Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) – House members of the Lexington County Legislative Delegation have filed a bill in their chamber to change the way that residents of Lexington School District One elect their school board. Currently, the board that leads the district is elected at large. That means that people from across the district can select all seven board members regardless of where the candidates or the voter lives as long as they live inside the district. The problem with this is, the areas that are the most heavily populated like Lexington, could in theory select all the leadership of the board. Meanwhile, the people in the more rural areas that have fewer people and voters, could always be outvoted. That is why some people think that the way the board is selected needs to be redone.
The bill that has been introduced would change the way the citizens of the district elect their school board beginning with the 2020 election. During that election, Lexington County School District One would have a reconstituted board of trustees with seven members as it has now. However, in the new method, there would be one elected from each of the district's five high school attendance areas for a total of five members. The remaining two members would still be elected at-large from across Lexington School District One. Here’s a look at how the new board would be made up.
Seat 1, Gilbert High School attendance area would have one board member
Seat 2, Lexington High School attendance area would have one board member
Seat 3, Pelion High School attendance area would have one board member
Seat 4, River Bluff High School attendance area would have one board member
Seat 5, White Knoll High School attendance area would have one board member
Seat 6, the District 1 at-large seat receiving the lowest vote total in the 2020 school district election
Seat 7, the District 1 at-large seat receiving the highest vote total in the 2020 school district election
This would give each of the areas of the five high schools a guaranteed representative on the school board. In order to be elected to serve one of those five areas, the candidate would have to be a legal resident of the high school attendance area he is running for and meet all other eligibility requirements to hold a public office. Board members may succeed themselves meaning that there would be no term limits. This new bill wouldn't limit how many times you could run or years you could serve in the area that you represent. If you move out of the attendance area you were elected in, you would no longer be eligible to serve and would need to resign. If you moved into another attendance area in Lexington One, you could run for that seat at the next election or if it came open prior to an election.
The bill says that beginning in 2020, the members of the board must be elected at nonpartisan elections to be conducted at the same time as the general election. Nonpartisan means you do not have to declare as a Republican or a Democrat to run. Members of the board would serve four-year terms. Again, they could run again with no term limits.
There is an exception to the four-year term right at the beginning of the new process. After the 2020 election when all seven members are selected, the person elected to seat numbers 2, 4, and 6 will serve an initial two-year term that expire in November 2022. Whoever is elected in 2022 will serve full four-year terms. The members elected to seat numbers 1, 3, 5, and 7 in 2020 terms will expire in November 2024. When their successors are elected in 2024, the terms for those seats will revert to four years. This will stagger the board members’ elections so that there’s never a point where the whole board could be ousted at once leaving no one with experience to help govern the district.
In the event of a vacancy on the board occurring for any reason other than the expiration of a term, the vacancy must be filled for the unexpired term through appointment by the county legislative delegation.
If you would like to voice your opinion one way or another regarding this change, contact the members of the Lexington County Legislative Delegation. You can find their names and e-mail addresses by following this link and scrolling down the page: Legislative Delegation Emails