Three long-term incumbents are being challenged in the non-partisan Aiken County School Board race. Although the challengers have some valid complaints, such as the board spends nearly 60 percent of its time in executive (secret) session, we don't think the fault-finding rises to the level where voters should oust three experienced trustees.
For years, the board - which governs 37 schools in a geographic area larger than Rhode Island - quarreled and fought and nearly came apart. But since hiring Linda Eldridge as school superintendent in 1995, the board has started to pull together under the chairmanship of trustee John Bradley.
No one should want to go back to the bad old days of rancor and divisiveness which we feel might happen if dissidents are elected to the board.
Although the schools still have a long row to hoe, they are certainly improving: the school system has won a host of national and state awards; 98 percent of seniors meet graduation requirements; SAT scores for college-bound seniors are well above the national average; progress is being made in reducing pupil-teacher ratios in grades one through three and in implementing full-day kindergarten programs. In comparison to most other South Carolina school districts, Aiken County's is doing very well.
And all this is being done in a district that's allowed taxes to rise only to keep pace with inflation or to fulfill unfunded mandates. In fact, Aiken County ranks last in the state in per student expenditures - $4,769 compared to the state average of $5,556.
That's a pretty good bang for the buck and is the reason we recommend reelecting to the school board INEASE WILLIAMSON, District 1; JACK HUNTER, District 9; and Chairman JOHN BRADLEY, District 8.