- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - State Rep. Andy Patrick announced Wednesday he’s running to be South Carolina’s next superintendent of public schools.

The U.S. Air Force veteran and former U.S. Secret Service agent became the first Republican to officially get into the race, a month after GOP Superintendent Mick Zais announced he would not seek another term.

Patrick, R-Hilton Head Island, said he wants to help transform the educational system. The 44-year-old father of five children, ages 7 to 19, said he understands parents’ perspective and the role teachers play in students’ success. And with two special-needs children in public schools, he said he knows first-hand that each child learns differently.

“If we are to truly compete with our neighbors, not just North Carolina or Georgia, but internationally, South Carolina must lead the way in transforming education to meet the needs of this century,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Mike Anthony, who announced his candidacy last August, criticized his colleague’s lack of classroom experience, saying the state needs a schools chief who doesn’t require on-the-job training.

“While I consider Andy a friend, the last thing we need as superintendent is another politician with zero experience in education,” said Anthony, 64, who retired in 2004 after 32 years of teaching and coaching in high schools across the state.

Zais, a retired Army brigadier general, made his first run for political office in 2010 after being president of private Newberry College for 10 years.

Patrick, first elected to the House in 2010, said the superintendent’s job has more to do with leadership skills than classroom experience.

“Certainly I have to understand the challenges faced by educators, but it’s all about leadership and collaboration and bringing people together and I have the strength and abilities to do that,” he said. “You have to influence people and work with them and get common agendas accomplished.”

A New York native, Patrick moved to South Carolina in 2007 when he left the U.S. Secret Service. He’s now a security consultant.

Patrick’s announcement comes a month after he introduced his own pay-for-performance plan for teachers. Forty-three schools in 13 districts already are testing Zais‘ proposal for evaluating educators. The state Board of Education must approve a plan before it goes statewide. Patrick, chairman of a House subcommittee on K-12 education, said his bill offers another process.

Patrick ran unsuccessfully last year for Congress in the 1st District special election won by former Gov. Mark Sanford. Patrick was among 16 Republicans in the primary.

Other candidates in the race include Democrat Montrio Belton of Fort Mill. Gary Burgess Sr. of Pendleton says he’ll announce his bid for the Republican nomination on Martin Luther King Day.

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