Candidates for the Orangeburg County School Board’s District 7 headquarters plan to put students first, create safe and supportive work environments for teachers and staff, and maintain financial accountability.
Incumbent Mary Berry Ulmer is challenged by candidate Sam Farlow in the Nov. 8 election.
Only voters residing in District 7 can vote for this race.
Marie Berry Ulmer
The Bowman native is an honors graduate of Bowman High School. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in English from Claflin University and a master’s degree in elementary education and language arts from South Carolina State University College.
Ulmer was a public school educator for 34 years. She taught in Jasper and Beaufort before returning to the former Orangeburg County School District 3, from which she retired.
She was elected to the former OCSD5 school board in 2007 and served until 2018 when she was elected to the board of trustees of the new Orangeburg County School District, which brought together the former school districts of Orangeburg County 3, 4 and 5.
Ulmer, who is also an Area 7 representative on the South Carolina School Boards Association board, is running for a second four-year term on the county board for a reason.
“I believe there are some things that need to be looked at that require my leadership. I have chosen to continue my dedication and commitment as I seek re-election to the Orangeburg County Board of Directors,” she said.
“My main goal is to keep students as a priority. Additionally, I want to make sure that we provide support and improve the work environment and resources to teachers and support staff so that our students can succeed on the school plan,” Ulmer said.
The retired educator said she will review budget priorities to ensure student success.
“Use the data, go back and examine the data, evaluate the programs and resources we are currently using to help make the best decisions needed to help meet student needs, growth, and academic success”, Ulmer said.
It also plans to address the challenges posed by the shortage of teachers, bus drivers and other staff.
“Recruitment and retention. I want to restore trust and stability with the teachers in this district, as well as the support staff. Recruit highly skilled and effective teachers, support staff and instructional leaders, as we have seen that since the pandemic many educators are leaving the profession. So we need to restore confidence and bring some stability to this district and everywhere,” Ulmer said.
She said consolidating the district has been a process.
“I think we’re trying to get to where we’d like to be and where we need to be, but it’s going to take the efforts of everyone working together,” she said, including the superintendent, staff at the school and the community.
Ulmer said improvements would be made with “more communication between, for example, our (county) legislative delegation, county council members, elected officials, appointed officials and our community.
“When all of those things come into play, we can see the reason for consolidation because it would add to what we’re trying to do here, to meet needs, to facilitate growth and academic success,” she said.
Ulmer said partnerships and learning programs need to be created, for example, to expose students to high-quality education, especially when it comes to technology and hands-on training.
“Technology is booming. … I’m not against a four-year university education, but there are children who can do good with their hands, and we can provide them with technology and a curriculum through our technology centers.
“Then they might want to go on to a two-year college to improve that because we want to make sure they’re college-ready, career-ready, and…ready for the job market or the military. — wherever they think they will achieve and succeed in life,” she said.
Ulmer continued, “There are career paths. So, as a school district, I want us to make sure we let students’ parents know and support them. We have to educate along the way because it is a learning institution.
She said her experience in the classroom and her dedication to never stop learning make her a good candidate.
“I need to keep abreast of changes and keep up with changes so that I can equip myself to be of service to children. I want to build relationships not only with students, the Orangeburg County Legislative Delegation, other elected officials, and most importantly, our community.
“It’s about my love and passion for education. That love and passion wanes for the people I serve. I consider myself a civil servant committed to education. I will continue to provide this school district with the necessary governance and leadership and be an advocate for all students, staff and the community,” Ulmer said.
“Just because I’m seeking re-election in District 7 doesn’t mean I’m going to work in this small circle in District 7. I’m countywide and for all students, staff and communities,” a- she declared.
Ulmer and her husband, Patro H. Ulmer, are the parents of three adult children, all OCSD5 graduates.
Farlow spent 11.5 years on the former OCSD5 board and seeks to be a voice on the new board to promote, among other things, high quality teaching and financial accountability.
He ran unsuccessfully against Ulmer in the 2018 race for the District 7 seat.
He said he was racing again for a reason.
“As a board member, I hope to continue to serve students, teachers, and the community. My goal is to continue to work with teachers and parents to ensure that our students are able to compete with other students across the country in the job market and in graduate learning settings,” said Farlow.
“I also hope to continue working to recruit the most qualified educators who are equipped to introduce our students to innovative and fresh learning techniques,” he said.
One of the things he hopes to accomplish is to build trust among the public that the district has the needs of its students as its primary focus.
He said he also wants to strive to “maintain a warm, safe and supportive environment for employees and to be a good steward of district resources by holding everyone accountable.”
Farlow said many people didn’t think the district consolidation went well for several reasons.
He said those reasons include a clear lack of overall improvement in student achievement.
“In fact, there has been little public reporting of state and national test results. It also appears that the needs of students with disabilities have been overlooked during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Farlow said.
He continued: “Major promises made were broken after the consolidation. We were told that no one would lose their job, but a large number of classified retirees lost their jobs. The original criteria for school closures were immediately changed, and many taxpayers claim to be paying more school taxes due to the huge one-time mileage increase. (Furthermore), not all regions feel that their people have been treated fairly.
He said many improvements need to be made in areas such as overall student achievement, employee morale, public trust, teacher retention efforts and budgetary procedures.
Farlow said his previous experience as a board member made him a good fit.
“My previous experience…has qualified me as a trusted leader. I have also worked locally with the Parents’ Association for years, helping students and staff raise funds and advocating for student academic success My specific qualities include my commitment to public participation and the ability to exercise good judgment, as well as my zealous advocacy for the best interests of students, faculty, staff, and community. community,” he said.
Farlow said he remains optimistic about consolidation “as a tool to further unite the people of Orangeburg County and improve the quality of education for all students.”
“I remain hopeful that the consolidation will eventually result in financial savings for the district and the community. As a grandfather with grandchildren in the district, I see the exceptional work that many administrators, teachers, and staff do. I want to publicly commend them for their efforts and diligence. I want to assure constituents that I will make students our number one priority and work to create a supportive environment for teachers and staff,” he said.
Farlow received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Limestone College. The United States Marine Corps veteran has worked in the Department of Public Services for more than 30 years.