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.
Wendy Lowe, Incumbent, Pickens County School Board Post 2
Wendy Lowe, current chair of the Pickens County School Board, is an unusual mixture of humble and yet confident of her accomplishments by nudging the schools into the future and making them a more vibrant, comprehensive system.
Serving kids in their educational, emotional and spiritual needs started through her and husband Steve Lowe’s dreams of being more involved following taking in a troubled teen. Those dreams spiraled into what is now a spiritual-based ministry that treats not only kids but the entire family through Joy House, a residential facility that also encompasses counseling.
From that viewpoint Lowe’s dream expanded to include all kids in Pickens County and those dreams were realized when she was elected to the school board. After serving one term she wants to see those dreams through to fulfillment.
Why do you feel qualified to be a school board member? What skills do you bring to the job?
“I feel qualified first of all because I’m a parent of two children in the system. It’s really important to me they get a good solid education. Also, with what we do at the Joy House it’s one of the reasons I got involved with the school system. The majority of kids we have here are going to go back to public school when they get out of our program. We wanted to make an impact on all the kids in Pickens County.”
As far as skills Lowe outlined her parenting experiences bring her a personal set of skills as well as her business-minded familiarity in running a non-profit makes her a well-rounded choice. She said her book-keeping has helped with the school budget but admits while that helps it doesn’t encompass all the areas of a district’s budgeting process.
“The budget is so enormous…you have to take a piece at a time and try to work it out the best that you can.”
With shyness being a key component of her personality, she confidently believes that she’s overcome that and her ability to communicate her goals and to collaborate successfully with other people has contributed to her success as a board member.
What are your five-year goals for the school system? 10-year goals?
By the time the five year period is up, it will be time for another SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) review and she said she hopes to improve their scores.
“I would also love to see all our schools have a CCRPI (College and Career Ready Performance Index) score of 90 or above.”
She further said she hopes that Pickens County Schools grow in reputation and performance so much that people are drawn here because of the school district’s performance.
Supporting teachers, students and improving the system are her long-term goals as well.
“I’d like our system to be a system teachers want to come to work and to create a great environment for them. I’d like to see our graduation rate go up. It was really good last year but I’d like to see all of them graduate in some way, shape or form even if it’s not through Pickens County schools.”
She expounded the idea, stating,
“I’d like to see education be relevant so that having a diploma isn’t just that they passed their classes but that they actually learned something, a life skill or something they could carry on with them.”
Lowe attributes her success to strong teachers and hopes that the school system can foster that and improve it through the years.
What is the biggest problem facing the district:
“For us it has been the budget. Trying to determine what to do to keep the services we have for our students and what we do to try to keep 180 day (school years). I have been determined I do not want to furlough teachers, it hurts them and it’s not fair to them…and it’s not fair to the students to not get 180 days. We’ve committed to them we will pay them for 180 days and I want to see us continue to do that.”
Along budgetary lines, Lowe said while the budget for this year hasn’t been examined yet she’s excited to see what the governor will be allotting for the district as it’s expected to be more than last year.
“I’m praying it’s a lot better this year than it’s been. I am excited to see what we can re-instate for our kids. There hasn’t been a year as a board we haven’t had to make a hard budget decision; it would be a relief if this was the year.”
What does being involved in childrens lives mean to you?
“It means a lot because of what we do at the Joy House. For me personally I try to be involved in my own kids’ lives as much as possible: I go to sporting events, I go to theatre productions. I recently went to Grease and I wish everyone could see how amazing that was.”
“Kids want to know that people are going to be there for them and that means going where they’re at to what they’re doing. They don’t understand what’s going on from a boards perspective. As nice as it is that we have kids come to the board meetings and recognize them it’s more about getting out in the community. They want to see you at their baseball games, their basketball games, their football games. They want to know you really care about what they’re doing. Some of the ways I have shown its important is by being involved in Young Life, the Joy House and many of the sports and activities that happen in our community.”