Charleston County School District hires lobbyist as lawmakers consider bill to unseat board

VIDEO: Charleston County School District hires lobbyist as lawmakers consider bill to unseat board

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District entered a contract with The Campbell Consulting Group on Jan. 24, 2020, just days before state representatives passed a bill that would dramatically change how school board members are elected.

The district is paying the lobbyist a monthly retainer of $6,750. The contract is set to expire on June 30, 2020, and it’s not to exceed $40,500.

Among the jobs listed in his contract, which was obtained from a request through the Freedom of Information Act, he is to identify state legislation of interest to the district, monitor action on these initiatives, and advocate the district’s interest when appropriate.

The contract was signed more than a month after lawmakers announced their plans to file a bill that would make all the school board members run for re-election in November. The bill then passed unanimously in the House in January and now sits in the Senate where its future is unclear.

If passed, it would make all school board members run in the same districts as their county council member instead of running for a county-wide seat. This would, in effect, make them all run this November, even though several of their terms are not up for another two years.

The contract, which is set to end on June 30, also has a “period of performance” section written above the scope of work. It stated that period is from Jan. 2020 to Dec. 2020.

Contractor Darrell Campbell is also assigned to review all existing and proposed state policies, programs, and legislation that affect the district, monitor the Charleston County Legislative Delegation meetings, and coordinate meetings between the school board and the state legislative members, congressional leaders, and S.C. Department of Education.

“CCSD hired me on a number of issues that the district had interest, including the closing of rural schools, SC Ed Reform is a major piece that was debated over eight weeks, Schools of Innovation, Education Oversight, and a host of legislation that we track and monitor for the district that either impacts the local district or general bills that are state wide that impact CCSD,” Campbell said. “There is a lot of ground to cover whether in communicating with the local delegation or other House and Senate Education committee members across the state.”

Board Chair Rev. Dr. Eric Mack said the decision to hire Campbell came after the board saw “an unusually heavy amount of legislative activity that could impact CCSD.”

“On top of the state education reform bill, there was a large amount of local legislation either filed or being considered for filing by our delegation members,” Mack said. “In meetings with delegation members and in discussion with them, it became obvious that we could not provide the level of ongoing interaction needed with the entire Charleston delegation in Columbia while the Board was in Charleston. We had been asked for more involvement with the delegation, so having someone serve as our legislative liaison seems like the most effective way to ensure consistent and constant lines of communication. Darrell Campbell is highly respected and viewed as an expert in the field of legislative issues and has been a tremendous help serving in his role since January.”

A school district spokesperson was planning to go on camera to talk about the contract but has since declined to do so.

Dorchester School District Two spokesperson Pat Raynor and Berkeley County School District spokesperson Katie Tanner both said their districts do not have a lobbyist working for them.

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