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Schools: Board gives itself good grades in assessment

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

While Georgetown County School Board members gave themselves passing grades on a self-assessment this summer, they agree that they need more class participation. And two members, who were not named, will get incomplete grades for failing to turn in the assignment.

It was the second time the board has done the assessment, which was pressed by Board Member Pat DeLeone. It was talked about for 10 years before the board committed to it in 2014. DeLeone handed out the assessments to her colleagues before the end of school in June and handed out the results this week.

“The scores came up. I was quite impressed,” she said.

The assessment asks members to grade how often the board meets a list of 32 criteria from “Always” (5 points) to “Rarely or Never (1 point). The board gave itself perfect scores on seven areas: placing children’s needs ahead of political gain; an unselfish interest in public education; visibility in the community; showing respect at meetings; teamwork with the superintendent; confidence in the superintendent; and following policies.

The lowest score was a 4 (“Most of the time”), which was given in two areas: having a comprehensive community relations policy and willingness to discuss immediate matters that may alienate board members or the superintendent.

The scores were based on an average of the responses of seven of the nine members. DeLeone did not say which of her colleagues failed to complete the assignment.

The assessment also asked members to talk about the board’s strengths and weaknesses. The strengths focus on support for public education and students. One member noted that a nonpartisan board is a strength, but “we know which members lean toward which party.”

Among the weaknesses, the board members said they need to have more discussion. One member said they don’t get their information packets in time to prepare for meetings. Another said “work sessions are not work sessions.”

Members also pointed out a lack of public input. Except for award ceremonies that precede the board’s business sessions, the seats in the board room are almost always empty aside from staff. One member was hopeful that the $165 million package of renovations and additions to the district’s schools that will comprise a bond referendum on the November ballot will stimulate input.

The bond referendum and capital projects were listed among the top issues for the board over the next two years. Hiring and retaining qualified teachers and state and federal mandates were other top issues.

DeLeone also noted that while the board listed diversity as a strength, the members also cited a lack of young people on the board as a weakness. “You look around the state, some boards have members in their 20s,” she said.

“Sometimes I think our members do not hear clearly what is being said or explained,” one board member said.

Along with assessing itself, the board completed its annual assessment of Superintendent Randy Dozier. That included a meeting with Dozier in a closed-door session to review their comments.

The results won’t be made public until the board votes on them, Chairman Jim Dumm said. That will happen at the Aug. 16 meeting. “It was very good,” he added.

Candidates line up

Filing opened this week for four school board seats. Richard Kerr filed for a second term in District 6. Sarah Elliott, who has served three terms in District 1, said she plans to file.

The District 4 seat held by Zelma Carr, which includes the city of Georgetown, has three candidates. Carr said Tuesday she was “on the fence” about seeking another term. She arrived at the county elections office Wednesday with Randy Walker to support his candidacy. He works for the county Parks and Recreation Department. Also filing for the seat are Rhonda Green, who is self-employed, and Ricky Ferdon, a former City Council member who volunteers as a track and wrestling coach at Waccamaw High.

In District 3 on the southwestern side of the county, Johnny Altman filed for the seat now held by Sandra Johnson, who said she plans to seek re-election.

Elery Little, a former teacher and principal at Pleasant Hill, filed for re-election in District 5, which runs from outside Georgetown to the rural western portion of the county.

The filing period closes at noon on Aug. 15.

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