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S.C. Superintendent candidates debate at CHS

Posted: May 23, 2014 2:21 p.m.
Updated: May 26, 2014 5:00 a.m.
Haley Atkinson/C-I

Four Republican candidates for State Superintendent of Education and one from the American Party attended a forum debate at Camden High School on Thursday. They included (from left) Charmeka Childs (R), Gary Burgess (R), Don Jordan (R), Elizbeth Moffly (R), Ed Murray (Am) and Molly Spearman (R).

A debate forum at Camden High School (CHS) on Thursday night that was supposed to include all 13 candidates for S.C. State Superintendent of Education turned into an almost Republican-only debate. By the time the forum, planned by the Kershaw County Teacher Forum and Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce, began, only Republican candidates Gary Burgess, Charmeka Childs, Don Jordan, Elizabeth Moffly and Molly Spearman, along with American Party candidate Ed Murray, were on stage.

All four Democratic candidates -- Montrio Belton, Sheila Gallagher, Jerry Dovan and Tom Thompson -- ended up attending another debate, according to Kershaw County School District Director for Communications Mary Anne Byrd.

“After the forum was planned and all four Democrats had confirmed they would attend our event, ETV scheduled its statewide televised debate for the Democratic candidates,” Byrd said.

The three missing Republican candidates were Sally Atwater, Amy Cofield and Sherri Few -- a Kershaw County resident.

Few’s office stated she also had a previous commitment.

“The school district was aware that there was a schedule conflict and that’s why Sheri could not attend.

Atwater’s office said their candidate attended a forum in Rock Hill earlier in the day and had a prior commitment for Thursday evening.

Cofield’s office did not respond.

Candidates attending the forum were asked what their priorities would be if elected as state superintendent. Murray said he want to look at the way education is funded in South Carolina.

“We need to know how much we’ll have from year to year,” Murray said. “When we have fluctuating revenue, it makes it hard to plan.”

Jordan said he intends to provide programming and role modeling in schools.

Candidates were also asked their position on teacher evaluations, especially regarding merit pay, something Spearman said she was very open to considering.

“It’s one of those things that does sound good … but the devil’s in the details,” Spearman said, “and I’m concerned about the research that shows how difficult it is to do this properly.”

“(I’ve) never been a proponent of using student test scores for teacher evaluations,” Moffly countered. “I think you set up a situation of animosity.”

The forum also touched on the Common Core standards. Childs said she voted against state adoption of Common Core in 2010.

“With Common Core, the incentives tied to that were heading us down a path that’s not favorable to me,”  Childs said.

Burgess said he, too, is not in favor of Common Core standards.

“We adopted Common Core again because we bow down to the golden calf of political correctness,” Burgess said. “Let’s fix the system. The system is broken, no set of standards can fix that.”

The Republican candidates are scheduled to debate again May 27 in Columbia.


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