Charleston County makes it difficult to run for school board

Charleston County makes it difficult to run for school board
February 26 15:21 2018 Print This Article

The Charleston-area League of Women Voters recently conducted a workshop for prospective school board members in North Charleston for residents of Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester Counties.  In a review of qualifications to get on the ballot for school board, it is clear that Charleston County candidates face the biggest obstacles.  Candidates for the Charleston County Consolidated School Board must gather at least 500 valid voter petition signatures with 250 in one of four geographic areas and then compete in a county-wide election.  By contrast, Berkeley County School Board candidates are not required to gather signatures and run for one of seven individual districts.

Imagine the difficulty in greeting voters from McClellanville to Edisto, a 100 mile geographic range and the expense of putting up campaign signs throughout the county.  Once elected, Charleston County School board members only receive $25 in compensation per meeting, compared to $600 per month for board members in Berkeley County and Dorchester County District 2.  Charleston County School Board members attend monthly committee meetings which often last eight hours. Senator Sean Bennett (R-Summerville) heads up a Charleston County Legislative Delegation committee which has been tasked with studying the school board pay issue.

The Charleston County School Board has four seats on the November 2018 ballot, two in East Cooper, one in West Ashley and one in the North Area.  The filing period opens Wednesday, April 18th and closes Monday, July 16th at noon.  Candidates must submit their statement of intent of candidacy and their petition forms, which must be on 14-inch legal paper.  The petition forms may be picked up at the Charleston County Board of Elections at 4367 Headquarters Road in North Charleston.  League of Women Voters Melinda Hamilton urged prospective candidates to collect at least 600 voter signatures because some may be invalid.  Candidates may verify voter registration status by entering the voter’s first initial, last initial and date of birth at SCVotes.org

There are also elections for eight Charleston County constituent school district boards, which draw school attendance zones and preside over expulsion hearings.  No signatures are required to appear on the ballot for the constituent board seats.  The filing deadline for constituent boards is August 15.  A candidate may file for the consolidated school board and a constituent board at the same time but may only hold one office.  Former Charleston County School Board member Ruth Jordan advised prospective candidates to build a team and start acquiring signatures early.