On July 17, voters in Horry County will go to the polls to choose the Republican nominee for school board chair.
Three candidates are running in the Republican primary: former business owner and Horry-Georgetown Technical College commissioner Ken Richardson, former teacher Patricia Milley and District 5 school board member Janice Morreale.
The winner of the primary will go on to face Democrat Heather Johnson in November's general election.
The Sun News asked the candidates a series of policy questions that have been brought up in board meetings and by candidates over the past year.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sun News
None of the candidates were in favor of arming teachers. Milley, a former teacher, said she'd be afraid a student would take the gun and shoot her. Richardson said teachers would need more training than what's provided in a concealed weapons class, and Morreale said it would take some "long conversations" for the board to make that decision.
Here's each candidate's stance on a few issues that could affect your wallet and your kids.
None of the candidates felt like raising taxes was necessary right now.
"We have a 1-percent penny sales tax and we don't need a tax increase because I think the county council should put an impact fee on every new home on this county, and if they have to have permission from Columbia, then they need to get it," said Milley. "Everybody coming into this state should have to pay about $20,000 attached to their house to pay for schools and police and fire."
Both Richardson and Morreale were against raising taxes while the penny sales tax still provides funding for the district. Horry County Schools will receive funding from the tax through 2024 and it's up for renewal in 2022.
"If we lost the penny sales tax it would be horrible," Richardson said. "There is no way we could survive and do some of the things we need to do without raising millage. It would have have to be done. People need to think about that and they need to consider that whenever it's time to vote on that."
Morreale said during her time representing District 5, the board has worked to to take care of business without raising taxes.
"I would have to say no, not right now, because we really work hard at making sure we can get everything done within the budget that we have," she said. "If the penny sales tax went away, that would really be a different conversation that we would have to have. That's really helping our building program, and our one-to-one devices, technology and other programs that we have with technology, so that would certainly affect us."
Before the 2017-18 school year, Horry County asked the school district to pay more money for the school resource officers it had stationed in schools in unincorporated parts of the county. But Horry County Schools didn’t want to pay the extra money, and instead hired private security for the middle and high schools in unincorporated Horry County.
Morreale, who was on the board at the time, is in favor of the private security guards, citing their training and the cost.
“I think the security company has really gone out of their way to make sure we have highly qualified people in these buildings with either retired police or military experience,” she said, adding that she was impressed at their performance and affordability. "Instead of just at the high schools like we’ve had in the past and at the middle schools, now we’re able with the budget to put them in all the elementary schools as well."
Richardson, who has made security a major platform of his campaign, is against using the private guards.
He said having uniformed officers in the schools give kids a chance to get to know the officers so “they’re not afraid of the uniform,” and said he’s more comfortable with police than guards in the schools.
“Thank the Lord we didn’t have any incidents happen in the school, but believe if we had an incident happen in the school, there would have been a lot more people talking about it,” he said. “I have two grandsons, they both go to public schools, and I can tell you as a grandparent, it’s just a little more comfortable.”
Milley said she thought either SROs or private security could do the job.
“At the present time they have to be there because of the conditions that we have bred in the schools,” she said. “We are breeding shooters, we are breeding mentally unhealthy children. When these things are corrected and we have healthy, happy, schools and have happy children, we won’t be breeding shooters and we won’t need the protection.”
The candidates also disagreed on the specifics of how to drug test students, if at all. In January, the district announced it was looking at how to drug test certain groups of students with privileges, such as those who play sports or park their cars on campus.
So far, the board hasn’t received any updates on the district’s research.
Milley said she was for drug testing if administrators had suspicions that a student was using.
“Sometimes the administration has to know,” she said. “If a student has nothing to hide, it will prove his innocence. There should be cause established before the student is tested.”
Morreale was also in favor of it, but only for students involved in extracurricular activities.
"We’re talking about it right now,” she said. “And it’s not all students. It’s for children that have privileges outside of the school day. Driving on campus, participating in sports or clubs. We’re still in the discussion and research phase. We’re going to get together a committee of parents and teachers and community members to discuss it further.”
Richardson said he was against drug testing all students, but was on the fence about testing kids involved in athletics or school clubs.
“We’ve already got a problem in the schools now with peer pressure,” he said. “I wouldn’t want someone in my family to come home and they failed a drug test or had a problem with a drug test and then they get labeled at school and then they get picked on about it.”
The Republican primary is July 17 and the winner will face Democrat Heather Johnson in November.
Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian