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Five seek three seats on Rock Hill Board of Education

Five people are seeking three seats on the Rock Hill Board of Education in the November election.

Incumbents Dennie Hankins, Keith Roth and Lavetta Sites are joined by newcomers Tim Mootz and Kathy Easterling.

Kathy Easterling

Easterling, an inventory associate for Big Sandy Furniture, said she is running for the school board because she simply wants to help the district.

Easterling said she is concerned that the district has ceased offering free lunches to all students. While economically disadvantaged students still get free or reduced price lunches, at one time all students received free lunches regardless of their ability to pay. She would like to see this offered again.

“Anything to help the students,” she said. Easterling said she would like to see the district do more to help financially challenged students. She would also like to see more done to help those students who do not get enough attention.

“Some, I think, would like more attention but they don’t want to do anything to stand out,” she explained.

Easterling said she is not sure what challenges the district is facing in the future but wants to do whatever she can to help.

“It’s for the kids,” she said. “Whatever I can do.”

Dennie Hankins

Hankins, a minister and retired educator, was first appointed to the board to fill the unexpired term of the late Carl Large. He is now seeking his second full term on the board.

Hankins said he is seeking another term on the board to continue and build on the district’s recent academic successes.

“I feel like Rock Hill is moving, both educationally and financially, in the right direction,” he said. “We’ve made some improvements and we’ve also had to make some tough decisions with personnel and finances but these changes have put the district on a sound financial footing. I want to continue to see test scores rise and I want to give the best possible education to our students.”

Hankins said he was saddened to have had to lay off employees last year and earlier this year but state officials had been emphatic that the district was overstaffed and the overstaffing had created financial issues that would only get worse if the problem was not corrected.

Hankins said he is looking forward to another term and another opportunity to serve a district he loves.

“I consider it an honor and a privilege to serve the parents and students of the Rock Hill district. It’s a position of trust,” Hankins said. “I hope to always work with a board that feels the way I do, that this (job) is not for self esteem or self preservation but for the good of the district.”

Tim Mootz

Mootz, a software engineer and project manager for Marathon Petroleum, said he is running because education is near and dear to his heart: he has two young children who attend Rock Hill Elementary School.

“What happens to the district affects my children and I want to know what’s going on with my childrens’ education. I want to help,” Mootz explained.

Mootz said he is pleased with recent gains made in state test scores and hopes to see that progress continue.

“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” he said. “I want to see us go further in that direction.”

He would especially like to see more math and science classes at the high school. He said other schools have science teams that participate in national competitions and he thinks Rock Hill students “have untapped potential.”

Mootz said he is aware the district has financial concerns that forced layoffs earlier this year and last year and wants to keep an eye on the budget, too.

“I have no agenda,” Mootz said. “I just want to make things the best we can for our children.”

Lavetta Sites

Lavetta Sites, a former school board treasurer, is seeking her third term on the board. Like Hankins, she is proud of the academic progress the district has made in the past few years and she is eager to see those improvements continue.

“Our test scores have really improved and for the first time we (as a district) are rated effective,” she noted. “I want to build on this.”

She is pleased that changes made recently to improve education, such as block scheduling, have been so obviously effective.

She is also pleased with efforts to improve the line of communication between the district staff and the community, such as the messenger system, an automated telephone system that updates parents on snow days, school activities, parent-teacher conferences and other important events.

Finances are one of the challenges facing the district, Sites said. The local economy is not what it once was, state funding to schools has been cut and enrollment is on the decline, meaning less money for the district to make ends meet.

“I think this is the plight of many districts these days,” she said.

Like Hankins, Sites said it is often not easy to make painful choices such as employee layoffs, but her goal is to make the district more financially sound.

“We had quite a bit of overhiring in the past and it has hurt us,” she said.

She said her main goal is to continue that upward momentum of districtwide improvement.

Roth was contacted for this story and had agreed to return the phone call at a more convenient time for him. He had not done so as of press time.