Legislative delegation seeking public input in school board decision

Billy Cannada Staff Writer

September 20, 2013

PICKENS COUNTY – A decision to add another seat to the Pickens County School Board could come down to public input, government officials say.

The Pickens County Legislative Delegation, comprised of Rep. Davey Hiott, Rep. B.R. Skelton, Rep. Phil Owens and Sen. Larry Martin, has decided to host a public forum “as soon as possible” for those wishing to weigh in on the issue.

“The questions are ‘Do we need to make a change on the Pickens County School Board?’ and, ‘If we do, what direction do we need to go?’” Owens said.

The meeting comes after calls for reconsideration of the school board’s current format, which allows for six seats. Talks of adding a seventh seat to break tie votes, which fail in the current process, have stemmed and many Easley officials have called for more representation in their area.

Martin said he has come up with a map that changes the lines in attendance areas, and he believes it better represents the population.

“This would ensure the Pickens and Easley attendance areas both have two seats,” Martin said. “This map more closely identifies with attendance areas.”

Hiott said the map, if implemented, would favor another seat in Easley.

“Looking at the map, basically all we’re doing is adding a seat in Easley,” Hiott said.

Martin said many of his conversations with local constituents indicate a lack of representation in Easley.

“The thing that resonates with me that I’ve heard from folks, particularly in here in the Easley community, is they don’t believe the attendance areas are fairly represented,” Martin said. “It’s probably best to let the public weigh in on this.”

Current school board member Jim Shelton said the attendance lines have not changed in nearly 40 years.

“The last time an attendance line was changed was when Dacusville High School was eliminated,” Shelton said. “You didn’t the line, you just erased the line. That goes back to 1970 or 1971.”

Owens said redefining the lines will not matter as much as who is actually elected.

“It all depends on who runs and who is elected,” Owens said. “That’s the bottom line. Easley could have two or they could have three. Pickens could have two or Liberty could have two. It could go all around, but it depends on who it is.”

Skelton said it is important for the delegation not to get ahead of itself.

“It seems to me we’re getting the cart before the horse,” Skelton said. “We’re talking about adding seats, but we haven’t decided if that’s what we want to do. We need to decide whether we want an odd number of seats and then move forward from there.”

Changing attendance area lines could require a cost should the public choose to do so, according to Martin,

“There is a cost,” Martin said. “You would have to reissue voter registration cards to every voter in the county, which was just done last year. That could cost around $30,000-$35,000. The school district and/or the county would pay that.”

Any decision could be implemented as soon as next year, Martin said.

Delegation officials say they are hoping to have a plan laid out before returning to Columbia for legislative session in January.

Public forum details will be announced as soon as they are made known.