FYN will be running a series of interviews with local candidates from the county commissioners and school board races. Each interview will be published separately and run again before the primary elections May 20.
Delane Lewis, candidate, Pickens County School Board Post 5
Why do you feel qualified to be a school board member? What skills do you bring to the job?
“I am an educator. I’ve spent 22 years in education starting in 1969 to present day which means I’ve got a lot of history. Educational trends have gone the spectrum during that time period and I’ve been involved with all of that change and evolution. It’s also important that I have a business background. I understand business procedures and personnel management from a business perspective that most educators don’t,”
As for skills she stated communication skills in both oral and listening skills.
“I think listening is the most underrated piece of communication. I’m also fairly good with technical information and technology.”
What are your five-year goals for the school system? 10-year goals?
“A change in the way we use technology in the schools. As we bring more technology into the classroom I’d like to see interaction between the technology, the student and the teacher. There should be more community and parent involvement. There are things in place to facilitate that but they’re not working effectively right now, I’m unsure why. I think we give lip service to the involvement but we don’t truly involve. I think we could have a much more dynamic school system than we have now. I think it was more dynamic (in the past) than it is right now. There is increasing disconnect. We need vibrant PTA/PTO involvement. We need parent involvement,”
“My goal is to make this a community effort, not just a school system effort. This is the most caring, giving community I’ve ever been involved with. We need to tap our resources,”
Ten year: She said a long-range plans for more than facilities is needed.
“Personnel development and that is more than telling them to shape up or ship out, that is putting into place a local development plan outside the state plans,”
A great believer in extracurricular activities, which foster character development and leadership skills for students, is crucial in her opinion. She asserts colleges are moving towards a “total resume” approach rather than a grade-based entrance system. Extracurricular activities give Pickens County students a more competitive edge.
What is the biggest problem facing the district:
“My answer is still teacher morale. There are a lot of things that go into morale and what impacts it. It’s stressful for everybody right now in high stakes situations – curriculum changes, testing with pressure attached for funding – our approach has been less partnering and more finger pointing. What I mean is rather than us working together as a team to improve that, it’s more ‘you’re responsible for the failure and you’re going to have to make the corrections’,”
She outlined that teachers are being made to feel as if they’re doing something wrong.
“We have not had to furlough teachers for the snow days. Cherokee County, for example, is using a policy of trust. They’re on an honor system to make up their time. Our teachers are being required to report to structured training after going through SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) accreditation which takes an enormous amount of time, using time sheets.”
This has decreased their planning time such as grading papers, communicating with parents, etc., during the school day which means teachers have had to use their personal time for those activities. She said the teachers should be able to use that make-up time to offset what they’ve already squandered of their personal time during the SACS process.
“Lets trust them to do the job we’ve hired them to do. That means a little less micromanaging and a lot more support,”
What does being involved in childrens lives mean to you?
“I love my 19 grandkids. I love having them crawl in my lap to read a book or getting down to play with them. I like spending time with my students talking about what their lives are like, their goals and dreams. From a school board perspective I think that means you have to be available to them. Be approachable and let them know you’re willing to be involved in whatever’s important to them. We don’t use the kids enough in policy and decision-making. Their ideas are much more important than what we do.”