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Copley, King discuss goals at Educated Voter Forum

Posted: June 6, 2014 2:44 p.m.
Updated: June 9, 2014 5:00 a.m.

An incumbent member of the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees and his immediate predecessor answered questions Thursday night during a forum at Camden High School. Dr. Don Copley, who currently holds Seat No. 8 on the school board and his challenger, Dr. Charles King, who is seeking to reclaim the seat, appeared at the forum sponsored by the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce and Kershaw County Teacher Forum.

Copley and King were first asked about how they feel Kershaw County Council should make decisions about district revenue and how the board and council should work together.

“I would favor and I would like our legislative delegation to give the school board the authority to address millage issues that concern the school board,” Copley said. “I’m a fiscal conservative. I don’t want to raise taxes on anyone. I pay enough taxes and I think most people pay enough taxes, but I think that whenever you’re elected to a position, you should be responsible to take credit or blame for raising taxes. So I think that the school board or school district should have that authority.”

Having said that, Copley added that he doesn’t expect the board to obtain taxing authority anytime in the near future.

“And I do understand why county council members who’ll take the blame for tax increases are reluctant to give us what we want … I think the best way to do that is to keep a dialogue open with county council,” Copley said.

King said he believes a “higher tier” of dialogue needs to take place with the legislative delegation to determine a better funding mechanism.

“So that we don’t start on that side of the funding for the school district with problematic issues,” King said. “Another thing I think would be important … would be to have a concerted effort made to meet with county council, to meet with folks that can make decisions regarding our fee structures and how the district receives money.”

The two candidates were asked how they would enlist support for a proposed bond issue to pay for Phase 2 of the district’s facilities equalization project, especially from conservative taxpayers or those with no children in public schools.

“Regarding the bond referendum, as I understand, the board is going to push that forward to be on the general ballot in the fall,” King replied. “That’s going to take place before I’m elected and it’s something I’ll have to work for regarding what the voters and constituency says. Regarding justification on how we spend our money, I have had folks in the past come to me and say ‘I don’t have kids in the schools. I’m on a limited income. How can I justify giving a large chunk of my income to the school district?’ I respond by saying, ‘Who takes your blood pressure at the doctor? Who reads your radiograph when you break a bone?’ … the students we produce from our education efforts … if we fund everything appropriately, it helps us all. We all benefit.”

Copley said he favors funding Phase 2 through a 1-cent sales tax increase rather than by increasing millage.

“I favor doing a priorities list for these changes that we’re making so that we can confine our spending to what that 1-cent sales tax produces,” Copley said. “I think what we need to do as a board is get out to the people in our districts and tell them what exactly went into the improvements being proposed in Phase 2 … it happens to be a time right now when interest rates are so low that we can practically have a bond issue with almost zero interest. We’ll probably never see that again. We can also benefit from construction costs which are lower now than they’ll probably be in the future. So I think it’s time to get this done and not keep coming back over and over again.”

King and Copley were then asked to describe the roles of trustees and the superintendent, and the “ideal relationship” between the board and superintendent.

“The superintendent is the intermediary, the segue from everyone under him -- employees, students, to the school board. It has to be a close working relationship. It will not work if there is not open dialogue … as a school board body, we cannot get involved in the day to day operations of the school district. Dr. Morgan is very adept at communicating. When I was on the board last time, sometimes I’d get weary of him calling me all the time, but I know that is a necessary thing to happen,” King said.

Copley said the board’s job is to select and evaluate the superintendent, deciding what to pay him and to give him direction.

“He’s there on a day to day basis to run that school board. We’re kind of the big picture people who say this is where we want to go as a community. We represent the citizens and we want you to direct the school system in the way that we’re telling you. Not to micromanage, but it is our responsibility to have an open door policy for all citizens,” Copley said.

When asked about the factors they would base their decisions as trustees, King said he asks four driving questions.

“Where have we been? Where are we now? Where do we want to go? And, how do we get there?” King said. “If I’m elected, I will operate on the same system and philosophy that I always keep. Every decision I make, the way I operate as a school board member … I have two overriding questions -- Is this in the best interest of our students? Is this in the best interest of our staff? If the answer is yes, we’re good to go. If not, we’ve got some due diligence to answer.”

Copley replied that he has taken a lot of interest in public education because of the level of interest he has taken in his own children.

“As a parent … my decisions are made on what I would want done with my children,” Copley said. “I want to give the same opportunities to the other children in the county, whether in the northern part or West Wateree, so my decisions are based on the children and the parents … the teachers are an integral part and the administrative staff. I promise to carefully analyze the data given me … and carefully evaluate it to make the best logical decisions.”

The chamber and teacher forum are also sponsoring a second school board forum for Seat No. 2 incumbent Nissary Wood and challenger Mark Sury. That forum takes place tonight at Blaney Elementary School in Elgin beginning at 6 p.m.

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