PICKENS COUNTY — Sen. Larry Martin said he is not convinced adding a seventh board seat to the School District of Pickens County will alleviate what a national accreditation group called “dysfunction” but he is sure of one thing: If the problems do not correct themselves, he will have no qualms about taking needed action to right the ship.
Rep. Neal Collins and Rep. Gary Clary of the Pickens County legislative delegation sponsored a bill last week that calls for adding a seventh seat to the SDPC board.
The bill, which came on the heels of an AdvancED monitoring review, is an attempt to help resolve one of the issues AdvancED cited as ongoing — continued “dysfunction” of the six-member board. That bill has passed from the House to the Senate and could be voted on in the next two weeks.
But Martin said he isn’t convinced this will be a measure to fix the issues concerning AdvancED moving forward.
“We are at the end of the session and this has a sense of urgency about it, and I am taking it that way same way, with a sense of urgency,” Martin said. “I’ve been talking with Dr. (Brian) Swords (chairman of the SDPC board), Dr. (Danny) Merck (SDPC superintendent) and AdvancED’s administration on how to fix the problems we are facing within the district.
“AdvancED says we need to address these problems, and I asked if adding a seat would do just that,” Martin said. “Their answer was the seat would attain movement on deadlock votes, but as to fixing the real issues, the answer was a point blank no.”
Martin said the onus to fix the issues presented by AdvancED should be done so by those presently on the board.
“All six of the members of the board have been elected by the people to manage the district, follow the law, and accreditation requirements and that’s what’s expected,” Martin said. “Let the ones that have been elected do their jobs and encourage them to do so. We need to let the process play out and at the end of the year if there is no change or conditions have gotten worse, you can expect us (legislative delegation) to intervene.”
According to Martin, an additional member would not correct the behaviors of board members referenced in the AdvancED report.
“We need to worry about accreditation, not a political agenda or finding a quick fix,” Martin said. “An additional member of the board isn’t going to solve the underlying problem, which is what I want to address and see fixed. If the members’ actions outlined in the AdvancED report are still outside what is expected, another member won’t solve it.”
Martin has addressed his concerns with the board as well.
“I’ve shared with the board in writing how I personally feel about what is going on with the school district and the fact this is not acceptable,” Martin said. “At this point I just don’t see making fears in the community worse as an answer.”
Martin is clear, regardless of the outcome of a vote on the chamber floor, as to how he will react if changes do not occur.
“If at the end of the year we are still in the same place or things have continued to go downhill, no one is going to have to wonder what this Senator is going to do,” Martin said.