School Board Leadership – Vote for a Change

With respect to the school board, I have seen it written lately by supporters of the “way we have always done it” that present and new members of the board will not have the proper experience to propel our school district’s students to the next level. Not only have the incumbents propagated this myth, they have fulfilled the prophecy by their own actions. Robert Gantt and Michael Cates simply switched places as board chair and secretary recently. Does anyone really believe that Cates is acting in any way different than Gantt directs?

I cannot remember in the past twelve years that leadership under Gantt, Hutchison, White or Cates has been done anything without direction of the lawyers anyway. They have incurred huge legal and consulting bills for the district, at the taxpayers’ expense, pursuing petty private feuds with other sitting board members. It seems as though Hutchison and Gantt could not make decisions without the lawyer’s approval. There have been supposed construction change order audits hidden from the public referenced as attorney work product. Then, there was hiding of the real estate appraisal done after-the-fact for the purchase of land at Piney Woods Elementary School.  It was not until after the purchase of the land that the FOIA request was granted and made public. 

Then there was the passage of an unlawful policy decision to take away the board’s right to approve actions, placing the responsibility solely upon the board chair and superintendent during COVID. This ultimately had to be rescinded after the attorney general ruled it was illegal.

The lack of planning with overcrowding of Lake Murray and Chapin Elementary Schools and the ensuing moratoriums and lotteries has been frustrating. The board realized as far back as 2004 that a new school was required. Yet, inexplicably Gantt, Hutchison and White allowed the construction of a new elementary schools to be removed from the list of school approved by the public from the 2008 bond referendum. The result is that we still have overcrowding and are paying twice for the new school.

COVID 19 has exposed a new lack of planning. The District was woefully unprepared when it came to technology for virtual learning. Nothing of substance has been accomplished. The district is not even able to Live Stream board meetings without terrible audio and video interruptions. Do you really believe that classroom technology is up to minimum standards? Gantt, Hutchison and White have been on the board for upwards of 20 years.  Did they not see this lack of technology coming?

My take is that new leadership is desperately needed in our school district. Great new candidates in Hines, Huddle and Hogan have arrived on the scene. They are interested, willing and engaged. It could not have come at a more opportune time. Please do not let the opportunity pass. Vote for a new team of leaders.

Julie Murray

Lexington County Resident