Collins Challenges Policy Revisions, But Instead Should Consolidate Power

Chris Collins

By Barney Blakeney

The tug of war between Charleston County School Board and its superintendents continued this month as North Charleston representative Rev. Chris Collins challenged recommendations Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait’s presented to make policies more efficient. CCSD School Board often has butted heads with its superintendents over various aspects of school governance. In the latest confrontation, Collins said Postlewait was attempting strip the board of authority to control the budget and the power to enforce its own policies.

Last year prior to the installment of two new members after the November elections, several board members proposed changes to make the governance procedure more efficient. Former member Tom Ducker said the district’s three-inch thick policy manual had not been revised in decades. Many of the policies had more to do with the operation of the district than the board’s responsibility of setting policy. A consultant was hired to make recommendations, he said.

Collins had concerns about those recommendations when Postlewait brought them to the board last month. He said his concerns revolved around how information is communicated internally and with the media. Also he was concerned about how much money the superintendent could allocate without board approval.

While Collins took to social media and brewed some interest from readers who wanted more information – his Facebook posts included broad statements such as “This proposed policy allows the superintendent to move large sums of money without the board’s approval. It further seeks to take control and complete autonomy over all school board policies; thus allowing the superintendent to be sole authority to change, cancel, remove, replace, delete or modify any board policy without a board vote” –his colleagues on the board didn’t share much of his concerns. January 22 the board gave first reading approval to the proposed revisions. The board still must give final reading to the recommendations.

Peninsula Charleston Representative Todd Garrett said he is concerned that in the past inadequacies in communications and financial policies led to issues such as the district’s $18 million budget shortfall about two years ago. But the proposed revisions are more about house cleaning. They clarify and help board members conduct meetings more efficiently so they can stay focused on student needs, he said.

West Ashley representative Michael Miller said he most is concerned about the language of the policy revisions. He thinks it should be more specific. State law spells out school board powers, Miller said. Neither the superintendent nor the board itself can change those legal requirements, he said.

A former school board member this week said Collins’ concerns about board powers are misplaced. With four African American representatives on the nine-member board Collins should be trying to consolidate a consensus among those members and developing a coalition with other members. The board’s four black members form a natural voting bloc based on racial and cultural commonalities. The effective use of that voting strength will be rendered useless if those members don’t use it effectively, he said.

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