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Charleston County School District: Show Me The Money!
10/21/2015 6:10:01 PM

By Beverly Gadson-Birch 

So much attention has been focused on the flooding around Charleston during the last couple of weeks that locals have had little time to concentrate on anything else. Families are still out of their homes and insurance companies are offering little relief. However, during this very disturbing time, there is more disturbing news on the horizon and not enough public attention is being focused on the $18 million dollars shortfall in the district. Michael Bobby, Chief Financial Officer, served the district in a dual capacity during the search for a new Superintendent to replace Superintendent Nancy McGinley. The Board is frantically trying to get to the bottom of the shortfall while putting in place a hiring freeze and cutting back on out-of-district travel.

It was a bad move in the beginning to place the shared responsibility of running the district and managing the district’s finances in the hands of Chief Financial Officer, Michael Bobby. Each position carries an enormous amount of accountability and responsibilities. The dual appointments were very controversial and met with strong public outcry. The Board rushed to judgement in appointing Michael Bobby and Dr. Lisa Herring to share the responsibilities in wake of the forced out resignation of Dr. McGinley without thinking long term on how it would impact Bobby’s ability to juggle both positions. The appointment of Michael Bobby and Dr. Herring to head up the district may be old news but relevant to the district’s operation and shortfall. Dr. Herring was the most qualified person to head up the district until a replacement could be found. The Board did a disservice to Dr. Herring in not rewarding her for her hard work and dedication to the district and to Michael Bobby in placing added responsibilities on his plate to run the district. From my perspective, Michael Bobby was the acting superintendent and Dr. Herring was the “gofer”. It was a relationship doomed for failure. Dr. Herring was never comfortable in her shared role and rightfully so.

The Board finds itself dealing with an $18 million dollar shortfall. This is what happens when you take your eyes of the prize. Instead of focusing on the best educational practices for children and the finances of the district, the Board got caught up in a bunch of wheeling and backdoor dealing. While the Board was creating chaos throughout the county with one wrong decision after another, the fox got into the henhouse. While the hens were squawking with the fox in the henhouse, no one at the district office seemed to be talking. You can call it karma, pie in the face, what goes around comes around, what you do behind closed doors will come to light or any other metaphor but it all boils down to who was watching the finances and who was watching the Board. The Board has not been good stewards of taxpayers’ money and seems to have an bottomless purse when it comes to certain schools. The majority Board continues to make poor decisions because they have lost focus of their mission. It’s time for an independent audit of the entire district’s operations.

Now that the district is going to have to make that money up somewhere, deep cuts are anticipated. It is going to be interesting to see where those cuts are made. If the Board’s past actions are any indication of how they will move forward, the cuts will impact those that can least afford them.

The cuts are coming at a really bad time. While families are still reeling from the devastation of the recent flooding and many are still displaced from their homes, they may just find themselves taking a pay cut or displaced from their jobs. Although some school officials do not think the cuts will drastically impact staff, I am hopeful that this will not be the case. Employees that are more often displaced are the blue collar workers. Some folks commonly refer to lower tier employees as nonessential. The ones doing the most work are the ones referred to as “nonessential”. Give me a break!!

And I say to the Board, just do the right thing!

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