We are better than this

Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

On The Way

By Olivia Fowler

Although the school board has been running a three-ring circus for some time, they’ve finally been called on their behavior. An accreditation report following an intensive review was issued by Advance Education, Inc. (AdvancED).

Although the district itself got good marks, the assessment of the board leaves its reputation in tatters.

The most disturbing finding in the report focuses on the board’s power struggles and efforts to control matters that are clearly not under their jurisdiction. The report states:

“Evidence presented to the team members verified that Board members do not comply with appropriate procedures and do not function as a cohesive unit to support and promote the purpose of the school system.

“This evidence came to the attention of the team via referrals provided through documents, videos and meeting minutes. Watching videos of the meetings revealed that representatives of the public during the comment section of recent Board meetings suggested to the Board of Trustees that they were out of compliance with South Carolina School Board Association policy requiring that they establish and clarify the advocacy role of the Board to move the district forward. Evidence was observed regarding inappropriate contacts of staff members in the schools rather than following board practice of going through the Superintendent. Instances of conflict of interest were noted with respect to some property matters as well as personnel decisions.

“Reports from board members indicated that there is frequent dissension of opinion among the Board of Trustees. Public discussions and comments made by board members reported in local news media and in online sources indicate open disagreement between board members with respect to actions of the board and a general agreement that the board is not functioning as a unit.

“When the vote is 3-3, compromise has to occur, with one or more of the trustees agreeing to abstain or withhold their vote so that there is a referral decision. Consensus seemed uncommon at any time with this group. These samples are minimal in comparison to all that was heard, observed, and read during the ER visit. Although the Board was involved in approving the mission, vision, and beliefs of the district, and they developed goals under the Superintendent’s leadership, as an organization responsible for leading district policy, they do not follow South Carolina School Board Association guidelines. Only when the Board of Trustees accept their legislative-designated roles and comply with all policies, procedures, laws, practices, and regulations and function as a cohesive unit, will they benefit effective district operations and student learning.”

The review team’s finding concerning the district’s administration offers a striking contrast. An excerpt from the report states,

“The administrative leadership effectively communicates the purpose, beliefs and values through various mediums. The district provides abundance of services to proactively identify and support at-risk students, and communication is strength in the district with stakeholders reporting they feel well-informed about their student status and school.”

I don’t know how our school board will go about changing direction. They are capable of doing so. We will wait and see if they are motivated to do so.