Chris Fraser did his best to manage the discord on the Charleston County School Board, but the conflict took its toll.
Fraser ended his two-year run as chairman Monday night, and the board agreed 6-2 to make Cindy Bohn Coats its new leader.
“I reached my limit a month ago,” Fraser said. “When I walked out of that meeting, I was done.”
Fraser left the Sept. 24 meeting early in frustration after some board members insisted on continuing a lengthy discussion on the contracts for its school resource officers. He apologized at the board’s next meeting.
Board policy required an election of officers Monday because it swore in a new member, Todd Garrett. That seat, as well as five others, are up for grabs in the Nov. 6 election, which means the board will vote on officers again at its next meeting in three weeks.
Board member Brian Thomas pointed out that the board’s new leadership only may serve one meeting, so he nominated Fraser for chairman. But Fraser declined the nomination.
If Fraser had accepted, his decision to walk out of the September meeting likely would’ve come up as part of the board’s discussion, and Fraser said he didn’t want any argument about who should be its leader.
“I could’ve waited one more meeting, but ... I wanted to avoid the drama that was inevitable if I stayed,” he said. “It was enough. I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish.”
Fraser nominated Coats, and member Elizabeth Kandrac nominated member Elizabeth Moffly. They voted on Coats first; Kandrac and Moffly were opposed.
The board didn’t vote on Moffly, and Kandrac said she wanted it “on the record” that she thought another vote should be taken. Member Chris Collins came into the meeting after the vote on Coats, and Kandrac said that was why the board should vote on Moffly.
The board also elected a new vice chairman, Craig Ascue, in a 5-4 vote. Members Collins, Kandrac, Moffly and Thomas voted against the majority; Collins also was nominated for vice chairman.
Coats said she’d like to have the chairman’s job for the next year. The board’s leader has more responsibilities than other members, such as setting the board’s agenda and being its main public representative.
“I have been for two years part of the board that has had a really poor public perception, and I would like to be the chair of the board as we change that,” she said. “I feel like I can effectively do the chair’s job, which is to organize and run the meetings in a way that all members of the board understand what is happening and what our options are.”
Fraser is unopposed for a two-year seat in the Nov. 6 election. Although he didn’t want the chairman’s job, he said he wants to continue serving on the board. He said he can contribute more now because he’ll be able to weigh in on issues rather than focus on facilitating conversations, he said.
“Frankly, I think I can be more effective as a board member because I won’t feel as constrained to make comments,” he said.
Fraser has led the board through its adoption of Vision 2016, a five-year strategic plan that sets measurable goals for the district.
Coats commended Fraser for his leadership, saying he’s been a good ambassador for the district and made the public feel invested in schools and the upcoming election.
“I’m not sure there’s anyone else who could’ve kept the board and district moving in the direction they have for the last two years,” she said.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.