Fickling resigning from Blackville School Board after feeling ‘shut out’

A Barnwell District 19 board member has stated his intentions to resign after voicing concerns he has with other board members.

Board member George Fickling announced during the August 14 meeting that he was resigning “effective immediately”. He handed in his district-issued iPad, but sat through the rest of the meeting.

“I cannot be effective if I’m always going to be shut out,” said Fickling, who was elected in April 2016. “This board is just not willing to listen to any suggestions about changes or improvements.”

Fickling said his problems were with some fellow board members who often approve things without asking questions. “This is no reflection on our superintendent. I think we have a fine superintendent,” he said.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Fickling said serving on the board has “been an eye opener” and a “disheartening” experience.

He ran for the board “with the hope and intention to be part of positive changes,” he said. However, he has found that he can’t operate in the current environment. He is also concerned with the country’s overall educational system as well as statewide changes, such as the new 10-point grading system.

The announcement followed comments Fickling made as the board was reviewing the minutes of meetings from June 26, 27 and 28 prior to voting to approve those documents. Fickling said he was not aware of the June 28 meeting where the budget was approved, although the meeting was announced during the June 27 meeting in which he was present.

The board was scheduled to meet June 26 to pass the budget, but only two members were present. At the rescheduled June 27 meeting, Carroll Priester, Ethel Faust and Fickling were present. The other two members were absent due to either working or being sick. However, the three members present could not reach a consensus about the budget because Fickling stated he opposed a millage increase and that he wanted to work as a group to analyze any potential cuts so taxes would not be raised. No action on the budget was taken that day.

Instead, the board agreed to meet on June 28. The People-Sentinel Editor Jonathan Vickery suggested on June 27 that they set up a conference call the next day so all board members could participate, even if they were unable to be present at the district office. At the June 28 meeting, Faust and Priester were present while Sharon McClary and Karen Jowers called in to the meeting and were on speakerphone. Fickling was not in attendance. The board passed the budget, which had to be approved before the new fiscal year started July 1.

On August 14, Fickling also said he did not agree with the use of a telephone as a method of participation in a meeting. Soon after, he stated his intentions to resign.

However, Policy BBBC states a board member must submit a letter of resignation to the board chairman at least 30 days prior to the effective date of resignation. On Tuesday, Fickling said he plans to submit a letter soon.

Fickling’s three-year term runs through April 2019.

According to Policy BBBE (Unexpired Term Fulfillment/Vacancies), which is available on the district’s website, “it is the responsibility of the remaining board members to appoint an individual to serve as interim board member until the next scheduled election (second Tuesday of April annually).”

Fickling’s impending resignation comes just over a year after Billy Williams resigned from the Williston District 29 School Board. He cited his disagreement with a personnel recommendation as well as accusations and innuendoes as why he resigned. That seat is still vacant as the board has not been able to reach a consensus on who to appoint.