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Aiken County School Board races

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Question: What is your platform and initiative for running?

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Larry Murphy  Karen Ethridge/Staff
Karen Ethridge/Staff
Larry Murphy

Levi Green

To serve and represent the citizens of District 2 by ensuring all schools are safe by reinforcing that teachers are in charge of the classrooms and not the students. Also, ensure Area 5 schools will remain a vital part of the school district. Ensure that all five areas remain in the district.

Vicki Simmons

I will respond in a timely manner. I will work for open government on the school board to achieve greater access to public records, meetings and a free flow of information. I will treat the parents' investment of their children, the students' investment of their time and the taxpayers' investment of their money in the public schools as a sacred trust.

Lawrence "Larry" Murphy (I)

Trying hard to maintain the good things in school system. Make changes where we need improvements.

John Wesley Hightower

Being accountable. I want to be a voice to bridge the gap between the school board and the community by making community concerns known to the school board and sharing school board information with the community.

Tom Goforth (I)

I believe in public education. I also believe that my many years of experience in education gives me valuable insight to make the educational system better.

Ray Fleming

I have worked as a volunteer in our public school system for 10 years. My involvement has extended from tutoring students to serving on the South Carolina Testing Task Force. I want to use these insights, my leadership skills and the commitment of my time to help meet the pressing challenges that face Aiken County schools.

Question: What is the biggest change that you will push for in the school district in the next four years?

Levi Green

I will push to lower student-teacher ratio and work with the board and current employees to improve the quality of education for all students.

Vicki Simmons

I want to "level the playing field" so that all children receive a rigorous education, relevant individual goals and interests. It also prepares them for life and work in today's global economy and all parents are meaningfully involved in the education of their children.

Lawrence "Larry" Murphy (I)

Single-gender classes. I'm one for seeing that classes in sixth grade and ninth grade be separated by single gender for all classes because we're having more problems with sixth-grade and ninth-grade discipline than anywhere else, particularly with the girls.

John Wesley Hightower

I will push for a collaborative effort between the school board, teachers and parents to propel academic performance to excellence for all children by utilizing our rich diversity.

Tom Goforth (I)

The bottom line is continued student achievement. There are many areas that need attention: increased stakeholder involvement, lower pupil-teacher ratio, adequate space, reduce dropout rate, increased salaries, etc. Note that the property tax relief bill has the potential to limit many local initiative innovations.

Ray Fleming

First is the increasing facility needs of our school system in the face of a growing student population. Second is about the student dropout rate and the associated high school graduation rate. We must get out in front of the facility issue so that we can provide sufficient, quality facilities for our students. We also must take the steps necessary to increase the graduation rate.

Question: How do you feel about current budget appropriations?

Levi Green

I am OK with the current budget appropriations. Do I think or do I want my taxes as high as they are now? Certainly not! But when the district has to worry about and pay for busing kids from one end of the county to the other because of AYP, I can live with it. Hiring and retaining qualified teachers will be an area that I would like to shift funds.

Vicki Simmons

Aiken County school taxes have increased $9.5 million since 2002. Since we haven't received a reasonable return on our investment, doesn't that imply that something other than money is the answer? I would support current budget appropriations if I knew every student was learning what they needed in order to succeed.

Lawrence "Larry" Murphy (I)

We are having trouble with monies for new schools. It looks like we may have a vote to increase monies for a new (another) Aiken and North Augusta high school.

John Wesley Hightower

I support an even greater effort to increase teacher salaries. I support an effort to make security adequate at all schools.

Tom Goforth (I)

The current budget appropriations, with the exception of Fund I, have been controlled by agencies other than the school board. Now with the Property Tax Relief Bill taking control from the board, coupled with the already under funded mandates, I see difficult times in the future with our budget.

Ray Fleming

With a $225-plus million budget, there will be some differences of opinion regarding expenditures. First, the entire process must be as transparent and welcoming to the public as possible. Second, its complexity must be reduced. Finally, the process must be driven by a high-quality strategic plan.

CANDIDATE PROFILES

Levi Green

Age: 57

Education: High school graduate

Employment: Washington Savannah River Co. retiree, small-business owner

Political Experience: Area 5 Advisory Council chairman, 25 years; board chairman for Silver Bluff Volunteer Fire Department

Family: Married; two sons; four grandchildren

Vicki Simmons

Age: 45

Education: B.S. in biology, Clemson University

Employment: South Carolina Parents Involved in Education, research assistant

Political experience: Aiken County Republican Party secretary 2000-04; co-founder Aiken County Tax Payers Association

Family: Husband, Michael

Lawrence "Larry" Murphy (I)

Age: 68

Education: High school graduate

Employment: Part time for the city of Augusta at Augusta Regional Airport

Political experience: Aiken County Council, 1972-74; served on school board for eight years

Family: Wife, Betty; one daughter and one son; three grandchildren

John Wesley Hightower

Age: 50

Education: Bachelor of arts, University of South Carolina Aiken; master of education, University of South Carolina

Employment: Savannah River Site

Political experience: None

Family: Wife, Gwendolyn; three daughters, Michelle, Monica and Melanie

Tom Goforth (I)

Age: 66

Education: B.S., East Tennessee State; master's degree University of South Carolina

Employment: Retired from Aiken County school system with 32 years of experience

Political experience: School board member for eight years

Family: Wife, Mary Lynn; four children

Ray Fleming

Age: 65

Education: B.S. in physics, Ohio University; M.S. in health physics, University of Michigan

Employment: Retired from Savannah River Site

Political Experience: None

Family: Wife, Lyn; three children; four grandchildren

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