HICKS COLUMN: Charleston County School Board meetings cure insomnia
There are worse ways to torture folks than making them sit through a Charleston County School Board meeting, but they're either illegal or violate Geneva Conventions.
So next time you see meeting footage of Nancy McGinley, don't worry — she isn't being waterboarded. But she would probably prefer it.
As Diette Courrege Casey reports, the last six school board meetings have averaged three hours each — which means they've only gotten two hours shorter since Elizabeth Kandrac left.
And that's ridiculous.
It's not that running a $355 million district with 5,000 employees and 45,000 students doesn't take some time, it's that the board manages its time poorly.
Untold meeting hours are devoted to Elizabeth Moffly's Awendaw Inquisition of McGinley and what might charitably be called “The Wit and Wisdom of Chris Collins.”
The rest of the time is taken up with inane questions these folks wouldn't have to ask if they'd just read their meeting packets from the district.
Yep, they aren't doing their homework.
The sound of static
Shortly after Cindy Bohn Coats was elected to the school board in 2010, she got her first massive meeting packet from the district.
“I thought, 'Wow, I've got a lot of work to do,'” she recalls. “I thought it was my job to know everything in that packet so I could discuss the issues.”
Yes, that is her job. Still, she gets a smiley face since we have to grade on a curve here.
There are only two explanations for some of the questions hurled at district administrators: either some board members are woefully unprepared or they are in love with the sound of their own voices.
No matter how minor the issue might be, some board members feel compelled to keep picking at everything, either in an attempt to turn the board's opinion or simply berate district staff. And unless you are politicking, there's just no reason to suck air out of the room like that.
Make your point and get on with it.
“Your vote speaks louder than anything,” Coats says.
Get what you pay for
Look, it's hard work being on the school board.
These folks deal with complicated issues that affect tens of thousands of people every day. And they do it for a whopping $25 a meeting.
Little more than a year ago, Moffly suggested board members be paid like city or county council members — say, $15,000 a year. She's right, the school board is just as important, and probably is an even tougher gig.
Perhaps that's why some of these people don't spend the six or seven hours Coats spends going over her meeting packet — they are only making about a buck an hour. Or, as some Republicans call it, a living wage.
Maybe we should pay the members more, and in return expect a little more. For instance, expect them to do their homework and not waste everyone's time because they are unprepared.
Or we could just dock their pay a dollar for every minute the meeting goes over two hours.
At least it would be a new source of revenue for schools.
Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@post andcourier.com.