Looks like the school board we all know and tolerate is back.
At least for now.
On Tuesday, the Charleston County School Board voted to move students at five schools that are vulnerable to earthquakes until replacements can be built. That reversed the decision from last week, when the board punted on its authority, kowtowed to a very vocal -- and relatively small -- group, and put parents in the untenable position of choosing between their children's education and safety.
That ain't no way to lead.
All it took to right the ship was a few lopsided, losing votes, a couple of ties, a growing realization they were spinning their wheels -- oh, and Chairwoman Ruth Jordan's threat to make board member Elizabeth Kandrac go sit in the back of the room.
And then there was the threat that the district's insurance company might drop them for being reckless with 1,300 young lives.
For years, the school board has been the only elected governing body that has done its job.
While Congress and the state Legislature cower in fear of a few loudmouths in T-shirts stained with barbecue sauce, the school board has taken unpopular positions, righted decades of neglect to local schools and even -- gasp -- raised taxes when it was necessary.
For attempting such radical acts in this state, they might deserve the Medal of Honor. But then, that's their job. Board member Toya Green explained it best Tuesday while berating her colleagues for skirting their duty.
"The onus is on this board to do what's right and err on the side of caution," she said.
And she's right.
Now the district hasn't always done everything right -- the neglect of all that readin', 'ritin' and 'rithmatic is proof of that. So you can be forgiven if, at first blush, this whole earthquake thing sounded like a clever excuse to raise taxes and build some new schools.
The problem is, the board knows better. They've seen the reports.
Some of those schools are held up by little more than gravity and tradition. Entire floors are sitting on old, brittle bricks -- so tenuous a set-up that a good-sized truck could probably knock down one of these schools.
They are disasters waiting to happen.
Series of tough choices
After a little soul-searching, the board took responsibility.
Sure, the whole thing seems like a long shot. What are the odds of a "moderate" earthquake hitting Charleston while the kids are in school? But the real question that they needed to ask was: Are you willing to gamble with the lives of a bunch of kids?
Gregg Meyers, who voted against the plan last week, finally admitted the board faced a "series of undesirable choices."
It could shift the burden to parents -- put a "Beware" sign on the doors of these schools and go about their business -- or man up and do the difficult, but ultimately right, thing. Inconvenience versus safety shouldn't even be a contest.
The board realized, as Ann Oplinger said, that doing nothing makes the board "morally complicit."
Luckily for downtown kids, the board is the one governing body that still has a little bit of morals.