UNION — A dispute over whether a woman’s comment should be heard in executive session by the school board resulted in the issue being tabled until legal counsel could be present.
Jessica Sherbert was on the agenda to speak at the Monday meeting of the Union County Board of School Trustees regarding inconsistent district policies. Since an executive session was scheduled for later in the meeting to discuss contractual matters, it was suggested that Sherbert’s comments be made at that time. Members of the news media objected, stating that the subject of Sherbert’s speech — district policies — is not one which allowed for executive session by law.
Board members said they were advised to discuss matters in executive session which would involve naming specific employees or their job titles. In the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, Section 30-4-70, the first purpose listed for Executive Session is “discussion of employment matters related to an employee.”
Sherbert said she would prefer her comments to be public rather than private. Board members then decided with a vote of 6-2 to table the public comments until legal representation could be present. The board then entered into executive session to discuss updates regarding a contractual issue.
After returning from executive session, Board Chair B.J. McMorris apologized to Sherbert and told her she was welcome to comment publicly as scheduled, as long as she did not name names or job titles. Sherbert said that was not included in guidelines she received by mail from the district. McMorris then told her she was welcome to discuss it with the board in executive session, but Sherbert declined.
“A lawyer has now advised us to wait until next time since you have already tabled it,” Sherbert said.
Blue Steel, Monarch Elementary School’s steel drum band, performed at the beginning of the meeting. Principal Anita Maness introduced the band — led by music teacher Charis Murphy — and pointed out that the steel drums were purchased by the MES P.T.O. The group performed two songs.
In other business, the board voted unanimously to reallocate around $50,000 — out of $400,000 allocated for building — to buy refurbished computers for Union County High School. The amount includes the machines as well as office licensing.
Finance Director Lynn Lawson pointed out that the district entered into a lease agreement in 2005-2006 in which 500 computers were purchased, 400 of which went to Union County High School. The agreement included replacements and upgrades on a regular basis, but Lawson said due to budget cuts during that time, the district had no choice but to forgo the lease program.
“The problem we have right now is the PCs we are using now are seven years old, and they are painfully slow,” Lawson said.
Getting the refurbished machines would make it easier for teachers to use their classroom smartboards and download lesson materials.
Technology Director Tim Barnado said the machines will be Dell equipment, and the vendor will include a warranty for as long as the district owns the machines, a parts closet with spare parts for repairs and a buyback program.
“We can’t get that anywhere else,” Barnado said.
Charles Talbert of the McAbee, Talbert, Halliday & Co. accounting firm also presented financial statements and supplementary information to the board. Talbert provided board members with copies of a financial package, which included the following highlights for FY 2011-2012:
- The assets of the district exceeded its liabilities at the close of the recent fiscal year by $13,983,395. Of this amount, $13,983,395 may be used to meet the district’s ongoing obligations to citizens and creditors.
- At the end of the current fiscal year, the unreserved and undesignated fund balance for the General Fund was $1,813,786.
- The district’s total bonded debt decreased from $41,494,136 to $40,294,598 during the current fiscal year. Long-term debt of $177,236 existed from execution of a Lease Purchase Agreement for technology projects approved under the Qualified Zone Academy Bond program. Original liability of $755,000 was reduced during FY 2012 by $18,075 in trust earnings. A loan payable balance of $26,077 existed from an interest free project loan through the South Carolina Energy Office.
- Long-term debt of $39,855,000 also existed from execution of an Installment Purchase Revenue agreement with the SCAGO Educational Facilities Corporation (EFC) for Union School District. The EFC issued $44,215,000 in bonds to build Jonesville Elementary/Middle School, Sims Middle School and improvements to Union County High School. The district will issue a General Obligation Bond of approximately $3,000,000 annually through 2030 to meet the district’s installment revenue obligation to the EFC.
- Real and personal property value for the 2011 tax year (the basis for FY 2012 tax levy) was $70,753,716, an increase of $5,857,705 from the prior year.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.