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Candidates favor better technology for the classroom

October 7, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. – Lethonia Barnes, Trisha Caulder and Frank Hyder are running for seat 6 on the Florence One school board in the November election.

Trisha Caulder is the incumbent.

Lethonia Barnes

Barnes, a program director at Virginia College, said she wants to serve the community and help effect change in the school district.

“I am passionate about life and making the best of it,” Barnes said. “We are here for a purpose, and that is to make those around us better as we better ourselves.”

Barnes said she has felt pulled to give work in the community for a while, but decided this year was the year to take action and help put students first.

With the progression of technology and the job market, the district needs to evolve the classrooms to better prepare students to fill jobs in the Florence area, Barnes said.

“The traditional classroom is obsolete,” Barnes said.

Barnes said she wants to ensure that each classroom has technology.

“We want to be the best,” Barnes said. “We don’t want to be second or we don’t want to be third, we want to be first.”

Barnes said the technology focus should not just be regular education classrooms, but also in special education classrooms. She said she spoke with some special education teachers who were concerned that they weren’t being given equal access to technology in the classroom.

“Wherever a person is, it is our job to elevate them in education,” Barnes said. “Whether it be special education or the brightest of the brightest. If they come to our schools, it is our jobs, it is our purpose to educate.”

Barnes said she does not support the referendum route to get new school buildings because there should be a more cautious approach to using taxpayers’ money.

“As I run, I run to represent the constituents and we are concerned about our students first, but we also want to make sure that there is fiscal responsibility,” Barnes said. “We are not just spending taxpayers’ money because we have an idea and we are doing priorities, such as fixing up on the schools.”

She said her two priorities for the building plans is to mitigate the use of portable units and focus on the schools built in the ’50s and ’60s.

Trisha Caulder

Caulder has served on the board for 5½ years.

In her time on the board she has made technology her top priority because she knew it was important to keep classrooms updated with modern technology, Caulder said. She said that although it has been a long process, she is proud to see the 1-1 technology plan rolled out.

“I just hope I’ll be re-elected so I’ll be on the board when all of this happens, but for me, that was the main focus that I’ve tried to do,” Caulder said.

Caulder said the move toward 1-1 technology has been a slow and costly process, but the district, through innovation money, started 1-1 technology in South Florence and Southside schools. She also said some elementary schools have used some Title 1 money and grant money to become 1-1, as well as the newly built schools being opened with technology for each student.

“We are getting there, but this new piece with Dr. O’Malley leading that, it’s going to touch all of our schools,” Caulder said. “It’s just fascinating and amazing to me, and it’s really a dream come true for me that our kids are going to have the same access.”

Caulder said if re-elected she would like to see the district’s STEM programs continue to grow.

“I think it is a wonderful opportunity for our students,” Caulder said. “It opens up all kinds of opportunities and occupations for them in the future. That’s pretty much where education is headed. I’d like to see our district become a leader.”

Caulder, who taught in the district prior to her time on the school board, said accomplishing big things within the district takes a community effort.

“If we can be successful in getting our community to join with us and to help us, we can provide all kinds of opportunities for our kids that we’ve never had before,” Caulder said.

She said she hopes to see the district and community work together to provide a good education for students, which she hopes to continue to be involved in.

Caulder said standardized tests don’t always show a correct image of what students can do.

“I just think we put too much emphasis on testing, and I think it needs to be looked at,” Caulder said. “It’s not the district’s fault because the state mandates it.”

Caulder said she thinks the district is moving toward making sure teachers have the best training, which can help the test scores.

On the topic of new buildings, Caulder said the pay-as-you-go plan moves too slowly for the district to complete the new buildings in a timely fashion. It could take almost 20 years to complete the building of new schools, which leaves some children without equal facilities.

“You want to be sure that all the children, no matter where they are, no matter what school, that they have equal opportunities and equal facilities,” Caulder said.

Frank Hyder

After attending school board meetings for past 20 years, Hyder said, he is running for thel board to bring accountability to the district.

Hyder said the district needs to ensure that the administration is actively supporting the teachers when students are misbehaving and verbally abusing teachers.

“I have contact with teachers all over Florence One, and they all tell me that they are taking abuse,” Hyder said. “They don’t need that abuse.”

Hyder said the lack of administrative support is the reason there’s a high teacher turnover rate.

If elected, Hyder said, he will observe classrooms, to ensure the atmosphere of the classroom is good.

“I will be in the classrooms,” Hyder said. “I will visit the classrooms. I will sit in there and observe the atmosphere of the classrooms.”

Hyder said the teachers’ jobs are not to be babysitters and disciplinarians, but to instruct.

Hyder said he knows there are schools that need to be renovated, but he says the district needs to ensure that it is properly taking care of the facilities so that they last a long time.

“I think if we have the proper maintenance, I believe we will be able to be sufficient in the area,” Hyder said.

In New Jersey, where Hyder is from, there are schools that are 50 and 60 years old and still function well, Hyder said.

Hyder said he is in favor of technology in the classroom, but it needs to be monitored. Hyder said there needs to be caution when letting students take technology home.

Hyder said using standardized testing as an indicator for a school’s performance is limited because some students do not test well, but can still be good students.

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