BURGESS — The two candidates vying for the District 5 seat on the Horry County school board couldn’t be more different, especially when it comes to their views on Common Core standards and growth in the St. James attendance area.
Janice Morreale is challenging incumbent Paul Peterson in the Republican primary for the south end seat that serves portions of St. James and Socastee. Morreale is active in the St. James area, having served on various school committees, while Peterson is a 12-year veteran of the board and a professor at Coastal Carolina University.
The two are split on the issue of the Common Core State Standards initiative, which was adopted by the state in 2010. The transition to Common Core began in the last school year, and the standards will be fully implemented in 2014.
Common Core is designed to align standards with those of top-performing states and countries and provide a benchmark for all students, regardless of where they live. The standards are designed to prepare high school graduates for academic college courses and work force training programs, and to prepare them to succeed in the global economy and society.
Peterson said he is skeptical of the new initiative, calling it a fad from the educational establishment that is likely to increase bureaucracy.
“It will likely lead to more money being spent – little of it in the classroom – an expanded bureaucracy and, if we are lucky, about the same results,” Peterson said. “If we are not lucky, then lesser results.”
Morreale said she looks forward to implementation of the standards, which will “ensure that our children are prepared for college and the work force.”
“Adopting Common Core will help with our highly transient population that may come from other states, which have already implemented the standards,” she said.
The candidates also have different outlooks on the growth that has been experienced in the St. James attendance area.
Morreale said she believes growth has stabilized in the area, but Peterson said he sees the need for more capacity at the higher grade levels.
“St. James Middle School is already bursting at the seams,” Peterson said. “It will not be long before we will also need a second high school in this area. … Always the trouble will be accommodating this influx of students at the middle school before the new one is built, and I will certainly be an advocate for the building of the new middle school.”
Morreale focused more on the elementary schools, saying the addition of Burgess Elementary School has helped greatly in relieving overcrowding at St. James Elementary School. She dislikes the use of portables, which she said are “temporary structures that only provide temporary solutions.”
Morreale commended the district for being proactive in purchasing property near Burgess Elementary, and said that type of thinking should continue so there is room to add on at existing schools rather than using portables. Peterson also praised the district’s administration, which he said is well aware of St. James’ growth.
“I have been greatly impressed with Joe Burch [Horry County Schools’ attendance lines coordinator] and others who keep a careful eye on our growth patterns throughout the county,” Peterson said. “They have typically been on target.”
When it comes to teaching, Morreale said Horry County hires the best qualified teachers. She said the right people need to be in the right jobs, with compensation commensurate with the position, but compensation should not be based on test scores, especially in such a transient area. Peterson pointed out there is no clear agreement among teaching evaluators of who is a good teacher and who isn’t, and said that merit pay does not work.
“Here in Horry County, it is my experience that at many, if not most, schools – and certainly at some of our most successful schools – teachers see themselves as part of a team, and they see merit pay as disruptive to the idea of a team,” he said.
Peterson said measures of teaching excellence are so poor that tying pay to those measures would “likely lead to teaching to the measures rather than to genuine teaching excellence.”
The candidates cite different focuses when asked about taking Horry County Schools to higher levels of excellence.
“Teacher morale is the most critical improvement needed to get Horry County Schools to the next level. … We need to have teachers involved in providing feedback on programs implemented by the district, and honest feedback should be encouraged and received without repercussion,” Morreale said.
Peterson said the district already is functioning at a high level, given its demographics. He said a state-level change in the way mathematics is taught would be helpful, but the main focus should be placed on literacy at the elementary level because everything else hinges on literacy.
Peterson also backs the use of the “Harry Potter” book series in schools, saying students already love them, and they can be built upon for other literature.
“Public education is sitting on a gold mine with these books, but we ignore them,” he said. “It is a huge mistake. We need to instill in our students a love of reading. We know the ‘Potter’ novels do this; why we do not use them is a mystery.”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.