FORT MILL — A whirlwind week saw Tom Audette elected to the Fort Mill School Board, sworn in, up for a recount and confirmed again as a winner.
Now, he can take a breath and begin serving.
“The recount went great,” Audette said. “It’s just part of the process. I’m just very much looking forward to serving.”
Audette’s main interest in the district is common to many in Fort Mill. He has children there. Which is why he hopes to start quickly on several pressing issues, like planning for a new high school “right away,” preparing for growth in a 10-year model and priming the district for upcoming common core testing by 2014.
Audette also hopes to work outside the district on its behalf. Act 388, a legislative funding mechanism for schools, isn’t providing the money needed for districts statewide, he said. It’s also hurting small businesses and owners of second homes, he said, who are paying in taxes what owner-occupied homes aren’t.
Act 388 uses a sales tax in place of property tax on owner-occupied homes for school funding. With a down economy, Audette said, people aren’t buying and aren’t paying those taxes, meaning the money doesn’t arrive.
“I want to work with state legislators to find a way to make Act 388 work for everyone,” he said. “Act 388 is underfunding right now in a down economy.”
Growth planning and district funding have been issues of concern for school leaders for several years now. A newer issue within the classroom also needs to be addressed, Audette said, to help set apart Fort Mill as an example to others.
State common core standards, an initiative to better compare and evaluate students from across the country by mandating common curriculum, is another opportunity for the district, Audette said. The baseline comparison will allow Fort Mill teachers and students to show that they excel not only at a state level, he said, but that they’re also a “shining light on the national scene.”
Audette understands that there’s pressure serving a district as generally well-regarded as this one. But, he said, a strong district also means parents and administrators and teachers who care.
“To me it’s motivation,” Audette said. “I have three daughters in the district from elementary to middle school. I’m very excited to be part of the process.”