Delegation talks changes to school board structure

Sen. Larry Martin and Reps. Phil Owens, B.R. Skelton and Davey Hiott speak at a meeting of the local legislative delegation last Wednesday.

By Nicole Guttermuth

Courier Staff

COUNTY — Members of the Pickens County Legislative Delegation – Larry Martin, Phil Owens, BR Skelton and Davey Hiott – held a public meeting last Wednesday to discuss the possibility of changing the current structure of the School Board in Pickens County.

This particular meeting did not allow for public input, however, should the delegation decide to move forward with a change in the board structure, Rep. Owens assured the pubic that they would be given an opportunity to voice their input.

“Should we decide to move forward, should we decide to make a change, should we decide to do anything, we will then hold a public forum at which time we will allow input from everyone who wishes to do so,” said Owens.

Discussion about changes in the structure of the current Pickens County School Board appear to have surfaced on the heels of the Board’s decision to eliminate the second middle school option in Easley.

“The thing that resonated with me, that I’ve heard from folks in Easley,” said Sen. Larry Martin “is that they don’t believe that the attendance areas are fairly represented.”

Jim Shelton, the Board Trustee representing seat 6, is from the Dacusville area. Under the current attendance lines, the division of representation for that seat is 68 percent Easley and 32 percent Pickens.

“No one is questioning the current School Board member, but if that flips and a person from the Easley are is elected, then the whole Pickens attendance area would only be represented by one board member,” said Martin.

One of the options the delegation has considered is adding an at large seat back to the school board; however, the same delegation removed three at large seats back in 2007.

Another option, said Rep. Owens, might be adding a seventh seat “for more equal representation and a 3-3 tie breaker,” he said. “Instead of dividing up the county into six sections it would be divided up into seven sections.”

Martin presented a rough sketch of a Pickens County map that alters current attendance lines and, he says, offers a more accurate representation of the population.
“This would ensure the Pickens and Easley attendance areas both have two seats,” Martin said. “This map more closely identifies with attendance areas.”

Hiott expressed concern that the map would favor Easley in relationship to other attendance areas.

“Looking at the map, basically all we’re doing is adding a seat in Easley,” Hiott said.

Changing attendance area lines would also come with a considerable price tag attached. Larry Martin explained that should the delegation decide to adopt changes to the attendance lines, the Registration and Elections commissions would have to reissue voter registration cards to every voter in the county, which was just done last year.

“That could cost around $30,000-$35,000. The school district and (or) the county would pay that,” he said.

Wednesday’s discussion was, for the time being, just that: a public discussion among delegation members.

“It seems to me we’re getting the cart before the horse,” Skelton said. “We’re talking about adding seats, but we haven’t decided if that’s what we want to do. We need to decide whether we want an odd number of seats and then move forward from there.”

As soon as members of the Legislative Delegation decide what direction to take, both Martin and Owens assured the public that they would hold an open forum so that the voters have an opportunity to voice their thoughts and opinions.