What's taking so long?

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What is taking the Williston District 29 School Board so long in filling a vacancy?

This is a question we’ve been wondering in recent months. We’ve also heard the same question from some of you.

Ever since Billy Williams resigned in July 2016, the remaining four board members have grappled with what to do. There was confusion at first about whether they are supposed to appoint someone or have a special election.

Their board policy soon revealed they are supposed to appoint someone. However, some then questioned whether the policy’s wording meant they should appoint someone until the next board election or for the remainder of the unexpired term.

The district’s attorney provided clarity to this question in October after uncovering a 1947 statute passed by state lawmakers for some Barnwell County school districts, including District 29. The nearly 70-year-old law showed the remaining board members must appoint someone for the remainder of Williams’ term, which expires in April 2018.

With everyone agreeing they need to appoint someone, several board members have expressed apprehension about doing so. They do not want to appear as if they would show preferential treatment, including to friends or relatives. That’s why it was suggested they adopt administrative rules with guidelines for appointing someone, what constitutes a vacancy and a timeline to appoint a new member.

We certainly appreciate the board doing their homework on this matter and know it’s not wise to make a snap decision; however, seven months is an awful long time to have a vacancy.

Currently, there is an even number of board members with four people. This can lead to deadlock, especially when the board is split on issues, although it doesn’t appear to have happened yet.

The Williston-Elko community deserves representation from five members. That’s why we urge them to resolve this quickly.