Editorials

School board leaders shoot themselves in the foot

Beaufort County Board of Education: seated from left, JoAnn Orischak, Laura Bush, chairman Mary Cordray, Evva Anderson and Geri Kinton. Standing, Michael Rivers, Earl Campbell, Joseph Dunkle, David Striebinger, Paul Roth and Bill Payne.
Beaufort County Board of Education: seated from left, JoAnn Orischak, Laura Bush, chairman Mary Cordray, Evva Anderson and Geri Kinton. Standing, Michael Rivers, Earl Campbell, Joseph Dunkle, David Striebinger, Paul Roth and Bill Payne. Beaufort County School District Photo

Officers of the Beaufort County Board of Education should not be sending out an email with their spin on reality and indicating they speak for the board.

They do not.

The email was on the topic of a proposed local sales tax on the Nov. 8 ballot that would funnel about a quarter of a billion dollars to a dysfunctional school board.

The question of channeling millions of those new tax dollars to two local institutions of higher education got the board leadership so flummoxed that chairperson Mary Cordray, vice chairperson Laura Bush and secretary Evva Anderson emerged from a secret meeting on the topic and dispatched an email with their personal version of events.

They should spare us the drama and do the obvious: Conduct public business in public.

Nothing about this proposed tax is private. Nothing. And the school board needs to understand that.

It is not a private matter as to whether the University of South Carolina Beaufort and the Technical College of the Lowcountry would receive windfalls from the sales tax. Any and all deliberation on that question — including what lawyers think about it — is public. It is not a matter for secret meetings, and no email full of personal spin is going to change that.

We are grateful to the three board members who opposed the secret meeting foisted upon them for nebulous reasons, and especially JoAnn Orischak who saw the secret meeting for what it was — improper — and walked out of it.

The board leadership is apparently trying an end-run around its original legal advice on the matter, having cooked up some new version of legal advice. The apparent aim is to improve chances that the public will entrust the board with an extra quarter of a billion dollars.

Resorting to secret meetings and email messages is no way to help the public understand what it would be getting into and why. It is no way to engender trust in the school board. And it is no way to treat the board minority that knows tomfoolery when it sees it and is willing to say so.

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