Batesburg/Leesville, SC (Paul Kirby) – Registered voters in Lexington School District Three, the Batesburg/Leesville area, will go to the polls this Tuesday to select someone to serve out the remaining term of former trustee Lancer Shull. Shull left the seat open when he was elected to the position of mayor of Batesburg/Leesville in November of 2017.
Sonya Winstead Cary, a retired school teacher who currently is a substitute in Lexington District One, is one of four who have filed for the single seat. She has lived in the area her entire life. She says she has the best qualifications after teaching for more than 36 years. She has taught from primary school through college level courses and says trustees need to have experience with “boots on the ground,” meaning she’s been in the school’s hallways working one-on-one with students in all levels of education most of her adult life.
Mrs. Cary’s education is unmatched. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Coastal Carolina College, a Master of Education from USC, and another thirty graduate hours in education beyond that Masters. All of these studies were in Early Childhood Education. She’s also certified to teach in the primary field of Elementary Education and holds the honor of being certified in teaching students with Learning Disabilities at the level of Highly Qualified Status in Early Childhood Education by the SC Department of Education. Honestly, her pedigree, awards, and experience as a teacher would take up an entire page. Her husband is a coach and administrator, and their children were successful scholars and athletes while in school.She has numerous grandchildren
Cary said that she believes in opportunities for all students, no matter their age. She is not only interested in working with students K-12, but has some good ideas about things like Night High School for earning a diploma, and transportation for Adult Ed students to make it easier for them to get to school after working to earn a living. She also believes in transparency and accountability and would like to see the district live-stream its meetings so people who can’t attend meetings in person can see what the administration is doing from wherever they are. She wants all teachers' salaries released to the public, something that’s now only required of state employees who make in excess of $50,000 per year.
As a teacher, Cary is very pro-teacher. She is worried about teacher shortages now and in the future. She’d like to focus on a number of ways to make teaching a career that’s not so draining and has a number of plans already in mind for doing this. She also wants the district to build a dedicated career center that offers courses in building trades and things like auto mechanics. This allow students to graduate with a marketable trade or skillthat pays a living wage, and sometimes more than a college educated employee. She’d like to see that center's offerings expanded to a number of more technical careers as well.Currently some trade classes are in place, but there’s not a single place students can go for these courses like the larger districts have.
Eddie Cogdill, who has been living in that area 13 years, is the plant manager at Berwick Offray, a company in the Batesburg-Leesville area that makes fancy ribbons for craft stores and industrial webbing. He is married to Missy, who’s the school nurse at primary school in Batesburg-Leesville. Hi son James is in the 9th grade at BLHS, and he has a daughter named Claire who’s a 5th grader at BLES.
Cogdill said by telephone that he would like to serve on the school board because he has children in the schools and he wants his, and other children, to be prepared once they graduate from school. “Whether our children want to go on to college, technical school, or straight into the workforce, I want them to be prepared. I think my experience working with employees on various educational levels makes me uniquely qualified to help guide the district and set goals that will help the students become better prepared for life,” Cogdill said. If elected, he’d like to explore partnerships with area businesses and the local campus of Midlands Technical College so that student who aren’t necessarily seeking a four year or more degree after high school can fill many of the trade jobs that are empty and pay so well.
Cogdill’s dad drove for Greyhound and his mom was a housewife. He worked his way through USC where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1993. He is active in the Rotary Club, past chairman of the Batesburg-Leesville Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center, a member of the Batesburg-Leesville Economic Development Committee and has always been involved in the community in many more ways. He was even a soloist in the national renowned passion play This Man called Jesus that ran for many years at Lake Murray Baptist Church
Cogdill has overseen multimillion-dollar budgets in his position with industry and believes that experience makes him uniquely qualified to help keep the district financially strong. He also believes that technology is paramount to a modern student’s education. If elected, he’d like to see the district invest in the infrastructure to make B&L schools technology friendly. He’s also concerned about student safety and thinks the district could make even more improvements there than they have already made in the past few years.
Jermain Barr, the owner of Ryan’s Process Service, provides area law firms with legal services like the service of papers. He has also lived in the area all his life and has long been a member of the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church of Leesville where he serves on the Brotherhood Association.
Barr’s family has a long history with the schools in Batesburg-Leesville as well. He is the nephew of former Batesburg-Leesville High School Coach Joe Lee Barr and is an accomplished athlete himself. At Batesburg-Leesville High School, he lettered in varsity basketball and football and played baseball and ran track. He played in the North/South All-Star Game in 1990 and was All-Region, All-Area Outstanding Athlete, and was selected to the Who’s Who of American Students.
Barr says he’s running for school board because he’s seen the effects and problems that social challenges have on children. He feels that the social, educational, economic, and developmental issues all have to be addressed if all children are going to get a fair and equitable education. He said he wants to ensure no child goes lacking from the basic needs or the opportunities they deserve. He believes strongly in the PTO and wants that organization to improve in the area. By its name, Parent Teachers’ Organization, you can see that Barr feels it’s important for the child’s parents to be involved with the schools and their teachers to strengthen the bond between them and work in a united fashion to see that a child leaves school with a strong educational foundation.
Will Black is by far the youngest of the four running, at 28 years old, but he is well educated and has lived in the area his whole life as well. He graduated from Batesburg-Leesville High, then went to Clemson where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Communications. He is currently working for a company in Columbia using those skills. Black also owns a poultry breeder in Batesburg on his family’s farm.
Education is engrained in his family and has been for decades. His father taught, served as the assistant superintendent for Lexington School District 3, and his mother taught, was a professor, and was a school administrator herself. She served on the Lexington School District 3 board also. Even his sisters are teachers and his grandfather taught agriculture while farming.
Black believes in a strong vocational-apprenticeship approach, and believes that hands on learning is important, especially for students who are really interested in seeking further education after high school. He still believes that preparing for college is important and the district should have strong classes for students headed in that direction. He also thinks that small class sizes, discipline, and a strong emphasis on anti-bullying is key to maintaining order and providing a good education.
Each of these candidates seems smart, well spoken, and energetic enough to jump in and make a difference in the lives of the children of the area. They have much more to say, but only a few days more to say it. The polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, February 13th. Because this is a special election, there’s historically a terrible turnout for these types of elections.
This district covers much of Lexington County in that area, but because some of the town runs over into Saluda County, some of those voters have a say as well. This is where you should vote on election day. All precincts are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Bring your voter registration card and a picture ID to make voting smoother.
Lexington County Precincts & Locations:
Batesburg – Batesburg Leisure Center, 227 Highland Ave.
Fairview – Fairview Community Center, 2701 Fairview Rd.
Hollow Creek – Hollow Creek Community Center, 2701 Priceville Rd.
Leesville – Old Leesville Elementary School, 423 College St.
Mims – Samaria Baptist Church, Corner of Two Notch Rd. at 6560 Fairview Rd.
Pond Branch – Pond Branch Activities Center,1912 Pond Branch Rd.
Ridge Road – Ridge Road Community Center, 1257 Ridge Rd.
Summit – Summit Town Hall, W. Hampton St.
Saluda County Precincts & Locations:
Delmar – Delmar Community Center, 113 Old Delmar Rd.
Holstons – West Creek Baptist Church, 248 Church Rd.