Garris a surprise winner as Lexington School District One elects three new members to board of trust
Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – The citizens of Lexington School District One, the largest school district in the county, voted in three new board members to replace three incumbents who did not file for re-election. Those incumbent members retiring were current Chairperson Debra Knight, Dr. Brad Pitts, and Sandra Backman. The three new members elected Tuesday were retired principal Tim Oswald, with 17,761 votes, Dr. Kyle Guyton, who received 15,902 of the total votes cast, and Jada Garris with 15,225 votes after the ballots were counted. Chris Rice received enough votes to make him fourth, but not enough to be seated on the board.
This was an interesting race in that on the same ballot was a bond referendum for a 5-year building plan that would cost $365-million-dollars. This was a hot-button issue that drew a lot of passion from both sides. The outgoing board members were on the panel when several moves were made that cast a questionable light on the way that the district spent money. The Pelion land deal was one such issue that brought unwanted negative scrutiny on the current board. In that situation, the district bought a parcel of property for the new Pelion Middle School for seven times above its current assessed value. The purchase was made from a former board member who had also worked for and retired from the district as the principal at Pelion High School. A board member later said they were shocked and unprepared for the backlash they received after that purchase which they have described as the perfect piece of property for that school.
Several candidates were considered political outsiders but were very popular with the VOTE NO BOND factions that arose. Jada Garris, a resident of Gilbert and former bus driver for the district, has long been considered a thorn in their side by the board. She asks lots of questions, regularly attends board meetings, and has sued the district for information after she says they stonewalled her perfectly legal request for documents and figures. It’s important to note that if she wins her suit, she will not be financially compensated for anything other than her legal bills. Garris ran last summer for a special seat that opened when another member of the board resigned. Her underfunded campaign didn’t get off the ground then and Dr. Brent Powers was elected. He had served on the board before but had lost his seat in the previous general election.