Marlboro County School Board rescinds earlier vote for reconfiguration

Parents filled the media center at Marlboro County High School Monday night to hear what board members plan to do about a controversial reconfiguration plan

BENNETTSVILLE, SC (WBTW) – The Marlboro County School Board voted 5-2 Monday evening to rescind an earlier vote for reconfiguration. The school board says they will seek more input and consultation before moving forward.  Board members expressed that they acted too quickly when they originally voted in favor of the plan.

Earlier this month, the Marlboro County school board approved the reconfiguration of some grades during a special called meeting.  Last week, parents expressed their concerns over the grade changes at a public hearing.  At the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Helena Tillar took questions from parents who said they weren’t so sure about sending their young students to a high school setting.

The changes would have included:

  • Moving Blenheim students in grades Pre-K through 5th grade to Clio Elementary/Middle School
  • Moving 6th-8th graders in Clio and students at the School of Discovery to Blenheim Elementary/Middle School
  • Moving 3rd-5th graders from Bennettsville Intermediate School to Marlboro County High School

“It don’t make sense,” said an exasperated Anthony Johnson during the Monday’s meeting.

Johnson, a parent of four Marlboro County students, said he’s tired of last minute decisions.

“If there’s a problem with the school system, address it,” Johnson said. “It should have been addressed way before now. Don’t wait until now to talk about bringing in third, fourth, and fifth-graders out here with high school kids.”

“We listened to the information and got the impression that we need to do something immediately,” said school board chair Lucy Parsons. “That’s just not the case.”

Parsons said she felt the board didn’t get the whole picture when it made its original decision.

“We were then given additional information in executive session [after the vote] that would have been a game-changer in terms of our decision.

During a long public hearing Monday night, many parents questioned whether the board had students’ best interests in mind.

“When it comes to my kids’ education, I want them to get the best education,” Johnson explained. “If being bullied by a high school kid is going to affect my kids’ education, no; I don’t want my kids here with high school kids.”

Parsons assured parents and her fellow board members that the board would take the right steps in the future to figure out a plan that works for the good of all students and the district.

“I’ve tried to tell people for the last month that if they would just stay calm, we would get this turned around, look at it again, and try to come up with a better decision,” Parson said.

News13 asked Parsons what role the state’s study on district efficiency released in April had on Monday’s decision.

“Those people were only here three days,” Parsons said. “They could not in the three days have looked at the buildings in that much depth.”

She said the bottom line is that the school board bears the responsibility when it comes to repairing damaged buildings and educating Marlboro County’s children.

Chairwoman Parsons said those repairs should have been made along the way. She said she is upset that Superintendent Tillar is now asking for new schools instead of looking for ways to fix the old ones.

School board members plan to hire a consultant to look at better options for housing students and making those needed upgrades.