Patricia Felton-Montgomery cruised to victory Nov. 8 to become one of the new faces on the Beaufort County Board of Education.
She defeated incumbent Paul Roth in her first run for political office to represent District 6, which spans the Okatie and Sun City areas. Felton-Montgomery, 70, is a retired educator of 40 years and has lived in Beaufort County for three years. She serves on the board of the Mitchelville Preservation Project, is secretary of the local chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, and is a member of the League of Women Voters of Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Area.
Here are some of her views on what needs to be done to improve public education in Beaufort County:
Q: What are your top three priorities as a school board member?
A: Work with my fellow board members to establish transparency in board operations and deliberations and respect for the public in interactions at board meetings; have staff provide the board with detailed, ongoing assessments of the effectiveness of established and new programs; and increase diversity in the staff and administration of the schools and policy to support school leadership teams to address the achievement gap.
Q: How should the school district address the high number of suspensions and expulsions of minority students when compared to white students?
A: First, the school district should establish, as a very high priority, the goal of eliminating this possibly discriminatory practice by the end of this school year. Second, it should begin monitoring suspensions and expulsions on a monthly basis, rather than using its present end-of-year, after-the-fact approach. Third, administrators and staff must be trained in effective, bias-free classroom management.
Q: What steps should the school board take to improve its community relations?
A: A more appropriate approach (than hiring a community relations officer) would be to hold frequent forums to hear community concerns and interests and to share possible new district programs and operations or proposed changes to existing programs and operations for parental and staff feedback before decisions have been made to move forward.
Q: How should the school district pay for its future building needs?
A: The board must first show the public that by re-prioritizing its spending needs to address immediate maintenance and building repairs, it is aware of public concerns that prevent approval of additional funds through a bond or sales tax referendum. Future requests can then be based on shorter-term priorities that can be validated to the public.
Q: What changes should be made to the school board’s relationship with the superintendent?
A: The board should move to have its own board solicitor so that there is a professional separation, which is traditionally the case between a board and its primary employee. The board can also establish through its existing and subsequent contracts with the superintendents the kinds of breaches in behavior and leadership actions that will result in a breach of contract and possible termination.