Bamberg School District One
Written by Mallory D. Biering   

"If you asked before last month's meeting, I would have said the board's recent actions were embarrassing. After last month's meeting I will amend my judgment and state the obvious: this board is broken and dysfunctional," said Bamberg School District One Board Member Chris Wallace. Wallace was placed on the agenda for the December BSD1 Board meeting and given the opportunity to speak, unlike previous meetings when he was limited to a time restraint by board chair, Rita Sease.

Sease tried to stop Wallace from speaking after he reached the so called "five minute limit" set by Sease. Wallace told Sease he was not done and continued speaking. "I do not enjoy saying that because I am part of this Board," Wallace said, referring to the "broken and dysfunctional" board he serves on. "The fact is that censorship passes for leadership, and if there is anything worse than censorship this board does not need to know about it."

Wallace continued to say, "Right now this board does not solve problems. It does not even ignore problems. It creates problems and disregards available resources." Wallace mentioned that Sease notified board members and BSD1 Superintendent Phyllis Schwarting via email that the December board meeting would be changed from Monday, December 16th to Tuesday, December 17th in order to accommodate BSD1 Board Member Kedra Rivers' schedule. "Protocol and decency would mandate that the other board members be asked if the new meeting date suited them, but instead we were told by Madam Chair when to meet. We would have had four members here last night and four members is a quorum, but I have learned that this board cannot function without Ms. Rivers. Everyone in here had to change their original plans, because one person on our board would be inconvenienced," said Wallace.

As Wallace came to the end of what he wanted to share with the board and present community members, he said, "Last month Madam Chair threatened to get the resource officer when teachers were not allowed to talk or ask questions. We as school board members are supposed to be servants and role models to our district employees. All good servants are humble toward those they are supposed to serve. I believe we should serve teachers, students, administrators, and taxpayers. We are accountable to each of them."

After Wallace finished speaking the media center echoed loudly with clapping from the audience. Richard Ness, who represents The Voices for Bamberg School District One, "a group of almost 300 concerned parents, teachers, and local community members," spoke.

Ness stated the mission of the group, "is to restore due process and integrity to all proceedings of the Bamberg School Board One, to ensure that all concerns are heard and valued, so that Bamberg School District One will continue to graduate highly educated, successful leaders."

Different policy codes were cited by Ness, pertaining to public trust, responsibility of public office, ethics, and rules of conduct. Ness made references to a "concerned citizen" who "observed disrespect by board members to other board members," and wrote about it in the local newspaper. Ness asked on behalf of the community that the board, "respectfully requests," them to review all the policies and procedures which they pledged to follow when they were elected.

Ness also said, "The fact there have been editorials or letters to the editor, in the last three editions of our local paper, the formation of the group for which I speak, and the crowd of citizens here tonight, hopefully demonstrates to this board there is great concern for the due process rights of speakers before the board at the meetings. The scrutiny of which your board is under, by the general public, should give you pause to realize what is demanded from our school board. But, it should also be pleasing to the board, the public cares about its school system. We want the democratic system to be alive and well in the efficient governing and operation of the school district for our teachers and students, as well as our community."

Jill Jeffords a teacher in BSD1 read aloud the importance of Bamberg School District One to the Bamberg community. Jeffords used her own experiences of being a product of the district, and coming back to the district to teach. Jeffords explained the need to focus on the students, and the necessity of keeping the district together in order to continue striving to be one of the best districts in the state.

After Jeffords finished, the floor was open to the public where community members, teachers, and church leaders made comments. Each person shared their story of how important BSD1 was to them and their families. Each person urged the board to listen to the majority, to represent the district as a group, and to move forward into the future doing the best for the students of BSD1.