CCSD makes things harder for five schools
Every other week, the Charleston County School District puts together an agenda for its county school board meeting. You’d think it would be second nature to do it in accordance with the law.
On Monday, an important decision about hiring five people to serve as principals was delayed because the posted agenda failed to note that the board would vote on people to fill the slots.
A different agenda, which was posted on the district’s website and distributed to the media, said the board would return to open session following an executive session.
Three board members — Chris Collins, Elizabeth Kandrac and Elizabeth Moffly — refused to participate in the board’s open session, saying it was illegal. That meant there wasn’t a quorum, and at least another week would pass before the principals are hired.
And that means that Baptist Hill High, Garret Academy, Northwoods Middle and North Charleston and A.C. Corcoran elementary schools will go an additional week without their new leaders in place.
The teachers and staff will have less time to work with the principals to prepare for the upcoming school year. Parents and students will have to wait to find out who will guide their schools.
Cindy Bohn Coats, the Charleston County School Board’s vice chairwoman, said the to-do indicates a need for the board to have a parliamentarian.
But it doesn’t. The district has easy access to legal advice, which could have averted the problem altogether.
Better still, the board and administration could commit to doing more of the public’s business in public.
The state’s Freedom of Information law allows boards to discuss personnel issues in executive session, and then to take any necessary votes in public. However, that was intended for issues related to employees’ performance and behavior, not their eligibility for promotions.
There is no reason that the board shouldn’t discuss the final candidates for those five principal jobs in public — the way other public bodies discuss candidates for significant positions such as fire chiefs, police chiefs and superintendents.
Being more transparent might help avoid the kind of controversy that occurred last year when the board hired a new principal for North Charleston High School. Members of a task force charged with recommending ways to improve North Charleston High suggested criteria for the new principal. They said the board ignored the criteria altogether.
A school’s principal is the captain of the educational ship. He or she sets the tone, establishes standards of behavior, supervises teachers and is ultimately responsible for a school’s success or failure.
Five principals will have less time to deal with those challenges when they are hired and assume their new jobs.
It didn’t have to be that way.