of this matters to me.

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

I struggle with the budget and that this year we have another shortfall. I understand they’re reluctant to touch the reserve (fund). I’m a conservative. My first instinct is not to raise taxes. Funding is a huge issue.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

I am a parent. I deal with (the schools) on a day-to-day schedule. I live this stuff. I’m going to be doing this for a lot more years. I also have an entrepreneurial and software background. I don’t come from an educator’s background. If you’re looking for a different viewpoint, I’m your guy.

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Rick Lee

Age: 63

Occupation: Retired

Family: Wife, four grown children

Background: Lee has lived in Rock Hill for 26 years and recently retired from Pacific Architects and Engineering, where he worked in business operations and project management for federal facilities. He served for eight years on York County Council and has been active in many other area boards, commissions and organizations.

Why did you decide to run for election?

All of our kids got a great education here (in Rock Hill). There are great teachers with a tremendous amount of talent. I’d like to return the favor. Before, I couldn’t be involved with the board because of work commitments, but now I have the time to give. I’ve been watching, with some dismay, the performance of the school board. I know the board’s authority and I know their limits. The board is too involved in the day-to-day operations of the schools.

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

There are problems with the short-term budget. In the long-term, we need to recognize the rapidly-changing marketplace. We are in competition for students so we need to be better about marketing and convincing parents (the public schools) are their best choice. We also have a challenge out of Columbia because legislators have chosen as their targets teachers because schools aren’t delivering, when really, we have more dedicated and qualified teachers now than any time in the past. We need to involve parents more. We need to be an active player when new legislation is happening and go to Columbia. We, as the school board, can carry the message of real impact down to Columbia.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

I have 25 years of experience in public service, and I have extensive knowledge of marketing and business. I’m not sponsored by any party or movement and I am a moderate. I’m not bound by ways of doing business in the past and I can function within the limits of what a board is supposed to do. I have years of experience (through work) of building consensus among different groups of people.

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Jane Sharp

Age: 73

Occupation: Retired

Family: Husband, one grown daughter

Background: Sharp retired in 2008 after spending decades as a teacher, school psychologist and principal, spending the past 10 years at Finley Road Elementary School and Belleview Elementary School in Rock Hill. She was first elected to the board in 2010. A Georgia native, Sharp has also lived in other parts of South Carolina and Ohio before moving to Rock Hill in the late 1990s, spending most of her career working in high-poverty schools.

Why did you decide to run for re-election?

When I first ran in 2010, I had some folks encouraging me to do it, to try and share some of the success of what we were doing at Belleview Elementary School. I’m running now for the second time because there’s still so much work to do and I want to support the superintendent (Kelly Pew). It is appropriate to say we are a good school district, but we can be better and we want to push ourselves to be better. I’d like to be there to be a cheerleader for Dr. Pew and work with her and support her, not to tell her what to do.

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

Money always is. I see the budget to be a problem. We also have the challenge of charter schools for profit. I worry about that. I see public schools as one of our community responsibilities, like fire departments and police departments. I always told my teachers, “Stand tall because you are in the most important profession on Earth.” We also need to improve academic performance and, under Dr. Pew, I think we can do that. We need to want people to come and live (in Rock Hill), especially young families. If we don’t continue to have strong schools, they’re not going to stay.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

I’ve done what the district is asking schools to do (develop professional learning communities and increase academic performance). On the board, I try to represent students and teachers. I’m greatly opposed to grading teachers because if you’re to be graded you aren’t going to share (with your peers). Teachers are the largest profession in the United States that requires a college degree and we need to support them in every way we can.

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