Charleston County School Board Chairman Chris Fraser had all he could take Monday night when he got up and left the meeting.
District officials had asked the board to approve the contracts with Charleston, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant and the county Sheriff’s Office for the officers who work in schools. It’s a routine request that comes up annually, but this is the second year it’s been controversial.
Some board members, specifically Chris Collins, Elizabeth Kandrac and Elizabeth Moffly, were concerned about parents not being notified when police question their children, and Moffly said their rights aren’t being protected. District leaders said principals were required by policy to notify parents, but some board members said that’s still not happening.
Collins, Kandrac and Moffly dominated a roughly 45-minute discussion on the issue before Fraser tried calling a vote. He said it was the same conversation the board had last year and called it “a waste of everyone’s time” because no one’s mind would be changed.
Collins said the board could take all night, and Fraser said that’s fine, but it would be without him. He walked out.
“I just lost my patience tonight,” he said later. “I hope it says something to the community that this is not working. We have got to get people (on the board) who understand the topics we’re talking about and their role — a governance role on the board.”
The board continued talking about school resource officers for another 20 minutes after Fraser left, and it ultimately approved the contracts 4-2. Kandrac and Moffly were the dissenting votes; Ann Oplinger wasn’t present. Collins said he supported the motion because “it would’ve created more chaos” if he hadn’t, and the board still can enact the changes it wants.
Moffly said it was unprofessional of Fraser to leave, and it’s a sign of his leadership. School resource officers have been working in schools more than a month, but the board wasn’t asked to approve their contracts for this year until now.
Last year, Moffly pushed to get rid of school resource officers, and her position resulted in police chiefs meeting with the board to talk about police in schools. Collins said the board didn’t get to ask the questions it wanted, and that effort didn’t address their concerns.
Moffly said some board members don’t get information that others do, and it creates animosity.
“This is the only time we can come together as a board and have open discussion about what we have issues with,” she said. “This is the only time we have to have discussion.”
Fraser said some board members wouldn’t be satisfied regardless of the answer. It takes the board an hour to do what should take five minutes, and those lengthy discussions often are on less important issues, he said.
“There are too many agendas, and too many people who like to hear themselves talk,” he said. “I’m just exasperated.”
When the board voted on the school resource officer issue, Kandrac thanked Vice Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats for not leaving the meeting.
Coats quipped, “You owe me a beer and two aspirin.”
The board meeting lasted more than four hours.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at 937-5546.