PICKENS COUNTY — Members of the Pickens County legislative delegation introduced a bill Tuesday concerning the makeup of the School District of Pickens County’s board of trustees following a less than stellar report on the district by AdvancEd.
Rep. Neal Collins and Rep. Gary Clary introduced a bill that would expand the membership of SDPC’s trustees from six to seven in an effort to address issues the accreditation agency has cited as continuing since 2013.
According to a release by Collins and Clary, two areas of concern stood out: the “dysfunction of a split, six member board” and “specified board members’ actions.”
The release stated: “AdvancEd relayed to the state delegation that, without improvement, it is likely the school district will be placed on a one-year ‘under review’ status in January 2016. After a one-year under review status would be in jeopardy.”
Collins and Clary introduced the bill June 2 and according to the release expect the bill to be ratified as early as the end of June.
Critics have cited a 2011 attempt to add a seventh board member, which failed, as a political attempt to change the board’s makeup, but Collins stated otherwise.
“This is an entirely different situation following the 2013 report by AdvancEd concerning the district’s accreditation,” Collins said. “Previously when a seventh member was considered that was prior to AdvancEd’s initial report. Following the review, which was just released, it’s apparent something has to be done.”
According to the bill by Collins and Clary, a seventh seat would be created as an at-large seat and an appointment made by Gov. Nikki Haley. The seat would then be decided during the 2018 election cycle and remain so moving forward.
A teleconference was held May 29 with AdvancEd by the delegation and Collins stated the discussion was fruitful.
“We discussed at length the dysfunction of the board and some members’ actions and also discussed options we might have as a solution,” Collins said. “We settled on the choice which is best for the county and that’s the addition of the seventh seat. We even considered a special election over an appointment, but the cost would be in the neighborhood of $50,000 to $60,000. This is the best and most cost effective solution for the taxpayers in the county.”
Collins also addressed AdvancEd’s position of a seventh member being added to the board.
“In our teleconference we discussed the addition of a new seat, along with our other options,” Collins said. “AdvancEd looked favorably on the addition.”
Collins also stated he was sure the timing for the bill was right.
“Now was the time to act. Being monitored by AdvancEd is not productive for the district or the community,” he said. “We need to stop the fears of teachers, students, and parents. It was time to show AdvancEd and the School District of Pickens County we are dedicated to fixing these issues and our elected officials can act appropriately.”
As of noon June 3, the bill had passed its second reading in the State House of Representatives. It is expected to clear a third reading and pass to the Senate where the bill will be voted on in approximately two weeks.