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Sumter School Board listening to lobbyists about committees

S.C. association says it's rare, a liability to have public participate as members

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 11/6/19

Advice from a group that lobbies for school boards in South Carolina has been the key driver in most of the board's desire to disallow members of the public from serving on standing school board committees.

Policy Committee Chairman the Rev. …

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Sumter School Board listening to lobbyists about committees

S.C. association says it's rare, a liability to have public participate as members

Posted

Advice from a group that lobbies for school boards in South Carolina has been the key driver in most of the board's desire to disallow members of the public from serving on standing school board committees.

Policy Committee Chairman the Rev. Daryl McGhaney shared Tuesday at the committee's meeting that legal counsel received by the full board from the South Carolina School Boards Association at a September workshop on the rarity of boards having public involvement on committees caused concerns with board members.

Of the board's three current committees - policy, finance and facilities - the Finance Committee is the only group that has people from the public as members, and the full board has been discussing whether to take them off or change the makeup or appointment requirements since November 2018 when five of the current nine school board members were elected.

On Sept. 30, attorney Tiffany Richardson from the state School Boards Association staff facilitated a workshop with the trustees on various topics. When the subject of the public serving on standing committees came up from the trustees, she informed them that such a scenario can create confidentiality issues and have potential legal ramifications because those community members are not elected officials and might be privy to information that isn't open to public disclosure.

"When she said that there are not too many boards with the public serving on committees," McGhaney said, "that sort of weighed some concerns with other board members to pursue other options."

No board members have said at any board meeting there have been past problems with such an issue.

Sumter School District's Board of Trustees has operated with a committee system for at least six years, and committee members have been appointed by the respective committee chairman. These advisory board committees have always made recommendations to the full board, but the trustees have always had the final vote in all matters.

In late April, the full board passed first reading of a policy governance recommendation to allow public members to continue to serve on standing committees, but membership would be based on the full board's approval, meaning five of nine votes from board members would be necessary instead of it being based solely on the committee chairman.

That appeared to be the direction the board was headed until the current change in stance to removing the public from committees altogether.

Board Chairman the Rev. Ralph Canty, a supporter of the current committee system structure, has said new-since-November board members have not embraced his philosophy and that it's "unfortunate" but that he will submit to the will of the majority of the board on the issue.