Friday, July 12, 2013

Brian Hicks Needs New Title: Former Columnist

When the Charleston County School Board voted to allow member Chris Collins's church to rent the vacant Charlestowne Academy, it followed a pattern of conflict of interest observed throughout its years. Collins didn't create the conflict.

In fact, no one questioned the Healing and Deliverance Church's lease fulfillment until someone tipped off administrators last fall that Collins had allowed a group interested in forming a charter school to meet at the building. We all know how Superintendent McGinley feels about new charter schools. She cowed the Board into voting against lease renewal in November.

The lease expired in June, but the district accepted Collins's check for the July rent, thus signifying its acceptance of another month of use by the church. 

Suggesting that Collins should have recused himself or expressed no opinions regarding Montessori at Hursey Elementary because his children attend the school is so egregious as to almost beggar belief. If school board members in the past had done so, no Buist Academy or Academic Magnet would exist, since they were pushed through for the use of former school board member Gregg Meyers's children and the children of many other members.. Evidently, only black board members should refrain from stating opinions.

No other entity has expressed an interest in renting the building for any amount of time. The rent paid by Collins's church is the only offset to its $40,000 per year cost of upkeep. Certainly the superintendent has no plans to offer the building for use by a charter school.

Chris Collins certainly has faults in the ways he has dealt with the situation; however, he is a duly elected member of the board trying to represent his constituents. 

Who elected Brian Hicks columnist? What are his qualifications to judge?


Anonymous said...

Bottom line: Collins, or anybody else, who sits in his position on a cchool board and then rents from CCSD while, oh, by the way, only occasionally paying the rent on time, represents a gross conflict of interest. Charter school meetings have nothing to do with it. Nothing.

D20 said...

Given all the other "sweetheart" deals involving CCSD administrators (not just board members), perhaps an independent audit of the entire system is in order. Oh, but that's already been proposed...and effectively blocked by the superintendent, the chief financial officer and the director of facilities. These are the very people who would be most vulnerable should significant waste be uncovered by such an audit.

How about the pending litigation involving the outsourced service employees? The CFO promised dumping these employees onto privately contracted firms would save the district tons of money. Now that hundreds of former CCSD employees have been reduced to minimum wage slaves, has anyone bothered to verify the savings? What are the law suits involving the stiffed former employees costing local taxpayers? Who decided what contracts and private businesses deserved CCSD's exclusive patronage? What are these no-bid contracts costing CCSD? Why no competative bids?

We easily forget that Greg Mathis Charter School initially asked to use the vacant campus now occupied by this church, but a previous board, following the superintendent's recommendation, voted that proposal down. Only months later did many of the same board members vote to grant a lease to the church, one that was headed by a newly elected board member. Perhaps this was to use as bait for later. There are many churches leasing CCSD properties, but why only this one was voted on by the board? Perhaps it was bait for all 9 board members to be used by the administration to make the entire board look bad.

Because of the superintendent's game baiting the board, Greg Mathis school trustees were ultimately forced to find a private facility elsewhere at a heafty cost in rent. They rightly sued CCSD for rental support since the superintendent and the board at the time denied the school use of one of the district's many vacant properties. The courts heard the case and agreed. Because of the petty politics of the superintendent and the county board, CCSD is now forced to pay for half the charter school's rent expense.

The cost of mantaining the former Charlestowne Academy facility is actually more than district officials admit. It should include the cost of paying half of the rent for Gregg Mathis using a commercial building on Azalea Rd. This could have all been avoided if the county board had voted to allow Gregg Mathis to occupy the old Charlestowne Academy campus when they asked. If they had, the total cost of maintaining the vacant school would have been part of the charter school's operating expense. CCSD would be at least $47,000 a year richer, too.

The tale is much deeper than Brian Hicks has gone with his column. The story of this church is a distraction. The real story should be about an independent performance audit of the entire system, the people who are arguing against it and those who are being enriched without any accountability.