Lee County Libertarian Chastises His School Board

Woman wagging her finger

An open letter to the residents and school board of Lee County, SC,

I attended the school board meeting on Monday, July 24th at 3:30 PM. There are a few things worthy of note before I proceed to my primary concern. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 3:30. The chairwoman, Ms. Sanya Moses, was at least 20 minutes late to the meeting, two other board members were not present, and the superintendent was also absent. Ms. Valerie Haywood and Mrs. Queenie Boyd were absent with no explanation.

Since the county school board has no codified rules by which they operate, one must assume that they follow the governing rules of the state board of education. According to Article VI, Section 9 of the state constitution, Board members may be removed for consecutive unexcused absences. The chairman/chairwoman may excuse an absence and the board may overturn an unexcused absence by two thirds majority vote. As the absences weren’t even addressed in the meeting, one must assume that the chairwoman did not excuse the absences and the board did not object. I will continue to keep a running tally of these presumed unexcused absences and report to you, the readers, every month.

Let’s circle back, if you will, to the exceptionally late start of the meeting. Forget, for a moment, that quorum existed and there was no need to wait for the nearly-half-an-hour-late chairwoman. In fact, starting significantly late like this could be viewed as an attempt to reduce public participation. Not only does it have the appearance of trying to reduce community participation, it’s unprofessional. You, the school board, want the community to respect you and support you (as stated in your exceptionally vague policies) but how can we take you seriously when you waste our time as you did?

Another concern is the time and day of the meeting. How many community members does the school board think are available to walk away from work to attend a meeting at 3:30 in the afternoon? Even those that can are most certainly not able to spare an extra half an hour to wait for a late chairwoman. I propose that you mandate all meeting times be in the evening when most people are available to attend. As a side note, The Lee County Council ought to do the same.

Finally, I’ll get to the heart of my concerns with the school board. I noticed on the agenda that there was no section for public comment. I asked two of the members present before the scheduled start time about this and they both referred me to the chairwoman, Ms. Moses. When she finally showed up and before the meeting began, so as not to be declared out of order and removed, I approached Ms. Moses and asked about public comment. She informed me flatly that the board’s policy was that there will not be public comment. I asked for clarification and where that policy was published. She stated that it was in the policy manual and available on the website. I looked through the board policy on my phone and, lo and behold, the policy does not exist.

After the public meeting was concluded, I approached Ms. Moses again and asked her to show me where the policy existed. At this point, she began to back peddle and tell me all about how the policy was that people may request in writing to address the school board, at least a week in advance. She also stated that the policy was recently changed by the board. All in all, it was nearly the most confusing exchange to which I’ve ever been party. I asked to see this policy and she asked for my email address. I sent here a text message with my email address and she stated that she would email it to me.

That brings us to the reason for my writing. This all occurred on Monday afternoon. As of this writing, Friday the 28th, I have received no email from Ms. Moses. The utter lack of effort by the school board chairwoman to communicate effectively with the public is disheartening. The efforts by the school board to shield themselves from public comment and criticism reek of authoritarianism. What right do you, the school board, have to state your expectations of anyone, as you did in your policy manual, when you do not make yourselves available to hear our expectations of you?

It occurs to me that you may have forgotten a few things and I’ll remind you now. You may not expect anything from anyone who isn’t an employee. You may request and we, the voters and taxpayers, will consider your requests. You are our employees. That’s how this works. We vote to decide if we will keep you on the payrolls or not. As our employees, it strikes me as ridiculous that you won’t listen to our feedback on your performance. How do you think you can meet our expectations if you don’t know them?

Do you like your position and want to keep it? If so, learn how to listen to your constituency and be responsive.

A concerned citizen,

Matthew Hicks