Filing for non-partisan seats on Sumter School District Board of Trustees and Sumter City Council begins Monday, and Sumter County Democratic Party Chairwoman Barbara Bowman said she is ready to file for the school board race.
Bowman spoke …
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Bowman spoke Thursday after submitting a news release announcing her candidacy for the Area 1 seat on the board.
A self-described "community activist" in the Cherryvale area with other community development leadership experience across the state, Bowman said she thinks Area 1 in the district is underserved as far as programs and opportunities for students.
Before making her decision to run for the non-partisan school board seat, Bowman said she made sure it wouldn't be a conflict of interest with her role as head of the county's Democratic party.
"This is non-partisan, and I'm not running based on the fact that I'm a Democrat," Bowman said, "but based on that we're talking about the public schools and our children."
She said she was disturbed with the board's majority vote this spring to close F.J. DeLaine Elementary School in Area 1 after residents who participated in community meetings said they were against the idea.
District administration put forth a draft proposal in mid-March to close three low-enrollment schools, including F.J. DeLaine, and move those students into other larger schools in the same rural parts of the county. In its proposal, district administration also said it would implement new academic magnet programs in the combined, expanded schools.
The school board and district followed with six public meetings in the latter part of March to discuss its proposal and gather community feedback. Most community members who attended the public sessions said they were against closing any schools.
Bowman said she thinks board members had already decided to close the schools before the public meetings.
Bowman has one adult son, Spencer, who attended Cherryvale Elementary School and graduated from Crestwood High School in 2010.
She said the district has made some accomplishments this decade - such as changes to curriculum and technology - but that more changes are necessary, especially in Area 1, "which sometimes gets shorted in terms of budgetary items," Bowman said.
Bowman said it's time for "new ideas" and "freshness" on the school board.
She said she is an active community member in the Cherryvale area and attends every monthly community meeting at Cherryvale Community Center, where a range of issues, including education, are discussed.
Bowman said she was also disappointed in the board's role in the district's financial difficulties from fiscal 2015 and 2016.
Bowman said she has a bachelor's degree from UCLA and an associate degree from Los Angeles Technical College.
She works as a Nationwide Insurance sales agent but previously was employed with the South Carolina Democratic Party from 2006 through 2010. Also, from 2003-06, she worked as a program coordinator for Leadership South Carolina, which is run by the Clemson University Institute for Community and Economic Development.
Four non-partisan seats and two at-large seats on the nine-member school board are up for election in November. Filing runs Monday through Aug. 15.
The Area 1 seat on the school board is held by Linda Alston, a former social worker in the public schools in Sumter County. Efforts to reach Alston on Thursday to see if she plans to run for re-election were unsuccessful as of press time.
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