Growth is one of the top issues on the minds of the candidates vying for seats on the Lancaster County school board.
The election is Nov. 6. The candidates are:
- Melvin Stroble
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- John W Mahaffey
- Bobby Parker
- Neil Couch
- Janice C Dabney
- Melissa Jones-Horton
- Ken Buck
- Chris Campbell
The candidates talked about why they are running for school board, their concerns about high growth in Lancaster County and other topics during an Oct. 23 forum at the University of South Carolina-Lancaster.
Incumbent Melvin Stroble was not in the forum. He’s running unopposed.
District 3 candidates Mahaffey and Parker bring to the table experience in education.
Mahaffey said he taught for 30 years in Buford, where he also was a coach. He is a graduate of Buford High School and has granddaughters in Buford.
“I feel like I can make a difference,” Mahaffey said.
Parker has served on the Lancaster County school board for 16 years, nine as board chair. Parker said he ran for the school board to “make sure these kids in Lancaster County got the education they deserved.”
“So far I think we’ve done a good job and I hope to keep doing that in the following four years,” he said.
Mahaffey and Parker agree growth needs to be addressed in Lancaster County. Mahaffey said the district must explore all available funding avenues.
Parker said the district has taken steps to deal with growth. They’re building the new Indian Land High School and changing attendance lines when needed.
Voters approved a $199 million school bond in 2016 that includes money for a new elementary school and high school in the fast-growing northern panhandle of Lancaster County.
Parker said another school bond referendum could be the answer as the area continues to grow.
“We are funding our future with these kids,” he said.
Mahaffey said he also is concerned with construction delays of school facilities.
“We ought to hold contractors accountable because they are not getting the job done,” he said.
Each candidate has experience working in public schools.
Couch taught at Buford High School for five years and coached basketball and softball.
“I was able to gain a new outlook on the teaching aspect,” he said.
Couch said teaching students soft skills is a priority.
“We’re not putting out enough students that can fill jobs that don’t require a college education. Every kid’s not going to college and that’s OK,” he said.
Dabney, who graduated from Lancaster High, has served on the Lancaster County school board for 18 years. She also has served as a parent on parent-teacher associations.
“I’ve been engaged in the work of this district for years,” Dabney said. “I believe children want to succeed and can succeed if we believe in them and provide the right resources for them.”
Jones-Horton taught for 18 years and owns Unique Hair Design, a barber school in Lancaster. She is a proponent of career and technology education. Jones-Horton said she wants to focus on early childhood development and the high school drop-out rate, which she said is too high.
On growth, Couch said impact fees, like what the Fort Mill school district charges, is not the answer for Lancaster County.
“I don’t want to slow growth but at the same time I don’t want Lancaster to have to continue to build schools and fund it on the taxpayers’ back,” Couch said.
Dabney said by 2021, Lancaster County will have an underfunding issue due to Act 388, which replaced school funding from the local property tax on owner-occupied homes with a one-cent sales tax on most retail purchases.
Act 388 has cost the school district $8 million in revenue each school year, Dabney said.
“We need to be working on a plan on how we are going to address these building needs in the future,” she said.
Jones-Horton said it will take the district working with Lancaster County Council to address growth.
Voters will choose between a businessman and a seasoned educator.
Campbell said he brings a business view to the school board. He said the district’s report cards should be higher.
“It’s time to start running the business of education like a business,” he said. “We should be getting A’s on those report cards.”
Campbell said the district needs to address growth, possibly with another bond referendum.
“I think we should have done a better job of planning so we didn’t have to come back to the table and ask for more money,” he said.
Buck has 35 years in education, spending 25 teaching and the rest in school administration. Buck said he will approach his role as a school board member as he did a principal.
“We always made our decisions on what was best for the children,” he said.
Buck was invited to join the Governor’s Statewide Education Coalition chaired by Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman.
“It’s something I can help benefit Lancaster County with,” Buck said. “So much of what we deal with in the local area comes from the state. There is too much red tape that is eliminating true education taking place in the classroom.”
“Teachers want to teach and children want to learn,” Buck said.