How many children should a person have in public school in order to be qualified to head a state school board?
None, according to Kristin L. Maguire, the mother of four home-schooled children and the chair-elect of the South Carolina board of education, whose recent election to that post has raised some eyebrows in the state.
“I fully recognize that having someone who home-schools their children serve in this capacity is unique, but at the same time it’s very disappointing that so much ink has been devoted to critics who have never met me and are wholly unfamiliar with my work,” she said in an e-mail interview.
Ms. Maguire’s four daughters range in age from 8 to 14 years old and have been home-schooled all their lives.
Ms. Maguire, who holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Clemson University in South Carolina, was elected by her board colleagues on a 9-7 vote over fellow member Fred “Trip” DuBard, who was the choice of the board’s nominating committee. She will serve as chair-elect throughout this year, then begin her duties as chairwoman for a one-year term in January 2009.
She was first appointed to the 17-member board in 2000 by her local legislative delegation, and has since been twice reappointed by Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican.
“Kristin is by far and wide one of the smartest people on the board, and one of the most devoted to public school education,” said Libby W. Swad, the board member who nominated Ms. Maguire for chair-elect. “With someone like Kristin Maguire as the chair, we’ll be able to make some politically courageous—and probably unpopular—decisions about what to do with education.”
That’s exactly the fear of critics such as Sheila C. Gallagher, the president of the 13,000-member South Carolina Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association.
“I perceive that [Ms. Maguire] has her own agenda, and that agenda is not what the chairperson of the state board is supposed to come with,” she said.
Ms. Maguire’s critics have pointed to her role as a co-founder of South Carolina Parents Involved in Education, a grassroots organization that supports abstinence-only sex education, the teaching of intelligent design in schools, and tuition vouchers for private schooling.
Ms. Gallagher is also concerned about potential deadlocks because of policy disagreements between Ms. Maguire and state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex.
But Ms. Maguire said she does not anticipate any such problems:
“There is entirely too much work to be done to make the progress that our state’s public school children need for either one of us to be distracted by past political differences.”
A version of this article appeared in the January 09, 2008 edition of Education Week