School board members will meet with school improvement council members Tuesday to hear their concerns and ideas.
It's the first meeting of its kind under a policy approved Sept. 6 that requires two informal meetings with SIC members each year.
The policy is a compromise between proposals last year from school board Chairman Fred Washington Jr., and SIC members from Shell Point Elementary, Beaufort Middle, Robert Smalls Middle and Beaufort High schools. The approved policy also calls for two meetings of SIC and PTA leaders in each school cluster per year but does not mandate that board members attend.
SICs are mandated by state law. The advisory committees of parents, teachers and community members develop and monitor school-improvement plans.
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Tom Hudson, associate director of the S.C. School Improvement Council, said he thinks Beaufort County's policy is the only one in the state requiring specific interaction between the school board and SICs.
Washington said the policy was one way to turn board discussion about the need for community involvement into action.
"This is one of the things we've committed to doing," he said. "Hopefully, it will demonstrate we mean what we say."
The meeting is designed to be an informal forum for SIC members to ask questions, propose ideas and discuss issues facing the schools.
Those interested in speaking will have more than the three minutes allotted for public comment during regular board meetings.
"It just gives us an opportunity to bend their ear in any way we like without the timer on," said Bluffton High School SIC chair and teacher Robert Collar.
Board members Laura Bush, Julie Bell, Bill Evans, Earl Campbell, George Wilson and Washington said they try to make it to SIC meetings at the schools they represent, but scheduling conflicts can mean missing the monthly meetings. This gives them another chance to be in touch, they said.
Several said they hoped the meeting would lead to better coordination between the school board, the district and SIC members in working toward common goals.
"We may not agree on everything, but as long as we can agree to make sure we're investing in children, that's fine," Campbell said.
Attempts to reach board members Michael Rivers, Ron Speaks, Steven Morello and Herbert Burnes were unsuccessful.
At least one SIC chair hopes to see more than just talk out of the meeting.
Jenni Jessup, the chair of the Broad River Elementary SIC, said she doesn't always feel the school board is listening to parent concerns.
"I'm hoping tomorrow's meeting isn't just a 'We're here, we listened, now we've got to go home' sort of thing," she said. "I hope the board members actually hear what all the parents' and SIC members' concerns are."
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.