FLORENCE, S.C. – It took nearly a half-an-hour for Florence One Schools board members to agree upon and approve an agenda for Monday's caucus meeting.
As a matter of procedure, the board must approve the meeting agenda before taking action upon anything.
Board Chairman Barry Townsend called for a motion to approve the agenda after a moment of silence, and board member Porter Stewart led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Then, board member Alexis Pipkins raised a point of order.
Points of order are when someone asks if the correct procedure is being followed.
Pipkins was concerned that he had requested a discussion of a management audit at the last board meeting and that the audit or any discussion of it was absent from the night’s agenda.
During the discussion, Townsend overruled Pipkins’ first point of order, but Pipkins attempted to appeal before a discussion began between Pipkins and board attorney William F. “Bick” Halligan.
Pipkins asked Halligan about how items were placed on the agenda and whose decision it was what items get placed on the agenda.
At one point, Halligan explained that once the agenda is developed by Townsend as chairman in conjunction with Superintendent Richard O’Malley, the board must approve the agenda for the items upon it to become actionable.
The discussion between Pipkins and Halligan went on for some time, during which Pipkins attempted to raise another point of order. Pipkins also attempted to quote Robert's Rules of Order and read an excerpt of an article from South Carolina Press Association legal counsel Jay Bender about a superintendent in Lexington County denying a board member access to requested information.
Townsend appeared frustrated with Pipkins, saying if Pipkins wanted discussion of a management audit on the agenda, he should make a motion to amend the agenda to include it.
Pipkins never made a motion.
Townsend added that it was 7:16 and the board hadn’t even approved the agenda yet.
Board member E.J. McIver asked if two employees that the board had requested to be at the meeting were at the meeting.
Townsend seemed frustrated again.
He reminded McIver that the board has a policy of not discussing personnel in open session, especially since McIver had used the names of the employees when he asked his question.
McIver responded that he hoped and prayed the employees would be there for the executive session.
Then, Pipkins raised another point of order regarding the use of the word “approve” on the agenda for five items. He said he was concerned that their was no motion included to not approve the items.
Again, Townsend appeared frustrated with Pipkins, saying that the board had done it that way for the six years he had been on the board. Townsend added that Pipkins had never had a problem with that until Monday’s meeting.
The attorney explained that a motion to not approve the items would just be a no vote and a prepared written motion was unnecessary.
Townsend added that it was 7:22 and the board hadn’t even got started yet.
Pipkins also raised concerns about the placement of board officer elections at the end of the agenda.
Townsend replied that the new officers, if any were elected, would not take office until July, so the placement on the agenda did not matter.
Pipkins ultimately withdrew his point of order.
Townsend called again for a motion to approve the agenda.
Board member Trisha Caulder made the motion and it was seconded.
The board then voted to approve the agenda, 7-2, with Pipkins and McIver voting against approval of the agenda.
Then, the board received a check from The School Foundation for more than $145,000 and paused to recognize the South Florence High School’s School Improvement Council for winning a state award.
Shortly thereafter, the board approved a motion to enter executive session and moved Monday’s meeting to the Caudler Auditorium at the Poyner Adult Education Center due to overcrowding in the John T. Sullivan Board Room.
Officials with the district indicated that the session would take at least an hour.
There were three items listed under the executive session: a memorandum of agreement with Florence District Four, an employee grievance and a personnel matter.