It’s been a couple of years since the District 5 school board voted 6-to-1 — with Jan Hammond the lone voice of dissent — to buy 24 acres of property off Amick’s Ferry Road. But it’s worth remembering in the coming days as we decide who will serve us on the board.
Opposition to the purchase was widespread. Not only did the board pay three times the land’s value, but the location already sees heavy traffic. Building a new school there will surely bring new congestion and safety challenges.
Also troubling was that the board rushed to approve the purchase — apparently without seriously considering other options, and without the kind of prudence and thorough vetting one would expect for such an important decision. And, unfortunately, it appears to be part of a pattern in District 5. In recent years, our district has had some major missteps which have cost our schools millions… and which could have been prevented with adequate oversight and due diligence:
- Construction projects have been mismanaged. A prime example is the Chapin High siding project, which had to be redone completely.
- Contracts – including major construction contracts — have been improperly awarded.
- Construction projects have come in far over-budget without explanation, and construction contracts have been changed by the board chair rather than by a vote of the school board.
- The district spent $1.2 million on land for a school that was never built because, as it turned out, the site lacked access to a major road.
These are critical issues, and they point to serious shortcomings in the way our school district is governed: There’s too little oversight, too little accountability, too little scrutiny, too little listening to the public. Fundamental changes are in order.
In large part, these problems keep happening because the majority of board members are loathe to acknowledge them. They seem to worry more about the prospect of negative publicity than the very real, tangible consequences of the district’s persistent construction-related failings. That’s a shame.
To their credit, Mrs. Hammond and new board member Ken Loveless have been valiant in their efforts to address the problems. But they’re in the minority. They need allies on the board… which is why I’m supporting Catherine Huddle and Rebecca Blackburn Hines for school board.
Mrs. Huddle and Mrs. Hines, who are running in the Lexington County portion of District 5, have both expressed their willingness to work with Mrs. Hammond and Mr. Loveless to fix to bring an end to the district’s construction-related troubles. Both are immensely qualified, capable and conscientious. Both are active and involved in the community. And most importantly, to understand that we must strive to improve in areas where we fall short if we’re to truly make our district the best it can be.
For years, it’s been one debacle after another in District 5. Enough is enough. In a community where our students consistently set such high standards for academic performance, we shouldn’t have to settle for mediocrity from our school board. It’s time to set our sights on excellence… and that means electing board members who will work to fix our problems, not sweep them under the rug.
Two board seats are up for election in the Lexington County portion of District 5. I strongly believe Catherine Huddle and Rebecca Blackburn Hines are the best choices to serve us. And I urge my friends and neighbors to study the candidates and become as informed as possible before casting your ballot. The choices we make could shape our community for generations.
District 5 Resident