D52 july 2019

School board member Ray Jackson, center, speaks to Superintendent Rex Ward, right, at Greenwood County School District 52’s July board meeting.

NINETY SIX — Although it was his first meeting as a trustee of Greenwood County School District 52, Jeff Chapman was far from quiet.

Chapman questioned the practice of not disclosing the names of teachers once the board has voted to approve their hiring as well as the superintendent’s recommendation that trustees approve purchasing uniforms for the marching band.

Chapman and trustee Bryan Green bested three other candidates, one of them an incumbent, in a May 14 election. Both were sworn in Tuesday.

At the meeting, Superintendent Rex Ward suggested using $50,000 from the capital projects fund to replace a damaged scoreboard and buy new uniforms for the district’s marching band, which is among the best in the state.

Chapman said the money would be better served and benefit more students if it were put towards Google Chromebooks, for example. He said he supported the recommendation to use the money to fix the scoreboard, which everybody in the district would benefit from.

Ward said it has been years since the band has received new uniforms. When they did more than a decade ago, they were told the district would finance the next batch of uniforms as well.

“No board can commit funds for a future board,” Chapman replied. He said the band’s booster club — which is “very well funded, and to their credit” — should pay for the uniforms.

Athletic booster clubs are required to purchase the sports teams’ uniforms, and Chapman said it would be unfair to exempt the band’s club from the same requirement.

“I love the band, I’m very proud of the band,” Chapman said. But suggesting the booster club pay for uniforms is “what I feel is fair and equitable to all the students in Ninety Six.”

At the suggestion of Houston Matthews, who had been elected the board’s new chairperson at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, the issue was tabled so that members of the band would have an opportunity to make their case for the money before the board.

Chapman also suggested, to promote transparency, that the district announce the names of new hires during board meetings.

Ward said the practice is unusual and wouldn’t give the new hires an opportunity to personally tell their employers that they are leaving.

Nevertheless, Ward said Wednesday morning that the district will begin naming new hires at board meetings. The district will also notify them that it would recommend their hiring in advance of the meetings at which the board would consider the recommendation, in order to give them an opportunity to tell their employers that they are decamping for District 52.

Chapman said he hit the ground running because he began attending board meetings as soon as he filed to run.

“I don’t have a certain agenda,” he said. “I wasn’t running against anybody. I just think if I came on board and was elected, my responsibility is to look after the best interests of students, staff, faculty and the taxpayers.”

Later in Tuesday’s meeting, the district’s chief financial officer, Sharon Setzer, told the board that the district would end up in a deficit for the year that had just ended, but not because it had spent more money than it received.

Trustees’ decision in January to move the 2017-18 school year’s $835,000 surplus from the fund balance into the capital projects accounts will appear as an expense in the 2018-19 budget despite the fact that the money has not yet been spent, Setzer said. She likened it to making a purchase with money from a savings account.

In other business, the district hired a new teacher, two cafeteria workers, a high school secretary and a part-time special education assistant.

Contact staff writer Aleks Gilbert at 864-943-5644.