School board candidates offer varying talents: Zionkowski has business savvy

Pete Zionkowski wants to apply the same traits he learned in his decades of working in the business world to the Barnwell 45 school district.

That's why he is running for the Barnwell 45 school board.

One seat - now occupied by Jeff Still - is open on the five-member board. Still decided not to seek another term. The election is April 14.

With 40 years experience in project and personnel management, Zionkowski feels the same methods can solve some of the district's problems. Zionkowski, 66, retired Feb. 1 from Bechtel, the construction contractor at the Savannah River Site.

Zionkowski made an unsuccessful bid for a school board seat in 2008.

One concern Zionkowski has is the budget process within the district needs to be revamped so it is more long term, he said.

"I was underwhelmed by that process. We are in different economic times. We need to get beyond this ‘You need this, you need that,'" he said.

"Running a school is like running a project - it should be budgeted and maintained like one. I don't see any planning - no real long term planning," Zionkowski said.

Zionkowski is on the board of directors of the Hilton Head Beach and Tennis Resort, a $90 million complex. Zionkowski has a condo there.

Some of the complex's management concepts could be applied to the district, such as having one-, two- and five-year plans that are revisited twice a year, he said.

"We should have those. Right now we are Band-Aiding and fire-drilling things," he said.

With it being tight economies and budgets, cutbacks should start where it would harm the education process the least, Zionkowski said.

"I don't think the board needs to have a stipend. If we have to cut back, let's start by cutting back on things that don't add value," he said.

Furthermore, if board members are serving as unpaid volunteers, it would likely separate out who is serving for the children's sake and those serving for other reasons, stipend or otherwise, Zionkowski said.

Board members are paid $300 a month and the board chair receives $450 a month.

Other experience Zionkowski has includes serving four years in the Air Force working on radar systems.

In the school district, Zionkowski is the volunteer golf coach for Barnwell High School.
Zionkowski's wife, Linda, is the principal at Barnwell High. They have had two children graduate from the high school.