Chas. school boards request restoration of hiring powers

Joe Bowers

At the urging of some local school officials, Charleston County lawmakers agreed to review a proposal restoring the constituent district school boards’ power to make personnel decisions.

All but two of Charleston County’s eight constituent school boards — North Charleston District 4 and James Island District 3 — signed a resolution asking lawmakers to repeal two amendments that stripped them of their authority to hire principals and other school employees.

On Monday night, Charleston County’s legislative delegation voted unanimously to refer the request to the delegation’s education subcommittee for further study.

In 1967, the South Carolina General Assembly passed Act 340, which merged all eight of Charleston County’s independent school districts in an attempt to equalize school funding between the wealthy and poor districts. The eight constituent districts, governed by local boards, retained authority over student discipline, busing and personnel hiring while the Charleston County School District assumed fiscal and administrative duties.

Act 340, otherwise known as the “Act of Consolidation”, was first amended in 1978 to transfer principal hiring powers from the constituent districts to the county district. It was amended again in 2007 to give the county district control over all school personnel employment.

“We have to have a way we can ensure we have quality education from Summerville to the ocean, from the Edisto River to the Santee River, and right now, there aren’t the proper checks and balances in place to guarantee that,” said Constituent District 1 board member Joe Bowers, representing St. James-Santee Elementary and Lincoln Middle-High School.

Charleston County Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait attended Monday’s meeting to update lawmakers on the district’s current fiscal year budget shortfall. She asked the delegation to avoid making any changes to the Act of Consolidation before she had an opportunity to work with constituent boards.

“We worked together very collaboratively” she said, referring to her past experience working with local advisory boards as superintendent of Horry County Schools. “I think we can work together with the constituent boards. We look forward to doing that and I would prefer you all give us a chance to do that.”

Reach Deanna Pan at 843-937-5764.