Our view

New school policy generates controversy

March 31, 2014 

  • In summary

    The new policy is a straightforward effort to head off potential conflicts of interest before they become a problem and to make sure that official policy reflects that intent.

The Rock Hill school board made the right decision, we think, in officially barring district employees from serving as officers for non-school sponsored support organizations such as booster clubs and PTOs. The new rule should significantly lower the risk for a conflict of interest on the part of employees.

This is not an entirely new policy for the district. Current guidelines say district employees should not be organization officers, such as a president or treasurer, because of potential conflict of interest in handling money that helps pay for school activities.

A vote on March 24 to approve the rule on second hearing established the guidelines as official district policy. The change in policy was recommended by both the administration and the district’s auditors.

Some critics, including members of local band booster organizations, objected to the new rule, saying it was overly broad and should be rewritten. But, as board chairman Jim Vining noted, while the wording could be changed, the provision barring school employees from holding office “is not a negotiable point.”

Steve Crocker, president of Northwestern High School’s Band Boosters, speaking at the board meeting, said that without district employees serving as officers, only a handful of people would be willing to serve because so many employees are heavily involved in the booster organization. But this policy doesn’t prevent employees from being involved, even heavily involved, in these organizations; it merely forbids them from holding offices whose duties include dealing with money.

And if only a handful of parents or other members of the community are willing to step up and assume those official duties, that reflects poorly on the boosters. It’s not the fault of the district or this policy that non-employees are reluctant to take over as president or treasurer of a booster club.

We are puzzled as to why this policy change generated so much controversy. It’s a straightforward effort to head off potential conflicts of interest before they become a problem, and to make sure that official policy reflects that intent.

And yet board member Walter Brown said this policy has drawn more attention than any other in his 14 years on the board.

“It’s a shame that something like this can create so much response when things that affect children and the district more than this will draw very little attention,” Brown said.

Amen to that.

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