By Barney Blakeney
Charleston County School Board last month elected two-term member Rev. Eric Mack board chair. Mack ascends to the board’s chairmanship as tumultuous activity advocating change occurs. Mack said he sees that change coming and is committed to making it happen.
In a Tuesday interview, Mack said, “I definitely see change coming. Starting more than two years ago we began to make commitments. So when we did the budget last year we included funding for the Clemson study (“Inclusion and Equity Report: How Much Do We Care?”) and money to facilitate responses to its findings. The question now is what we do with those findings.”
Mack was re-elected to a second term in November. He initially was elected to the county’s consolidated school board in 2014 and previously served 12 years on the Constituent District 9 School Board. He is pastor at Bethany Baptist Church in downtown Charleston and is a data coordinator for the Medical University of South Carolina.
Mack takes the helm on the board as the Clemson study as well as previous studies recommended structural changes in the district’s governance. Among its findings the Clemson study recommended making school district governance more efficient, accountable and credible. As one of three incumbent candidates to win in the November elections, Mack said he feels the voters spoke saying they have confidence those elected can make a difference leading to change.
As for Charleston County’s unique dual consolidated/constituent board structure, Mack said addressing that issue is up to state legislators. The consolidated board sets district policy while the eight constituent boards set school attendance lines, rule on student discipline action and decide on student transfers. The Clemson report described the consolidated school board in a word – “dysfunctional”. It described the role of constituent boards as – “unclear”. Transparency was the report’s outstanding concern about the district’s administration.
In that environment Mack maintains positive change will occur. Some proposed rigorous initiatives assure it, he said. November 26 the board approved nine goals to make those changes. Asked hasn’t the board been there and done that, Mack replied, “Working together change can happen.”
He added, “I look forward to working with individuals and others to help move student achievement forward. We need the peoples’ voices to make decisions about how to do that. It takes a village to raise a child and we’re looking for help,” he said.