on December 14, 2007 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

New State Board Chairman-elect stresses making public education best it can be

CLEMSON — Kristin Maguire would rather be thought of as someone whose goal is to improve the quality of public education instead of the only homeschooler in the nation to head a board overseeing public schools.

“To me, it’s more surprising that an engineer technologically oriented who is a Clemson University graduate is heading the board,” Maguire said, noting that the 17-member state board is based and meets in Columbia — the home of USC.

Maguire was voted chairman-elect of the State Board of Education Wednesday and will work alongside chairman Al Simpson in 2008 prior to assuming the chairmanship in 2009.

“We have a great guy coming on as chairman this year,” Maguire said. “I’m looking forward to working with him and getting the committees of the board to focus in depth on some of the issues. We have incredible diversity and want to ensure that everyone is heard and that they fully understand the concerns of others.

“We’re going to mutually respect each other because we all bring a little piece of the pie to the table.”

Far from unanimous

Maguire’s election was far from unanimous, as the mother of four edged out fellow board member Fred “Tripp” DuBard III by a 9-7 vote. But the Clemson resident said DuBard, an opponent of school vouchers and whose children attend public school, congratulated her afterwards.

“He shook my hand and said ‘Let’s work together’,” she said. “I said ‘amen’ and we all got back to the business of the board. We realize we all have to work together to move forward.”

The daughter of a public school teacher and one who attended public schools, Maguire declined to comment on why her children — ages 8-14 — are homeschooled.

“We made our own choice for our family and we’re not going to discuss that decision,” Maguire said.

But Maguire, first appointed to the state board by the Pickens County Legislative Delegation in 1999 and reappointed by Gov. Mark Sanford in 2004, is asking that individuals look at her record.

“I’ve served eight years and people who have served with me either now or in the past would say I work hard and want to do what is best for all kids,” she said. “I want every kid in this state to have the best education they possibly can have and I think everyone in the state is committed to ensuring that.

“To preclude someone based on where their children go to school isn’t productive to the whole discussion.”

Board Responsibilities and Goals

Maguire said responsibilities for the State Board of Education include the certification of teachers and administrators, the adoption of academic standards, textbooks, reading and instructional materials, determining teacher qualifications, establishing exit exam and end-of-course-testing requirements and reviewing licensure issues if a teacher behaves in an inappropriate manner.

The board meets once a month, for either one or two days depending on the volume of issues to be discussed.

Maguire said there is plenty of work ahead for the board in order to truly make South Carolina public schools “the best they can be.” For example, the board has spent the past eight months setting standards for English Language Arts.

“When you look at the graduation rate in South Carolina and incarceration statistics, children struggling to read will struggle to finish high school,” Maguire said. “Those who don’t increase the likelihood of incarceration.”

The passion exhibited for reading is one Maguire learned from her mother, a reading specialist who completed her teaching career at an impoverished school.

“Her heart and everything she was all about was ensuring that all her students were able to read at the end of the school year,” Maguire said. “I want to see all students be able to read by the end of Grade 3 in order to improve success.”

Working with Rex

When asked whether she will be able to work with State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex, with whom she differs on some views, Maguire said that has already been taking place and will continue.

“I have tried to work really well with the (State) Department (of Education) and Dr. Rex,” she said. “I’m excited about public choice and giving students and parents more options, retooling our testing system to ensure we get more useful education to teachers, working to bring in more alternative education programs and partnering with charter schools (all goals of the superintendent).”

Maguire said she also shares the state superintendent’s goal of promoting innovation among teachers and principals in order to meet the needs of students. While admitting that some regulations passed decades ago remain relevant, she said other regulatory measures should be re-examined.

“Let’s not look back and rationalize that we do things because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” Maguire said. “We’re going to have to start rethinking our industrial model for education because it’s not getting us where we need to go.”

Praising a board whose past chairmen have included a social worker, attorney and state department contractor, Maguire feels the diverse membership shares one important goal when it comes to education.

“We want parents to be confident that their children will be safe and prepared for life when they get their diploma — whether they go into postsecondary, military or the workforce,” Maguire said.