Atwater joins education superintendent race
By ANNA BROWN
Growing up in Union, Sally Dunbar Atwater said her mother, Theo, stressed to her and her brother the importance of an education and living within your financial means.
“She always said, 'Be a teacher, be a teacher,” Mrs. Atwater said. “She really believed in education and she was going to make sure we got an education. I know what education has done for me.”
As she hits the road in her race for State Superintendent of Education, Mrs. Atwater said those lessons and her desire to be an advocate for teachers are foremost in her mind.
A Republican, Mrs. Atwater is among the candidates for the post now held by Mick Zais. Zais is not seeking re-election. House District 42 Rep. Mike Anthony of Union is among those seeking the Democratic nomination.
Other Republicans running for superintendent of education are Anderson County school board member Gary Burgess; Zais' former deputy superintendent, Charmeka Childs; attorney Amy Cofield of Lexington; GOP activist Sheri Few of Lugoff; University of South Carolina professor Don Jordan; and Charleston County school board member Elizabeth Moffly.
Zais' former director of school transformation, Montrio Belton of Fort Mill also is seeking the Democratic nomination.
According to the Associated Press, Mrs., Atwater filed her initial disclosure Wednesday with the State Ethics Commission after opening a campaign account with a $47,575 loan to herself. That infusion, from selling stock, puts her at the top of the money race among an ever-growing field
Mrs. Atwater has resigned from her job as special education teacher at Hendersonville Elementary in Colleton County. This is her first run for a political office but she is no stranger to politics. She is the widow of Lee Atwater, political consultant and strategist to the Republican Party. He was an advisor of U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and chairman of the Republican National Committee.
A graduate of Union High and Winthrop University, Mrs., Atwater is the mother of three grown daughters- Sara Lee, Ashley and Sally T. (Theodosia) two of the girls are teacher s and the other soon will earn her nursing degree. Mrs. Atwater has one grandchild.
Mrs. Atwater's family ties in Union include her brother and sister-in-law, Curtis and Sonja Dunbar and her uncle, John Heath.
She said she made her decision to run for State Superintendent about two months ago, when S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley visited Colleton County. Mrs. Atwater says she learned about Haley's new education initiatives and her proposal to improve South Carolina's public schools and she wanted to be part of it.
“I thought it was a good initiative,” she said. “She is looking at a new formula for poverty and having more technology and broadband in the classroom. I knew when you have a governor interested in education that is important. “
Mrs. Atwater said she hopes to come to Union while on the campaign trail and high school friends already have offered to host an event.
Most importantly, Mrs. Atwater said she would like for people to know that she will be a voice for teachers.
“With my teaching background I think Columbia needs and teachers need a voice in Columbia,” she said.
Mrs. Atwater taught over nine years at schools in Rock Hill, Gilbert and Columbia before moving to Washington with her husband.
While there, she worked in the U.S. Department of Education under Reagan and served on education committees at the National Institutes of Health. Throughout President George W. Bush's tenure, she was director of the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.
Mrs. Atwater said Bush and First Lady Laura Bush had a deep concern for people with intellectual challenges and that helped changes be made, she said.
“He came up with the New Freedom Initiative and that gave us the blueprint for action at the federal level for people with disabilities- housing, education, transportation,” she said.
(Posted March 3, 2014)