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NEESES – A group of candidates running for seats on the Orangeburg County School Board were at Hunter-Kinard-Tyler High School on Tuesday to answer questions and share their views on issues affecting education in Orangeburg County.

The candidates will appear on the ballot on Nov. 6, when voters will select the people who will guide the new school district being created through the merger of Orangeburg County’s three districts.

Candidates Susan Cade Gleaton and Joyce Colter, both of whom are running for District 4, discussed the qualifications they’re looking for in a candidate for superintendent.

“My first question would be: What is your experience?” Gleaton said. “I need to see what you have done, show me where you have been, your qualifications. Second, I would like to know do you intend to live somewhere within our community or is this something that you will be commuting back and forth?”

Gleaton would also like to, “see some data from your district that you have already been a superintendent in to show me what you can accomplish when you come to our district.”

Colter said she must know, “the qualifications of the superintendent.”

She also needs to know the educational level, goals and objectives of a candidate, she said.

“If I ask them questions, I would hope to be better informed about who they are and what they bring to the table to advance the district in the right direction,” she said. Colter said she wants to ensure, “students receive the best possible education so that when they leave this school district, that they will become well acquainted with careers, so that they will be well suited for the work that they want to do in the future and to improve society.”

Candidates running for the at-large seats, which are Districts 8 and 9, discussed technology in the classroom.

The candidates were asked, “What will we do as a district when we consolidate to improve our students’ opportunities to find employment in a technological era?”

Aaron Rudd, who is running for District 8, talked about having the necessary funding to provide technology.

“We have many students at Cope, at our schools, that take up training and we have been fortunate to get a couple of our students to go down to Boeing and get welding jobs. We need lots of money from the state, that’s the only place we’re going to get it, to teach these young people different trades that they need for these new jobs,” Rudd said.

Antron Williams, who is also running for District 8, said new technology policies need to be in place.

“To me, for today’s ever-changing job situations, we’re going to have to invest in technology. As a board, we’re going to be setting policies, we’re going to be setting the agenda for what we believe is important equipping our students. So technology has to be one of them,” he said. Williams also said the formation of partnerships with companies in the county, as well as a focus on STEM in the schools, are necessary.

District 8 candidate Joseph Garvin, said the focus needs to be on the development of soft skills, then technology.

“We’ve got to give them soft skills because we’ve got to teach them how to do the interview. You’ve got to tell them how to dress. These are skills that you can’t find in a book. You have to tell them that because if they go to a job, if they go in looking not suitable for the job, they are not going to hire them. That’s the first thing we need to do is make sure our kids look well and can talk well,” Garvin said.

R.L. Poppy Brown, another District 8 candidate, focused on funding as a way to increase the use of technology in the schools.

“I think we all know that technology is expensive, and we’re right back to the same thing that we dance around: the money. We know that funding is the problem, everything comes under funding. The schools, discipline, all of that comes under funding. Technology is under funding. Not just the school board, but all of us, we need to go where the problem is. The problem is in Columbia, the problem is at the State House,” Brown said.

Anna S. Jacobs, who is seeking the District 9 seat, said there needs to be a focus on the curriculum used in schools.

“Our children need relevant learning experiences. There are two trends out there now. One is called choice-based learning, the other is called experiential learning. That’s where students have a specific focus, they’re learning what they’re interested in. We have to give our students the skillsets to go after these jobs, and we have to know what these employers are looking for in our students so that we can begin to prepare them to be successful in these areas,” she said.

“It is not so much about money as it is about knowing what is expected and what’s required on the jobs on a day-to-day basis,” Jacobs said.

Debora Brunson, who is also seeking the District 9 seat, focused on curriculum.

“We have to begin to build education for the 21st century. We have our schools, we have our technical education, but we’re not providing the adequate curricula in our schools that are preparing our students for the workforce when they graduate from high school. We have to start early with children,” she said.

“We need to drop those engineering practices down to elementary school, middle school, high school so that when the kids graduate from high school they are well-trained in those engineering practices,” Brunson said. “We need to look at the way we have vamped our educational system. Is it still working for the 21st century?”

Laurie Sibley, who is also seeking the District 9 seat, said, “I think that it’s really important to be preparing children and young adults to be productive and interesting people, which will enable them to be a great workforce.”

“We need to teach kids to think about the strategies that we’re using and why they need that strategy. Kids need to be able to understand and apply that in other situations. They also need real-world experiences like field trips and hands-on science experiences,” she said.

The forum was sponsored by the Orangeburg Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., in collaboration with the Orangeburg Branch of the NAACP and 93.7 FM.

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Staff Writer

Bradley Harris is a Government and Sports Reporter. The Irmo, SC native is a 2018 graduate of Claflin University and recipient of the 2018 South Carolina Press Association Collegiate Journalist of the Year Award.

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