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Wood fired up to serve

Longtime school volunteer gains Elgin school board seat

Posted: November 18, 2010 5:11 p.m.
Updated: November 19, 2010 5:00 a.m.

When making the rounds with her husband to the Elgin precincts Tuesday night, Nissary Wood had to remember not to get too excited.

After the Nov. 2 election for Seat 2 on the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees resulted in a tie vote, Wood said she knew the votes in Tuesday’s special election would be close.

But when the precinct results started pouring in at the end of the night, widening the gap between her and opponent David Herndon, Wood was finally able to do what she calls her “happy dance.”

She received 382 votes. Herndon collected 320 votes.

“I was so excited. We stayed on the path we started with,” she said on Thursday morning. “It worked -- we knew that we just had to stay true to who we were. Anyone who knows me knows that I really, really wanted this.”

Wood, while a newcomer to local politics, is no stranger to teachers, parents, principals and students in the West Wateree area.

By simply having a five-minute conversation with Wood, anyone can tell that she is passionate about teachers and students in the county.

When referring to principals and teachers she speaks of them on a first name basis only -- as if she has been best friends with them for years. Ask her about any of the West Wateree schools, including schools that her children do not attend, and she can rattle off a list of programs offered at the school. And it wouldn’t be odd to see her serving cookies at a school’s fall festival or reading to a class on any given day of the week.

Currently, she serves as president of the Lugoff-Elgin Academic Foundation at Lugoff-Elgin High School and co-vice president of the Blaney Elementary School Parent/Teacher Association, and is a member of the School Improvement Councils at Leslie M. Stover Middle School and Lugoff-Elgin High School. She is also a member of Kershaw County First Steps and Kershaw County Human Relations Board -- all in addition to working as an event coordinator for Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina.

It is her involvement with the schools in her area, coupled with more than 11 years of volunteer experience, that Wood said will allow her to be the voice for the teachers, parents and students when serving on the school board.

“We need to see more school board members volunteering in the schools, getting to know the staff and getting to know the children -- not coming out there only when they have a special program going on,” Wood said. “They need to be more visible, they need to be more active in the schools. They need to show they have a vested interest.”

When asked if there is anything else she would like to see changed on the current board, Wood doesn’t hesitate before responding: more communication with the administration in schools, as well as more transparency.

“They have meetings outside of their (school board) meetings. I’m not saying that you can’t be friends and you can’t establish close relationships … but we’re not stupid. Our community is not stupid, they need to give us more credit,” she added. “If they were more open and honest, we can take it. Just don’t do stuff behind our back. We want more accountability; it’s just treating us with respect. You want respect from us, give us respect.”

But as a parent of four students in Kershaw County schools, Wood said she is most concerned about what she feels are strict testing and instructional goals that the school district hopes to meet by 2014.

“When you have 30 kids in a classroom, how can you meet that goal? You’re throwing this goal out there, but what are you doing to help those schools, to help the administration, to help the teachers hit that goal?” she said. “It really saddens me when you’re asking the schools and the teachers who have so little to hit these goals, but you’re not putting in extra programs to help these things happen. You can’t have one teacher for 30 kids and expect them to hit those test scores. Give me some realistic goals, seriously.”

And while she doesn’t take office for another two months, Wood said she looks forward to serving on the board and will always speak up for those who matter the most -- teachers and students.

“I’m just so excited. One of things that I want to take in there is what happens at the school. I want them to see it from my point of view,” she said. “But more so, I want them, the board members, to come out there, too.”

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