CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Empty seats at workshops are unacceptable. That's the underlying theme of a recent letter sent by Charleston County School District Superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley sent to the homes of board members.
In the two-page letter, McGinley states, "the benefit of workshops is minimal due to low and/or sporadic attendance."
At an April 10th workshop, which featured a presentation on school security, only two of the nine school board members were present.
"It is nonproductive, unfair to staff and board members, and most importantly, does nothing to make schools more effective for students," McGinley said in the note.
Board member Todd Garrett said he was "embarrassed" when he received the letter, which he referred to as overdue.
"Because we're not fully participating, it's a waste of taxpayer dollars," he said.
Some school board members cited the length of the workshops for a possible reason for low attendance. The monthly workshops can be up to seven hours long.
"The attendance starts with five or six people and by the end of the day, it can be down to three people," board member John Barter said. "It's a very dedicated group, but attendance tells us that what we're doing now just isn't working."
Each board member receives a per diem of $25 per scheduled meeting. Berkeley County School District and Dorchester District II board members each receive a stipend of $600 per month.
"We come downtown and basically spend our whole day there, so if you're working, you take off from work, or if you're running a small business, you shut down," board member Rev. Chris Collins said. "It's a financial loss for the whole day."
Collins, who owns Charleston Appliances, says he must close his business for the duration of all school board meetings.
In a written statement, Executive Director of Strategy and Communications Erica S. Taylor said, "The intent of the letter was to engage the board in thinking about new and more effective ways to utilize scarce time and resources … Preparing our Board for the important decisions they must make regarding our students, parents and staff continues to be our ultimate goal."