The school board dilemma
In just over a month, Charleston County voters will have a chance to re-shape what has been a controversial, some would say dysfunctional, school board.
Five of the nine seats could change, meaning the present predictable 5-4 split on the board might go away.
People who attend regularly say the meetings must be seen to be believed. Realistically, however, most people canít, or wonít, attend meetings to see for themselves.
Hereís where transparency is helpful: Video recordings of the meetings air daily at 1:30 p.m. on Comcast Channel 60. Citizens who donít know what to think about this contentious group might be interested in tuning in before going to the polls.
They can decide for themselves who is right: Some Charleston County School Board members describe others as difficult, destructive and self-absorbed. Other members say they have to say the same things over and over because they are treated dismissively. It is the only way for them to be heard.
Take Monday eveningís meeting, when what is usually a routine matter ó approving contracts involving in-school law enforcement officers ó turned sour. After 45 minutes of talk without a vote about that single agenda item, Board Chairman Chris Fraser left the room in exasperation.
ďThere are too many agendas and too many people who like to hear themselves talk,Ē he said.
Elizabeth Moffly, Elizabeth Kandrac and Chris Collins dominated the conversation, saying parents are not being notified when police question their children in school. Ms. Moffly said their rights arenít being protected, although policy requires principals to notify parents.
On the one hand, board members are elected to do whatís right on behalf of students and citizens at large. If it means hunkering down for a protracted argument, thatís what they should do. Being on a board isnít supposed to be a tea party. It is hard work. And public meetings are the appropriate place for difficult issues to be sorted out.
On the other hand, something is wrong when a board cannot accomplish the smallest tasks. When nothing constructive is being done (think Congress), the citizens are likely not being well served.
As academic achievement measures are released, surely there are significant issues the board should be addressing.
Several years ago the board was able to make literacy the districtís priority. It was a wise, if overdue, decision.
And recently released SAT scores show that, while the state and the nation have slipped, Charlestonís average score increased. Thatís something the board might want to learn about.
Similarly, writing test results were very disappointing. And the board should be concerned that policies that could be contributing to the problem.
The ones who will decide the personality of the next board are the voters. Mrs. Kandrac and Mrs. Oplinger are not seeking re-election. Mr. Collins and Brian Thomas face opposition. If Todd Garrett runs for re-election, it will be as a write-in candidate. Mr. Fraser is unopposed.
Public education is vital to the present and future of Charleston County, economically and socially. The nine people who steer education in the county bear a heavy responsibility.
And the voters bear a heavy responsibility to put the most able ó and reasonable ó people on the board.