Charleston County lawmakers plan to move quickly to fill vacant spot on county school board
The Charleston County legislative delegation doesn’t plan to dawdle in nominating someone for the open seat on the county school board.
Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, who chairs the delegation, said applications could be available as soon as today for interested residents, and the appointment will be put on the delegation’s Dec. 9 meeting agenda.
“We wouldn’t want to leave a vacancy there,” he said.
The delegation’s choice would go to Gov. Nikki Haley for approval, and their pick would serve until the November 2014 election.
Retired business executive John Barter resigned on Sunday his spot on the county school board in order to serve as the chief operating officer of his alma mater, Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala.
School board elections are nonpartisan, but politics will play a more obvious role in the selection of Barter’s replacement. The 22-member delegation is controlled by Republicans, and it’s likely that their nominee will share the party’s ideological beliefs.
Campsen said he’s looking for someone with good business experience and a demonstrated interest in education. Someone who was in a position of hiring graduates of the district’s schools and could see the system’s shortcomings and successes would be appealing, he said. Prior experience serving on a board also could be beneficial, he said.
One of the names that has been mentioned as a potential candidate is Brian Thomas, a district parent who was appointed to the board’s West Ashley seat in February 2012 after Mary Ann Taylor resigned her position in November 2011. Thomas ran for re-election that fall and lost.
Thomas said he’s remained involved in education and has been serving on the governing board for the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science. He said he hasn’t had time to make a definitive decision, but he’s interested in the board’s open seat.
“I was never there to make enemies,” he said. “I want to work with both sides.”
On Monday, Barter said that it wasn’t easy to walk away from the position, but the opportunity at Spring Hill was compelling.
“I felt like we did a lot of good things in this year’s budget,” he said. “I felt like we were making progress, but there’s still an awful lot of progress to be made.”
Barter had served in leadership roles on global boards and multimillion-dollar companies, and many lamented his departure for those reasons.
“He brought a level of sophistication to the board that’s going to be missed terribly,” said board member Chris Fraser, who is president of a commercial real estate brokerage firm. “He always acknowledged everyone’s point of view and gave people credit for their contributions. I think he made a big difference.”
School Superintendent Nancy McGinley said Barter was extremely knowledgeable about business and finance issues, and he also was well-versed on the challenges in education. Barter asked hard questions but also understood how to work as a board member, she said.
“I hope we don’t step back,” she said. “I think we took a tremendous step forward with the caliber of this board, and this past year has been the most professional board we’ve had.”
Board member Elizabeth Moffly, who ran as a Republican for state superintendent of education and has ties to the local party, said she hoped the new board member would be a strong constituent representative and not a “go along to get along” person who did whatever the district says.
“Someone who questions decisions and does their homework, and someone who has the time to commit because it does take time – that’s what I want,” she said.
Barter is the third person who has resigned from the board during the past two years. Toya Hampton Green resigned in August 2012, and real estate broker Todd Garrett was appointed to her spot in October. The election was less than three weeks later, and Garrett ran as a write-in candidate and won.
The third person to resign was Taylor in 2011. Fourteen people applied for her West Ashley seat.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or 843-937-5546.