I get calls every day asking me who I support for Charleston County School Board. We have a complex governance structure for the Charleston County School District (CCSD). The nine consolidated school board members are elected county-wide but have residency requirements. There are three members who represent West Ashley, Folly Beach, Kiawah, Seabrook, Edisto and the Sea Islands. Three members represent North Charleston, Ladson and Lincolnville. Two members represent East Cooper, and one member represents the Charleston peninsula.
There will be five seats up for election on the 2016 ballot – two in West Ashley, two in the North Area and one in the Charleston peninsula. In the regions which have two seats on the ballot, voters may choose to only vote for one candidate.
Here are my choices:
West Ashley – Gary Leonard. He may have the best resume of any school board candidate in history. He has been a coach, teacher, assistant principal, principal, superintendent and college professor. Leonard stands for budget transparency, safe, orderly and well-maintained schools and better recruiting and retention of faculty and staff. His opponents are incumbent Michael Miller and Priscilla Jeffrey.
North Area – Kevin Hollinshead. He previously served on the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission for eight years. He has an extensive background in mentoring programs. Hollinshead has a strong commitment to preparing Charleston County students for the careers in manufacturing and technology, which are coming to the lowcountry in large numbers. His opponents are incumbent Chris Collins, Russ Patterson, and Louis Smith.
Charleston Peninsula – Todd Garrett. Garrett was elected in 2012 as a write-in candidate. He currently serves as the Audit and Finance Committee chair and is committed to straightening out the budget process which led to a $18 Million deficit in 2015. Garrett contends that the school district can learn a lot from privately financed Meeting Street Schools, which has partnered with CCSD to improve student achievement in low income communities.
The Charleston County School District has a $430 Million operating budget and dozens of failing schools. These may be the most important votes you cast Tuesday.