For years, Bobby Chandler must have felt like a lone voice in the wilderness.

The retired school teacher has been one of the few people with the knowledge, and the will, to openly challenge the way the Horry County Board of Education conducts itself.

With the election of a new school board chairman, Chandler may finally have an audience.

Ken Richardson, who took the oath of office as school board chairman earlier this week, has said he is leaning toward going back to the traditional way of running the school board.

Doing so would be an important step in returning control of the school district to the people.

In 2000, the board of education adopted a new way of conducting school district business when it adopted “coherent governance.”

Under this type of system, the school board sets policy and turns over the day-to-day operation of the school district to the superintendent of education.

The idea behind this form of government is for the board of education to sets goals and objectives for the school district. formulate policy and let the school district’s CEO (superintendent) run things.

It sounds good on paper, but in reality coherent governance gives the superintendent far too much power. Coherent governance discourages transparency in government because it gives the superintendent and his staff wide latitude to make decisions out of the view of the board, as well as out of the view of the public.

Under the current way of doing things, the superintendent of education is the board of education’s only employee.

Thus, the board becomes insulated from complaints and concerns from teachers because all of their input must flow through the superintendent and his minions.

I have talked with teachers and parents who perceive the board of education as being removed and unresponsive to their concerns. I blame this on the coherent governance model.

According to Chandler, only two school districts in South Carolina operate under coherent governance. Horry County is one of those districts.

The new chairman has an opportunity to push for a return to traditional ways of running the business of public education. I understand several members of the board would also like to see such a change.

I believe Richardson should make this one of his top priorities.

Let’s toss coherent governance out and return to traditional governance. Doing so will restore power to the board of education, making it responsible for the tough decisions being made by a superintendent who does not answer directly to the electorate.

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Steve Robertson is owner and publisher of the Waccamaw Publishers family of community newspapers

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