School Board Members get sued for voting for a pay raise

School Board Members get sued for voting for a pay raise
July 23 14:47 2017 Print This Article

The Charleston County School Board has had its pay frozen at $25 per meeting since the 1967 Act of Consolidation was passed by the General Assembly. Now they have to pay for their own legal defense. A lawsuit filed on Friday on behalf of Charleston County resident Marc Knapp targeted Charleston County School District (CCSD) Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait, the school board as a whole and the nine individual members on the grounds that their recent vote to increase pay to $14,400 a year violates the Act of Consolidation.

The school board also voted to increase the pay for the members of the eight constituent school boards to $7200 per year. The total compensation involved would come out to just under $500,000 per year or about 0.1% of the CCSD’s $481 million budget. The school district has more than 100 employees who receive $100,000 or more in salary plus benefits.

State Representative Wendell Gilliard sent a letter to Postlewait asking her to delay the school board pay raise until the Charleston County Legislative Delegation can agree on a new compensation agreement and have it passed by the General Assembly after it reconvenes in January 2018. It is not clear whether the Superintend has the authority to comply with Gilliard’s request.

Let’s look at what our school board members do for $25 per meeting. On Monday, July 17, they spent eight hours in meetings. To prepare for those meetings, they had to review a thick information packet and discuss it with colleagues and other interested parties. They spend countless hours responding to e-mails, texts and phone calls from colleagues, district employees and residents. They visit schools, attend workshops and do research on school matters. Most of the nine members devote more than 20 hours a week in their capacity.

By comparison, Charleston County Council members receive $21,000 a year for their service. They oversee a budget less than half of the CCSD’s. Are school board members less important to the community than County Council members? Is their time less valuable? Where is the outcry to reduce County Council pay to $25 per meeting?

There is a lot of community outrage over the recent $18 Million shortfall in the CCSD budget, and rightfully so. To make matters worse, five current school board members voted to give severance pay to Chief Financial Officer Michael Bobby, the employee responsible for the shortfall. The good news is that four of the five will be on the November 2018 election ballot.

I support Rep. Gilliard’s effort to persuade our legislative delegation to approve a new compensation agreement. His draft legislation includes the stipulation that they will only be paid for meetings they attend. School board members should not be able to participate by telephone. Meanwhile, the CCSD is not in financial jeopardy from the pay raise approved by the board. The increased pay will not even put a dent in the district’s $30 Million reserve fund.

Would you be willing to put in 20 or more hours a week for compensation of $25 per meeting to the detriment of your business and your family? Add in the prospect of paying thousands in legal fees to defend yourself in a lawsuit because a citizen does not like a measure you voted for? I think compensation for our school board members should be increased. We can pay for it by eliminating some of the $100,000 bureaucrats and special consultants who add little or no value to our 80 schools and the nearly 50,000 students they serve.