Candidates for the Horry County Board of Education have no illusions about the work they have ahead next year.
The 2010-11 budget is waiting for a final stamp of approval on June 7 and utilizes $13.2 million in one-time federal stabilization funds. With a huge budget shortfall already anticipated for Horry County Schools' 2011-12 budget, which will be minus federal funding, it will present more tough choices for school board members.
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Pamela Clardy Timms and Blaine Garren are vying for the District 6 spot, which represents Carolina Forest, Socastee and St. James, and they are the only school board candidates running in a primary race this year.
Timms, 56, the incumbent, is seeking a fourth school board term, having started with the board in 1999. Garren, 43, is vice chairman of the Horry County Airport Advisory Committee and chairman of the Horry County General Aviation Sub Committee.
The Sun News sent questionnaires to both candidates with questions about Horry County Schools and were asked to keep their responses brief.
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Question | With an anticipated $17 million shortfall in the 2011-12 budget and no federal funds coming in, what ideas do you have for balancing the school budget next year?
Garren | We need to start working on next year's budget now. Every line item needs to be examined and evaluated to see where cuts can be made without hurting our kids' education. Tough times are already here, and we must be prepared before next year.
Timms | Certainly we are experiencing difficult times statewide. Our seated board projected this several years back. So, in preparation, we became diligent and made decisions then, in order to minimize loss of teaching positions. There have been cuts, however, we have made reassignments and downsized staff without cutting vital academics that impact students' learning.
Q. | Ronnie Burgess, principal at the Academy for the Arts, Science & Technology, was one of several reassigned recently, and community activists are saying this is a step backward for minorities in high positions with Horry County Schools. What are your feelings about the representation in the school district and on the board?
Garren | It is vital that the board and district office work closely with local minority leaders to examine this situation. If there is wrongdoing, then it should be corrected immediately with calm heads and sound solutions that will prevent future problems. We should have a committee made up of local minority leaders and staff to discuss issues before they get out of hand.
Timms | Our district has worked closely with minority leaders locally and statewide for many years. There are cabinets ensuring equity in representation. I know many principals that have provided extra assistance to minorities (if needed) to assist in academic preparation and job security. I have no comment concerning Ronnie Burgess. This is a confidential personnel issue.
Q. | Some people believe salaries are bloated at the district level and some realignment is necessary. What are your thoughts on this?
Garren | No one ever wants their pay reduced, but there are some positions that are paid extremely too much. These positions and people must be evaluated, and a proper solution shall be determined and implemented. We must all be sensible about this and understand that it will have to be corrected. A little pain now will help in the future.
Timms | In a competitive global market, we must offer salaries that are attractive, enabling the district to recruit and retain only the most highly qualified personnel.
Q. | With the success of the recent technology fair, what are your feelings about Horry County Schools' technology instruction, programs, getting more Wi-Fi access, etc.?
Garren | Technology is our future, and this should be one of the top priorities on the list when discussing next year's budget. Our kids have proven to us that they benefit from technology fairs, and we should support this and try to attract national corporate sponsors to help us get this done. The kids that shine in this field are the ones that will attract businesses into our area in the future.
Timms | As a district, we must continue to advance forward in technology. This is extremely pertinent because of continuing opportunities becoming available through the Web. We must remain constant in our efforts and awareness so that Horry County Schools students will have unlimited opportunities.
Q. | What do you think should be done to strengthen student test scores?
Garren | In a short answer, get more parents involved with their children's education. Find out what it is going to take for parents to sit down with their children each day and work with them, assuring that the work needed to improve the scores is getting done.
Timms | Parental involvement. However, we acknowledge that all family structures are different. Data suggests that parental involvement excels student achievement, academically and socially. As a district, we will strive to educate in both areas. I feel it is our responsibility. Teachers are overloaded, but they are educated, committed and certainly will "go the extra mile" for all students.
Q. | Are there other thoughts or ideas you'd like to add?
Garren | If elected, I plan on implementing a program that will match struggling students with retired educators and professionals in our area, similar to a mentor program. I would also like to hold community meetings to receive input from the parents and community on their ideas and convey them back to the district office and schools. ... I work on three simple rules: Rule 1 - Do what is right for the children. Rule 2 - Remember the children. Rule 3 - Always refer to the above two rules and believe anything can be accomplished if it is thought through properly.
Timms | Thoughts and ideas, no. I will always make decisions in the best interest of children. They are the promise of our future. As Americans, we have an obligation to instill values and provide a quality, challenging education for all children.