New leaders for Richmond school board

New president says budget will be focus

The Richmond County Board of Education elected new leaders at its reorganization meeting Saturday morning.

District 3 board member Alex Howard was unanimously elected president of the board, and District 9 member Venus Cain was elected vice president, eventually also by a unanimous vote.

Howard was vice president, and District 1 board member Marion Barnes ended his two-year term as president, with the Saturday meeting being the last one he led.

After the meeting, Howard and Cain spoke of the challenges they and the school district will face in the next two years, with money being the top issue.

"Our main focus is going to be our budget, considering the fact that we've been significantly cut in the last three years and it's going to continue to be that way," Howard said. "That's our primary concern. Second concern we're going to kind of look at is our transportation issues we've had. We've got a shortage of workers. We've got some, obviously, some disgruntled workers there as well, and parents are upset because their children are arriving hours late. So I think that's something we need to fix, definitely."

A third area of focus, he said, is the upcoming Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which could be ready for a board vote this spring and for a public vote later in the year. District staff and Columbia architectural firm Hanscomb/GMK are developing the list of projects a 1-cent sales tax could fund.

The board took two votes for its vice president. Barnes nominated Cain, and District 5 member Patsy Scott nominated District 4 member Barbara Pulliam.

In the first vote, Cain received seven votes, and Pulliam received two -- from herself and Scott. District 7 member Frank Dolan was absent.

Then District 8 member Jimmy Atkins called for a revote so Cain could receive unanimous support. The board obliged. Cain said afterward that she appreciated the confidence her fellow board members placed in her.

"What I plan to do is work in conjunction with the president to make sure we still have smooth board meetings and that the will of the board is carried out," she said.

Before the end of the roughly 10-minute meeting, Barnes thanked district administrators and his fellow board members for their support during his two years as president and endorsed the board's new leaders.

"I appreciate being able to serve you in the last two years," Barnes said. "I think we accomplished a lot of things. You are the most cooperative board I believe we have had. ... We have had less friction. We didn't always agree, but we disagreed agreeably. I hope you will support these two people as well as you did me. You've got two tremendous leaders here in Ms. Cain and Mr. Howard."

Atkins, who served as board president from 2006 to 2008, passed along a wish for Howard.

"Four years ago, Mr. Barnes, when we were sitting here and you gave the gavel over to me, you said what I want to say to Mr. Howard," Atkins said. "Good look. You're gonna need it."

In other business

The school board chose to keep the dates and times of the meetings the same as they have been in the past two years.

- Committee meetings, second Tuesday, 4 p.m.

- Regular board meetings, third Tuesday, 6 p.m.

Next, the board will hold committee meetings starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the board room at district headquarters, 864 Broad St.

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