Burgess, McKinney speak at gop meeting

By Ben Robinson, Courier Staff

LIBERTY — The Pickens County Republican Party welcomed Dr. Gary Burgess, candidate for South Carolina Superintendent of Education, as a guest at its meeting last week.

Burgess, a Chapman High School graduate, spoke briefly to the crowd that had gathered for a forum featuring school board candidates Bob Folkman and Bonita Thomas Holland.

Burgess, who started school before desegregation, has served as a classroom teacher and a school principal. Burgess shared memories of growing up in a family that was poor, but said he never gave up any educational opportunities.

Burgess opposes the Common Core proposal. He plans to give teachers more freedom to actually do their job.

“Now the teacher is doing everything but teaching,” Burgess said. “And the kids do not achieve. It’s not the teachers. It’s not the kids. It’s not really the parents. It’s the system.”

Burgess said too often we get distracted by popular platforms and not on education.

“A child enters school sometimes when they are 4 years old,” Burgess said. “They stay in there and sometimes when they are 9 years old, they can’t read or write on grade levels. Something is wrong.”

Burgess promises to focus on freedom for teachers in the classroom.

“I will work to see that teachers have the freedom that is necessary if they are to teach classes that speak to different learning styles of their students, something that requires both freedom and adequate planning time,” Burgess said.

McKinney appeals to Pickens County Republicans

Lt. Governor candidate Pat McKinney also appeared at the meeting.

McKinney said he learned fiscal responsibility when growing up.

“When I was 15 years old, I got ready to get my driver’s license,” McKinney said. When he went to his father and asked him to take him, his father said, “Let me get back to you on that.”

Later, his father asked if he had $127 to pay for the increase on his policy if McKinney was added to the policy. When McKinney heard this, he set out to earn the money through a summer job.

“I learned this message — if you want your prayers answered, you get up off your knees and hustle” McKinney said.

The situation repeated itself when he started college, McKinney said. His parents could not pay for his education at Georgia Tech, but he sold Bibles door-to-door in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee that summer to pay for his admission.

After he graduated, he moved to South Carolina. He wed his wife, Pam, and they became parents to three daughters, all grown now. He recently became a grandfather.

McKinney has never sought political office before, but he said he looks forward to the honor of presiding over the State Senate as Lt. Governor.

The Lt. Governor also presides over the state office on aging. McKinney now takes care of his father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. His wife’s parents are in their 80s and “still live independently,” but they are also facing issues, and that will help him understand some of the issues of that age group.

“I understand the importance and needs of our state seniors, and I will be an advocate for them,” McKinney said.

McKinney also looks forward to working with the state department of commerce, “to recruit new businesses to come here, but also to work in our small business community, which is the backbone of our state.”