Meet Ann Marie Middleton and Patrick Suddeth, candidates for Greenville County Schools Board of Trustees for Area 18. In this episode, each candidate has 10 minutes to introduce themselves to the voters. Your vote is so important! Please take a listen and share with your neighbors. Find your sample ballot at www.scvotes.gov.
Catherine Schumacher, Public Education Partners 0:00
Simple civics: Greenville County is sponsored by Public Education Partners and InformEdSC.org. InformEdSC.org is an award winning data center that provides nonpartisan comprehensive information about all things public education in Greenville County and South Carolina. From student testing to teacher salaries to district budgets InformEdSC.org makes it easy to find the information you need to understand the issues and advocate for students, teachers and schools visit Informit sc.org informing influencers advancing public schools.
Katy Smith 0:34
On November 8, voters across the country head to the polls to elect those who will represent us in local state and federal government. Some Greenville County voters will see choices for Greenville County Schools trustees on their ballots. Today we are pleased to have public education partners join us in bringing you a six-part series to introduce to you the Greenville County School Board candidates who are running to set policy and direction for the public school district that serves 77,000 students, 6000 teachers, and 10,000 employees. Candidates will be interviewed by Catherine Schumacher, President, and CEO of public education partners. Today we introduce the candidates for area 18, which is generally Greer and northeastern Greenville County, Ann Middleton, and incumbent Pat Sudduth. We’ve put links to their preferred internet presence on the episode page. Here were our ground rules. Each candidate received the same questions at the time of their invitation to join us. Each was given 10 minutes for their interview. They were also allowed to bring along a companion such as a campaign manager, family member, or friend and to record our session themselves. There were no edits made to the interviews with the candidates. You can see if they are on your ballot by looking up your sample ballot at SC votes.gov. First up alphabetically is Ann Middleton.
Catherine Schumacher, Public Education Partners 1:57
I’m happy to be here with Ann Marie Middleton, who is running for Greenville County Schools trustee for area 18 here in Greenville. Ann why don’t we start with you telling us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to run to be a Greenville County Schools trustee?
Ann Marie Middleton 2:12
Well, thank you for having me on your podcast. I decided to run for the school board two years ago, but I had to wait until district 18 became available. Once it did, I registered as a candidate. I am a former high school science teacher and enjoyed that aspect of my career. I grew up in Quincy, Mass., just south of Boston. I graduated from UMass with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in Chemistry. After college, I worked in an engineering lab for two years but wanted to try my hand at teaching. I went back to college to obtain my education credits. And I got a job as a public high school science teacher at Scituate High School in Scituate, Mass. I taught biology, chemistry, and marine biology for five years. I decided to try something new and apply to the FBI. I was accepted. But there was a hiring freeze due to budgetary constraints. So with my science background, I went to a two-year nursing school, sat for my boards, and became an RN. However, I never practiced because I received a call from the FBI offering me a slot in the new agents Academy. This was in 1983. Once I completed new agents training, I served as an agent in Milwaukee, Los Angeles, and Baltimore, and eventually a supervisor in Washington DC and Greenville. In 2003, I was transferred to Greenville as the FBI supervisory Resident Agent in Charge of the ten counties of the upstate. After 24 years in the bureau. I retired in 2004 and took a contracting job with the FBI. In 2007, JL Mann needed a science teacher, and I volunteered to take the position. I taught physical science, chemistry, and marine science for two years at Mann. I was offered a different job as a government contractor, but I had to be in Washington, DC. I went ahead and took that job. Based on my investigative experience and institutional knowledge of the Bureau, I was titled as a subject matter expert, working with policy and compliance matters for the FBI’s counterterrorism division. I retired again in 2018, I returned to Greenville. I served on the board for my homeowner’s association in my subdivision as Secretary, President, and member at large. I also volunteer at St. Mary Magdalene church in Simpsonville. I met my husband Chuck while working in the FBI. He is a retired senior FBI executive. We have three daughters, Laura and Catherine, and Beth, who are twins. All my daughters attended public schools, either in Virginia or Greenville, and all three are Clemson Graduates. In closing the segment of my interview, I am a firm advocate of public education. This is based on my own experience as a public high school teacher and my twins experience in attending Greenville public schools. All my daughters were accepted at good colleges, attended graduate schools, and are successful. School is what you make it, and the Greenville schools are excellent. I want to be part of the process and use my experiences to contribute the best I can.
Catherine Schumacher, Public Education Partners 5:32
Well, thank you. How does your professional and personal experience make you a good candidate for the school board?
Ann Marie Middleton 5:37
Professionally, I was a high school science teacher for seven years, I learned how to organize my time, collaborate with parents, and work with science department and school administrators to create a solid curriculum. Based on Scituate High School’s location next to the Atlantic Ocean, I suggested to the principal that we start a marine biology class as an elective for students who have completed biology and chemistry. I competed for a National Science Foundation grant and received the grant to develop a Marine Science course for my school. During the summer, the recipients of this grant traveled to the Bay of Fundy in Maine, and we work together as a team to create lectures, labs and projects suitable for advanced high school students. This form the basis of our new marine science course. Although these classes are common now, in the late 70s, this was novel. At JL Mann high school, I had the opportunity to teach a broad range of students from the less motivated to those eager to learn gifted students. As I had not taught for years, I found myself in a new situation. There were not enough classrooms at the old Mann. So I was a rover. I had large classes and control was a problem. To teach all that I had to cover, I had to increase class discipline. Working closely with the science department, school administrators and parents things improved. I appreciate how hard it is to teach. There is not a one size fits all formula. Teachers need to constantly adapt and expend a great amount of time, both inside and outside the classroom to be effective and cover all the necessary material. I learned the importance of maintaining reasonable class sizes to reach each student. In teaching gifted students I learned how to develop my lesson plans to challenge and engage the students in the exciting study of science. As a nursing student, I was assigned to manage the care of hospitalized patients. Often I was present when patients and families had to deal with difficult diagnoses or procedures, tried to comfort them when I could. This is an important part of what we all do as teachers, counselors and parents. We don’t often know what families are dealing with, and is important to be sensitive to their needs. I was in the FBI either as an agent supervisor, or contractor for over 30 years. This is a great part of my life and work experience. As an agent, it is so important to be a good communicator and to write well. You must be organized, set priorities, and in many instances work as a team. Critical independent thinking is key to furthering an investigation and presenting your findings to others. These experiences have taught me the value of being a good communicator, being organized, problem solving, and listening to all sides before making decisions. I believe these professional and firsthand experiences would make me a good candidate for the board.
Catherine Schumacher, Public Education Partners 8:56
Well, thanks and what do you think are the biggest challenges facing the district and what is something that the Board of Trustees has the power to do to address them?
Ann Marie Middleton 9:07
One of the biggest challenges is recruiting and retaining quality teachers. Teachers are the primary influence on our students. Some of the things that contribute to teachers leaving the classroom could be burnout, large classes, discipline issues, minimal support from administrators, and burdensome administrative taskings. As a trustee, I would work with the board to create efficient policies for educators. The block schedule is an example of a method of teaching that does reduce the number of classes in a day for teachers. And moving forward it would be important for the board to evaluate the effectiveness of the block schedule and determine if it accomplishes the desired results. Another challenge is to maintain strong academics by teaching the prescribed standards in all subjects. With so many voices in academia, it’s easy to get distracted and go off on tangents. Teachers need to focus on the basic comprehensive curriculum, we must keep our standards high. At the same time, we must help students with special needs, behavior problems and emotional concerns. This obviously can be done on a case by case basis. As an example, one of my daughters struggled with reading in grade school. Her teacher took it upon herself to be a guiding light. She brought the issue to my attention, the attention of other teachers, and following her diagnosis of dyslexia, the teacher took steps to get my daughter all the assistance she needed to help her overcome the disability. We have maintained contact with this teacher for over 21 years. Another challenge is accountability. All teachers and students need to be accountable. By this I mean, the teachers are responsible for working through the course syllabus, and teaching as much material as possible, and either students are well prepared and each of their subjects. Students need to be accountable, listen in class, take notes to the assignments, and score well on test. Teachers should not have to give a student more than one chance to retake a test that was missed for a reason. Sometimes students will fail if they do not comply with reasonable class assignments and test. Teachers do take pride in seeing their students successfully advancing and students relish accomplishments. The board has the power and the capability to identify problems, communicate with the schools and enable administrators to achieve the goals we all seek. I would like to be part of that progress. Because of my personal background, I feel that I would be an asset as a trustee, as I bring a fresh perspective to the current issues. I’m passionate about education, teaching the core curriculum and values and being open to new or innovative ways to enhance our learning capabilities.
Catherine Schumacher, Public Education Partners 12:05
Great. Well, Ann Marie Middleton, thank you so much for your willingness to serve and we look forward to seeing your name on the ballot in November.
Ann Marie Middleton 12:12
Thank you so much.
Katy Smith 12:14
Next up is Pat Sudduth.
Catherine Schumacher, Public Education Partners 12:16
Well, I’m happy to be here with Pat Sudduth, who is running for Greenville County Schools trustee for area 18. And Pat, why don’t we start with you telling us about yourself and why you’ve decided to run to be a Greenville County Schools trustee?
Patrick (Pat) Sudduth 12:29
It is certainly my pleasure to be here. To begin with. I am a lifelong resident of Greer. I attended Greer city schools, graduated from grad school in 1959. I have a degree from Perth Junior College BA. I have a master’s degree from Clemson. I have an education specialist degree from Furman. And I did additional studies at the University of South Carolina. Served in United States Marine Corps. I attend Fairview Baptist Church, I serve as a Sunday school teacher and a deacon. I have worked in Greenville County Schools for the past 57 years. I began in 1965 as a teacher and a coach. I have also served as an assistant principal and principal at both the middle school and high school level. I have served as a trustee on the Greenville County Board of Trustees for 20 years. I decided to run for school board in 2002 because I have four grandchildren, and they all will attend their schools in the Greer area. All four of my grandkids graduated from Greer high school. And to sum it up, I have spent my adult life in education.
Catherine Schumacher, Public Education Partners 13:55
Well, so how does your professional and personal experience make you a good candidate for the school board?
Patrick (Pat) Sudduth 14:02
Well, I have a lifetime of experience in education in Greenville County. I know the people in my community. My entire adult life, I have served our young people in our community. I have centered my life on our young people as a teacher and a coach. I have sought to serve the parents and the teachers and the students, and the community beginning in 1965.
Catherine Schumacher, Public Education Partners 14:35
Well, so what do you think are the biggest challenges facing the district? And what is something that the Board of Trustees has the power to do to address them?
Patrick (Pat) Sudduth 14:47
COVID-19 had a devastating impact on education in Greenville County. There’s nothing in my lifetime that I can compare this devastating outbreak to. As a school board we can function to returning to a normal school community. First of all, we must improve the mental health of our young people. Why do they want to hurt themselves? Why are they depressed? What has happened to their self-esteem? We do have mental health personnel in our schools. But we need to do more to help the young people in this time of their lives. We must instill in our young people civility. Now, we’re not asking that they abandon their principles. But civility means listening to those with whom we disagree while advocating our own beliefs with principles in a very respectful manner. We must place greater emphasis on school safety. In our schools, we have school resource officers. We have officers on morning patrol, we have investigators, a weapon distinction system that we have just purchased for $750,000. We have technicians, security specialists, and we have drug dogs. In totality, we have 75 commissioned law enforcement officers that come across the district daily. We have SROs, and all of our middle and all of our high schools, plus four of our elementary schools. We must continue to seek ways to protect our young people, people who teach them, serve them and support them. Student behavior had been affected by COVID. And when we look at our students today, we find what is lacking. We find that students have been away from their fellow students for so long that they have felt isolated. They don’t know who their friends are. And we find that because of the way that they have had to live their lives, that their lives have changed. We want our students to respect our teachers. We want them to respect your fellow students. Bullying should not take place in our schools. When we were in school, there were bullies, but not to the extent that we have them today. School Safety is an everyday concern. Just recently, Greenville County student has been charged after school officials, and a student made a threat to another student and the school. Parents want to know what is being taught in our schools. What books are they reading? What are they seeing on their computer screen? What are they drawing in their art class? It became evident that we have a need there when we had 256 members approved for our material review committee. This committee is responsible for handling complaints from the public concerning the appropriateness of instructional materials. I want to thank you for the honor and privilege of serving the people in our community. We live in a very different environment than the one I grew up in. I ask for your support in my reelection campaign for Greenville County Board of Trustees for District 18.
Catherine Schumacher, Public Education Partners 18:43
Well, thank you, Pat, we have a little bit of time left, is there anything else that you’d like our listeners to know about you or your campaign?
Patrick (Pat) Sudduth 18:50
I think I have put out my position. And for the last 57 years, I have worked as hard as I could to support our school district. We have the largest school district in the state of South Carolina. We have done very well, as our last test scores indicate that in all of our elementary schools, after being down because of COVID. Then we find themselves getting back up to where we were before COVID. We still have got to hear from our middle schools and our high schools. Our testing that we’re doing has not been able to be completed because of the prior restraints that have been put on us. Hopefully, we can continue to have our students graduate and be successful, happy, contented graduates. Thank you so much for your time.
Catherine Schumacher, Public Education Partners 19:53
Well, thank you, Pat. We appreciate your time today, and we look forward to seeing your name on the ballot on November 8.
Catherine Schumacher, Public Education Partners 19:59
Thank you appreciate it.
Catherine Puckett 20:01
Simple Civics: Greenville County is a project of Greater Good Greenville. Greater Good Greenville was catalyzed by the merger of the Nonprofit Alliance and the Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy. You can learn more on our website at greatergoodgreenville.org This is a production of the Greenville podcast Company.