By James Beckert
I made the decision to offer myself for Beaufort County School Board District 4 because the current board was struggling with priorities, performance, and community creditability problems and I knew that I possessed the skill set to make a difference in these vital areas. As a businessman and retired army officer, I live by a cornerstone principle of being fair, honest and transparent. I lead by example, doing my own research to define the critical issues, involve stakeholders for input, measure quality characteristics to build thoughtful plans, analyze results, design improvements to optimize assets, verify results and keep targeted control of the process. I will actively work to create systemic change at the board and district level.
Last May, when planning my run for elected office, my first priority was to learn all I could about what is happening in our classrooms. I registered as a substitute teacher available to all Beaufort area schools. As parents of two children in the Beaufort County public schools, my wife, Christy, and I want the best education for our children and what I found is that the teachers in our schools are dedicated professionals. Owning and managing a family business, I deal with the every day issues and demands of managing a business much like our teachers manage their classrooms. I have a 16 year proven business record of making sound, effective decisions, staying focused on critical issues and building results — skills that I will bring to the school board.
Our sons are at Beaufort Elementary and Beaufort Middle schools; I understand what the district’s current classroom performance standards and priorities are. What I did not already know, I gleaned firsthand while substituting, leading a classroom of students, experiencing the success and difficulty our teachers face. That experience has given me insight and knowledge that you can get nowhere else. I also have a greater appreciation for what teachers do and go through each and every day. I see that we have the assets and personnel in place to produce a greater number of highly qualified, higher achieving career, college ready young citizens, but they need the school board and the district to lead, not obstruct; empower, not micro-manage.
My goal is for the board to always place the child’s best interest at the center of any decision. The focus to reduce the dropout rate with a best practice program like Grad Nation is a good start. I have watched the district unsuccessfully deal with the root cause of high drop rates since I moved here 22 years ago, it’s time for a new strategy. Another way we can better serve our children is expanding parent choice. Parent choice allows a better fit for children’s individual learning styles, more parent involvement and fewer achievement gaps — again, it’s time for a new strategy.
With the focus still on the children’s best interest, getting our finances in order is the most important way we can tackle that goal. During a visit to our district, Superintendent Zais’ reported that approximately half of our “per student” allocation is spent in places other than the classroom. We have to change our priorities, putting more resources into successful classroom programs, teacher pay, special needs and exceptional learners. I have the business skills, insight and creativity to manage our funds appropriately during periods of growth and times of conserving.
There are many important issues for our school board to address. I am ready to be part of that group and I will not shy away from tough decisions. I will always be fair, honest, and transparent to the public. I will bring a proven track record of sound business leadership; high personal character; consensus building and will always seek and listen to community input.
In District 4, vote for me, James Beckert, School Board.