Lexington 2 School Board candidates introduce themselves at forum

A forum was held Tuesday to “Meet the Candidates”for the Lexington Two School Board. It was at the Lexington Two Innovation Center and was presented by the Greater Cayce-West Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

The event candidates introduced themselves and answered prepared questions.

Incumbent Beth Branham, a Brookland-Cayce graduate, former English teacher and attorney, told the audience that the district is in the middle of dealing with so many issues, including the coronavirus crisis, she decided to run again. She has served as the National School Board Association President.

Tre Bray, who was in Washington DC and joined the forum virtually, is the son of former BCHS football coach and teacher Abby Bray. He said he is a third generation Lexington Two high school graduate and has many teachers in his family. He said he wants the district’s schools to be destination schools for students from other districts.

Liz Chitty Castles is a Brookland-Cayce graduate, as is her husband Dr. Trey Castles. She said she has been dedicated to public education and has four children, all of them (one graduated) in Lexington Two schools. She is the daughter of former Board member Jerry Chitty, recently deceased. Castles said no one is better than anyone else and all kids deserve a fair chance.

Joseph “Chuck” Hightower described himself as a retired soldier who now mentors young people. His wife, Deborah Hightower served as a special education teacher at Airport High School. His son and daughter are teachers. He said he is an advocate for teachers and wants to help children.

Incumbent Cindy Kessler, a West Virginia native, came to Lexington Two as a teacher in 1970. She taught at Brookland-Cayce High School for 30 years and served as a coach at BCHS and Airport High School. She said as a board member she visits all the district’s schools to see the children. She also said serving the teachers, seeing that they are happy, is important.

Incumbent Kevin Key is an Airport grad and he works in his family’s construction company. He said his children went to Lexington Two schools and he coached local kids. Key said his involvement as a coach made him want to become a board member to help children.

Johnny Payne taught in the district for 35 years. His wife, Jana, is also a teacher. He is a former Lexington Two Board member and his children went to the district’s schools. He said he has learned a lot about the schools. Payne also said he loves working with children and wants to give back to them.

Paige Salonich is a former teacher at Busbee Creative Arts Center, who now teaches in Lexington One schools. She said she has a passion for education. Salonich also said she advocates for teachers at the S.C. State House and she wants to be a voice for the people of the district.

Candidate Robin Milton was not at the forum.

The candidates answered a range of questions that dealt with topics including: the district’s $85 million budget; teacher retention; equal attention to the two high schools; and vacant property the district owns.
The election for the Lexington Two Board is Nov. 3.