Single member school board districts would improve accountability

Single member school board districts would improve accountability
February 19 17:09 2020 Print This Article

Legislation is being considered in the South Carolina Senate to change the election election method for Charleston County consolidated school board members from at-large (elected countywide) to single-member districts, aligned with the nine County Council districts. School board members currently represent four regions of Charleston County – West Ashley and the sea islands (3 seats), the North Area (3 seats), East Cooper (2 seats) and the peninsula (1 seat) but have to get elected countywide. Running countywide campaigns takes considerable time and financial resources and can divide the allegiance of the elected members.

The re-alignment of the school board seats was initiated by Representative Leon Stavrinakis (D-West Ashley) through bill H-5034, which was unanimously approved by the 14 representatives in the Charleston County Legislative Delegation. The 1967 Act of Consolidation (also known as Act 340) gives the legislative delegation the authority to change the governance structure of the Charleston County School District. H-5034 is now being deliberated in the Senate, where eight members are part of the county legislative delegation.

At issue with the public are recent decisions to close and consolidate schools for the 2020-2021 school year in a rapidly growing Charleston County. One of the controversial decisions was to move all 1250 students from two West Ashley middle schools into a building designed to hold 900 students. The move would require trailers to be placed on the land intended to be used as a physical education field. All three current board members who represent the West Ashley and sea islands region voted in favor of the consolidation, over the objection of most West Ashley middle school parents. Single member districts would provide more accountability for elected members to the area and constituents they represent.