Longtime Rock Hill school board member Jim Vining says a board member’s job is to evaluate and guide the superintendent in running schools successfully.
It’s not an easy job, Vining says, but one he has held for two decades.
Vining has served on the school board since 1998. He announced at the Feb. 26 board meeting that he would not run for re-election.
Vining’s last school board meeting as a board member was Monday.
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Vining said earlier this year that he wants to spend time with his wife and three grandsons.
“If you’re going to run, you need to be committed to meeting those obligations,” he said. “It’s the perfect opportunity for the person who is me 20 years ago who is community minded and interested in schools to step up and bring a new voice to the board.”
Candidates for the Rock Hill school board have started their campaigns, hoping to also make a difference. The election is Nov. 6.
When Vining first ran, it wasn’t because of a calling but because of two board members encouraging him. Vining, who at that time had children in Rock Hill schools, was a member of Sullivan Middle School’s Parent-Teacher Organization and School Improvement Council. He also served on Northwestern High School’s improvement council.
School board member Helena Miller said Vining has continued to be an advocate for School Improvement Councils, which include teachers, parents, students and community members.
“One of the things that stands out and where Jim has made the biggest impact is his dedication to parental involvement and community relationships,” Miller said. “He has been a big advocate for the SIC’s and that their role in the school district truly is important.”
Rock Hill parent Kelly Scott said she met Vining five years ago.
“He made me feel like my thoughts and concerns as a parent were very important to him and the other board members,” Scott wrote in an email to The Herald. “He asked me questions and then asked for my feedback and suggestions. I felt like we were all working together, the parents, the district, the school board members and the community as a whole to accomplish what was best for the students in our district.”
Vining said he learned being a board member means representing the community and working as a team to create policy to support the superintendent in running the district.
“The general public has been supportive of education and that makes being a school board member a lot easier,” Vining said. “When you have community support, it’s not so tough to make those decisions.”
Vining said Rock Hill’s board members have a history of supporting superintendents in initiatives such as school choice.
“It takes innovative superintendents to bring issues forward and it takes a board that is willing to think a little outside the box to realize the potential,” Vining said. “We had superintendents who wanted to make education special in our community and had a board who have been supportive of those superintendents.”
Vining said the Rock Hill board also has supported hiring the district’s first minority and female superintendents.
“When you do those things as a board, you encourage diversity,” he said.
Vining has served as a board member through the hiring of multiple superintendents, the successful passing of bond referendums, the growth of the district and building of new schools and changes in education and the community, Miller said. She said he also has served on committees and is active in his church.
“Jim has been a force to be reckoned with in Rock Hill,” Miller said. “Where our district is today versus where we were 20 years ago, it’s not the same place.”
Miller said during Vining’s time on the board, the district has established successful language immersion and Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, or STEAM, programs. She said the success is due to board members supporting superintendents with new ideas.
“The superintendent that our district hires is what shapes the district,” she said. “It’s thanks to innovative school board members who had the guts to take a leap of faith to go with programs like that, that we are sitting where we are at today.”
Vining said the accomplishments can’t be credited to one board member, but the board as a whole.
“The individual board member has no authority,” he said. “Nothing happens unless the majority of the board goes with you.”
Miller said Vining’s absence will be noticed.
“Sometimes our job is very difficult, but he has always kept the focus on what is really important, which is the kids,” Miller said.
Jane Sharp, who has served on the school board for eight years, also announced she would not go for re-election. Her last board meeting was also Monday.
“It’s been very challenging and very enjoyable working with so many people whose only job is to make sure our children are learning,” Sharp said earlier this year.
Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082; @amanda_d_harris