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PAWLEYS ISLAND — Georgetown County School Board candidates vying for an open tackled critical race theory, learning loss under COVID-19 and the very purpose of public education during at a forum hosted by the county Republican Party on Feb. 28.In his opening speech, candidate Scott Dubose said he was bothered by the "radical Marxist-style agendas that seem to be permeating the school systems in this country," specifically mentioning critical race theory and The New York Times' "1619 Project."Candidate Jon Tester, a former district assistant superintendent, stated that while he is against teaching critical race theory in public schools, the topic is not a part of South Carolina state education standards. He also emphasized the importance of communication between school administrators and parents.Candidate Kathy Ferdon-Anderson spoke of the need for teachers to be trusted and supported as "other than their parents... the closest adults that a lot of our kids have."The normally nine-member board is currently down one member with the recent resignation of chairman Jim Dumm. The winner of the March 29 special election will replace Dumm replacement for the remainder of his term, which ends in November.Unlike his two opponents, Dubose does not have a background with Georgetown County schools. Retired from management consulting, he said Feb. 28 that he wants to bring a business perspective and fresh eyes to a board that he said needs to be more independent of the district.Tester retired last summer after 32 years in numerous roles around the district, most recently holding a position as an assistant superintendent. Safety and making up for classroom time lost in the COVID-19 pandemic are among his greatest concerns for the district.Ferdon-Anderson recently retired after 33 years of teaching in the Georgetown County School District, including 31 years at Andrews High School. She told Monday's crowd that her intent in joining the board is to be "an advocate for students, teachers and staff."In addition to the hot-button topic of CRT, the candidates prompted by anonymous questions posed by the audience.Dubose said he wants to look into whether the district is actually required, whether by law or subject to state funding, to teach to state standards."It ought to be the community's responsibility and the board to make that decision or it may start some initiative to get up there and say, 'Hey, what's going on?'" Dubose said. "Now, I may be all wet, but I keep hearing about state standards and this and that. I'm not so sure that teaching to the state standards is the best thing to educate our kids."Tester expressed concern over the district's pending loss of COVID relief funding, which he said will dry up in 2024, and said it will be important to plan accordingly."We're in a situation that's problematic, and because of the COVID situation, we lost pretty significant enrollment," Tester said. "And without that student enrollment, we can't sustain the employment of some of these teachers we're using in these very critical capacities right now."In response to Dubose's assertion that amidst the pandemic "the only group of people in this entire country that wasn't present and accounted for was schoolteachers," Ferdon-Anderson told the crowd of how difficult it was to be separated from her students in the middle of the 2019-20 school year."It was terrible," Ferdon-Anderson said. "I was missing my children. No matter what you think, teachers want to be there with their children. It hurt me that my contact was through a computer."
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