EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of two articles on candidates in the Clover School District Board of Trustees races leading up to the Nov. 4 election. These are volunteer positions. Two candidates – Joe Gordon, seat 1, and Mack McCarter, at-large – are running unopposed.
Two Lake Wylie residents with school board experience are seeking election to seat 2 for the Clover School District Board of Trustees.
Incumbent Sherri Ciurlik, a former teacher who has served one four-year term, faces Michael Nagy, who also has sat on a school board in Pennsylvania. Seat 2 represents the northern portion of Lake Wylie.
“There are still some things I’m very passionate about I think I can help with in the district,” said Ciurlik, who has three children, two are in the schools and one graduated from Clover High School. “As long as I still can be helpful and moving toward what we’re envisioning, I want to be a part of it.”
Nagy, who has three children in the schools, named a few reasons for running.
“I want to make sure we’re planning for the future,” he said, adding he wants to form partnerships with county and state leaders to address growth issues.
Nagy said he’s concerned about the more than $10 million in bond debt looming in the district’s future following the $67 million bond referendum approved by voters in the spring coupled with a previously passed bond.
“People are looking for change from the bond vote, in communications and how the direction of the district is going,” he said. “My education and military background can can help to lead a stronger Clover district.”
He also said he’s not satisfied the bond referendum passed by 57 percent.
“We need new leadership to bring the communities together,” he said, referring to Clover and Lake Wylie.
Ciurlik says having been involved with the schools for 13 years has helped her form connections between the schools and community.
“I know how to connect the people because that’s what I enjoy doing,” she said. “I was a teacher, and I really believe I belong working with schools.”
Ciurlik said the schools could improve on communicating with parents and the community.
“Building a partnership with parents and schools is key,” she said. “Getting parents more involved improves schools and improves what opportunities are available for kids because they know more.”
One way to do that, she said, is to educate parents about the opportunities and programs at the schools, and educate them on how to use new technology, including the district’s mobile app.
“I’m glad Clover is on the edge instead of catching up to it,” she said. “It think it’s powerful and transforms what we can do. The possibilities are endless.”
Nagy agrees the schools’ technology and programs like Connected Classroom are a benefit, but says foreign languages need to be expanded. He’d like to see Chinese languages offered.
Both agree the district can do a better job communicating about school-related incidents and need to be more upfront to take control situations.
“We have a responsibility to notify parents if something happens at the schools,” Ciurlik said.
At the same time, she said, parents need to be more open about reporting problems.
“Now with the new phone app, you can leave anonymous tips to open dialogue,” she said.
Better communication also extends to keeping parents informed, for instance, about how school lines will be drawn with the passage of the bond referendum.
“We’re building a new elementary school across from Oakridge Middle School, and I’ve received no information about where my children will go and the boundaries for that new elementary school,” Nagy said.
Both candidates also agree the district is managing money well. Ciurlik says putting money in reserve and long-range plans shows foresight, while Nagy worries about the long-term.
“We’re in good shape right now,” he said, “but our biggest issue is coming with bond debt. We will have triple-digit bond debt in the future.”
Ciurlik said the district is doing well putting aside reserves for what may come. She said thanks to sound financial planning, the district hasn’t had to implement furloughs or cut programs and staff.
“In fact, we added teachers to keep class sizes small,” she said. “To provide support for teachers and personnel is key to maintaining excellence.”
The candidates disagree on Common Core State Standards, a set of academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy.
Nagy is against the standards, saying if private schools are excluded, public schools shouldn’t be forced to follow.
“I would recommend sending letters to the Legislature to go against it,” he said.
Ciurlik, however, says it levels the playing field. However, while she likes the theory behind it, “the way it is done is questionable.”
She said she is all for setting standards, but letting teachers and districts decide how to achieve it.
“It’s an art, it’s not a science,” Ciurlik said of teaching. “That’s what makes a great teacher. You’re taking that artform away.”