TIMMONSVILLE, S.C. (WBTW)– The Florence County School District Four Board of Trustees called the Timmonsville community to action Tuesday night over the consolidation with Florence 1 Schools, calling it illegal, a conspiracy and a land grab.
They called on residents to donate money, so they can take the issue to court.
“This has never been about our kids because the welfare of our kids has never been brought up,” Derrick Echols, a Florence Four trustee said. “I think it is all economical and political, and I agree with my community and my town that we should fight.”
Every seat at Tuesday’s meeting was taken as more than 30 community members listened.
“Timmonsville was targeted. It was a conspiracy,” Derrick Jackson, a former mayor of the town said. “I just want to let the people know that we have been totally disrespected.”
Trustee Darrell McFadden criticized state Superintendent Molly Spearman for informing Florence 1 Schools’ board about her decisions, but not Florence Four’s board.
“She’s just taking away and not telling us anything,” McFadden said. “She sent the message to Florence 1 School board that she was going to close the school, and we had to hear it over the media.”
Gary Burgess, the board’s spokesperson, said he thinks the consolidation is about getting new land, facilities and taxpayers.
“It’s about how every time a kid leaves this school, $10,000 follows them to Florence 1,” Burgess said. “It’s about losing $1.4 million a year because of 134 of your children.”
The board announced that a GoFundMe campaign has been started to raise money to cover court fees to fight the state Department of Education. Local leaders said they stand behind the district.
“We don’t take no for an answer,” Mayor pro tem Curtis Harrison said amid cheers. “I’m ready for the fight, are you ready for the fight? “This is your facility! Your taxpayers paid for it!”
The meeting Tuesday night came two weeks after Spearman announced that Timmonsville’s Johnson Middle School would close and requested Superintendent Richard O’Malley of Florence 1 Schools take over as superintendent of Florence Four.
McFadden said after the meeting he did not have a problem with the district joining Florence 1 Schools in principle but was displeased with the way the consolidation has been handled. He said his biggest problem is the lack of communication to the board and the closures of the Timmonsville schools.