Horry County school board leans toward giving funds to individual members for use in their districts

The Horry County school board took a nonbinding vote Monday night to approve a group of policy changes that include splitting $90,000 among its members to be used in their districts, and forming three standing committees for key areas of Horry County Schools.

The moves are two of several changes that have been proposed for the board’s by-laws. The board approved a bundle of mostly minor changes with a 9 to 2 “Committee of the Whole” vote, which is nonbinding. A final vote is expected to be taken in August. Board member Kay Loftus did not attend.

One of the approved changes would provide each of the 12 board members with an annual education fund of $7,500 to use for education-related projects. The $90,000 would come from the district’s undesignated reserves and would not roll over from year to year. Half of the money, $3,750, would be allocated from July 1 to Jan. 10, and the rest from Jan. 11 to June 30. The full board would approve any expenditures.

Some board members were opposed to the fund idea and wanted it removed, but the board voted 6 to 5 to keep the proposal in the bundle of changes. Board Chairman Joe DeFeo said the concept has worked well for Horry County Council, which has less restrictions, and that he thinks this could be a bonus for schools that need money for things such as buying paint for their walls.

Debbie Elmore, director of communications for the S.C. School Boards Association, said she does not know of any other school district in the state where an education fund is provided for individual board members.

Board member Janet Graham said it would be a plus for her district, District 7, which has some very old schools, such as Whittemore Park Middle School. She said the school has gone leaps and bounds to improve academically and could use money now as it tries to paint and rehab its older spaces to make room for 200 additional students in the fall.

Another change to by-laws included establishing three standing committees — financial, facilities and human resources — which would be appointed by the board chair and approved by the board. The committees would learn more about their respective departments, including any bidding processes and contracts.

“I think the board wants to be a little more involved,” said board member Harvey Eisner, who said he is not opposed to forming committees. “We must make sure that it’s more for information purposes than for trying to run a particular department.”

DeFeo said the committee role is for information gathering. He said as the district gets bigger, a committee can ask pointed questions and save time for the board at meetings.

Horry County’s school board has not had standing committees since adopting a coherent governance model about 15 years ago, and it was one of the first districts in the state to implement it, said Teal Harding, HCS spokeswoman. The system is designed to take the board out of the day-to-day operation of the district, which is managed by the superintendent, along with curriculum and other areas that affect student achievement.

Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or on Twitter @TSN_VGrooms.