As the New Year begins so does Charleston County School District with two new trustee members – Priscilla Jeffery who represents West Ashley and Kevin Hollinshead who represents the North Area. Both join a seasoned nine-member board that continues to grapple with the dynamics of providing quality education to the district’s 50,000 students. Several members were asked what constituents might expect in public education in the upcoming year.
Jeffery could not be reached by press time, but Hollinshead said he’s spent the last few weeks since being elected to the board of trustees in November learning. Hollinshead, a small business owner who previously served as a member of Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission, said he brings that experience to the board and already has proposed two initiatives to insure greater minority business participation in the school district’s five-year capital improvement schedule that begins this year.
“I think this year we’ll see a more focused effort to involve black businesses, particularly, in the district’s building and procurement projects. Only about two percent of the district’s spending dollars go to black owned businesses,” he said.
Hollinshead’s focus on business is reflected in his approach to the district’s education side as well. More graduates need to be better prepared to enter the workforce upon graduating, he said. He intends to push hard for technical training in rural high schools especially. An equal priority will be a push to secure more funding for early childhood development, he said.
Rev. Chris Collins in November was elected to a fourth term on the school board. The veteran trustee said constituents this year will see teachers get more incentives to teach at critical needs schools and good teachers receive more rewards for their efforts. And there will be more teachers in classrooms, he said. The district has no choice but to change its classroom environments, he added. A new formula for recruiting middle school students for attendance at Academic Magnet High School will result in greater racial diversity at the school in the future, he said.
West Ashley representative Michael Miller in November was elected to a second term on the board. He said the district, for some reason, hasn’t been able to “get it right” in the past in terms of providing quality education to more students. He thinks that will change this year as the board’s two new members join their longer serving peers in impacting school governance from a more holistic approach.
Providing quality education to all students isn’t rocket science, but it does take commitment, Miller said. He thinks the current board has that commitment. He especially likes that a new focus on talented teachers and dynamic leadership at the school principal levels is being brought to the forefront. Together with dedicated community partners, Miller said 2017 will be the year when our village indeed meets the challenges of public education.