Candidates for Fort Mill school board discuss teacher retention, budget cuts at forum
The Fort Mill school board candidates went head to head Tuesday in a forum on education issues.
The candidates addressed issues including growth and teacher retention and recruitment.
The election is Nov. 6. There are nine candidates running to fill four seats, all of which are at-large.
The candidates are:
- Celia McCarter
- Wayne Bouldin
- Andrew Markners
- Michele Branning
- Brian Murphy
- Terrin Boddie
- Christine Dayton
- Hazel M Frick
- Marianne Koehl
Why they are running
Terrin Boddie, a mother of eight children and a former small business owner, said some issues important to her include educator empowerment, bringing schools into the 21st century and improvement to the special needs services within the district.
“I am running because I love our schools and would like to have a voice to improve our relations with the state and county to ensure we are receiving everything possible to build the educational foundation for our children,” she said.
Incumbent Wayne Bouldin said he brings experience as a school board member, a leader in School Improvement Councils, a co-chair of the 2008 bond referendum committee and a member of booster clubs. Bouldin also is a long-time Fort Mill resident with children who have gone through the school system. His daughter and daughter-in-law are both teachers.
Bouldin said, if re-elected, his efforts will continue to focus on student safety, teacher and administration recruitment and retention and efficient use of local tax dollars.
“I have vested interest in the continued success of our great school district,” he said.
Michele Branning, who also is seeking re-election, serves as Region 13 director of the South Carolina School Boards Association. Region 13 includes York and Lancaster counties.
“The experience I have takes me not only in Fort Mill but also to Columbia to advocate for our children, our school district, our staff,” she said. “I take it all the way to Washington, D.C., where I am continually advocating with our elected officials at the capitol.”
Christine Dayton, a mother of three, said she is running on five issues: growth management, teacher retention and recruitment, foreign language learning, school safety and enhanced communication throughout the district.
“If elected, I will put children first by speaking out, listening and empowering our community,” Dayton said. “Together we can bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to the table.”
Hazel Frick, a longtime former Fort Mill educator, said she brings a teacher’s point of view to the board. Frick has mentored Winthrop University students and new teachers, has worked on school budgets and has experience writing curriculum.
“I want to see Fort Mill continue to offer all their students world-class educations with highly qualified teachers that make learning stimulating,” she said.
Marianne Koehl is a nurse who has worked in hospitals across the country connecting families to community services, including with parents of special needs children relying on Medicaid.
Koehl also has children in elementary, middle and high school. Koehl said her elementary-aged daughter is on the autism spectrum.
“I have chosen to use the compassion I developed as a nurse, the advocacy skills I gained as a case manager and the desire to see my children grow into independent, capable young adults to guide me in my service as a school board member,” she said.
Andrew Markners said he has two children in Fort Mill schools and is in the process of adopting a child internationally with his wife.
“We will be in the school district for many years to come,” he said.
Markners has a background in finance and business. He has served on homeowners association boards, school improvement councils and parent groups.
Celia McCarter is the mother of five current or recent district students. She is a board member with Foundation for Fort Mill Schools, has chaired Dancing With the Stars events to benefit district athletics and worked with several school improvement councils.
McCarter said she is focused on managing growth, teacher retention and staff development, and establishing partnerships with local businesses to provide work experience for students.
“I am running for school board to ensure the Fort Mill school district is the best it can be,” she said.
Brian Murphy is a Fort Mill graduate and has children in Fort Mill schools. He started a law firm in Fort Mill and has served with several community organizations.
Murphy said he is focused on teacher retention and recruitment, district finances and defending an increase to the district’s impact fees.
“Impact fees are the number one tool we can use to respond to and account for this uncontrolled growth that is happening in our area,” Murphy said.
Frick said the district needs to ensure teachers have adequate planning time and support. She also said teachers should be supported by their community.
“Teachers need to feel supported by the parents in their classroom,” Frick said. “Fort Mill does a great job with that.”
Dayton said teachers need to be paid more nationwide, and it will take advocating for teacher raises at the state level.
“Our teachers need to know they can come to us and they can speak openly and honestly about the struggles they are facing and we’re going to listen,” she said.
Boddie said teachers need the freedom to teach how they best can.
“As long as they’re meeting the standards, there should be no issues,” she said. “We have some great teachers.”
Branning said a board member’s role is to hold administration accountable for the needs school leaders have made plans to address.
“That’s what I think empowering the teachers, empowering the principals and empowering the district staff is all about,” she said.
Bouldin said the challenge also is fewer people are entering the teaching profession.
“We have fewer and fewer candidates coming out of colleges with degrees set up ready to teach,” he said.
Murphy said funding is an issue that also affects teacher recruitment.
“Our state government has failed to fully fund education,” he said.
McCarter said many of her family members are educators, allowing her to see what teachers struggle with. She said staff development and leadership opportunities are important for teachers.
Markners said Fort Mill has been successful with teacher retention in the past, but is dealing with fast growth. He said the board has to balance supporting the administration with holding leaders accountable.
Koehl said board members are tasked with advocating for students, setting policy for the operation of schools, setting a vision for the district and monitoring if district policies are working. She said community members play a large part in that role.
“We need to listen to our community as a whole,” Koehl said.