Update on School Board Chairman Race

By Paul Gable

Voters will be voting Tuesday for which of three candidates they want to lead the policy making board of Horry County Schools for the next four years.

Two of those candidates, David Cox and Helen Smith, are currently serving members of the school board. The third candidate is retiring teacher Darrell Ricketts. Smith, in fact, has prior service as school board chairman, although Smith’s six-year tenure as chairman ended 20 years ago.

Ricketts presents an interesting question about his qualifications to lead the school board.

I researched old files to review the reasons for Ricketts dismissal as principal from Aynor High School in summer 2004.

Ricketts served as principal of Aynor High School from 1994-2004 until he was removed from that position after an independent investigation, ordered by the school district, concluded in its report that Ricketts improperly altered transcripts and tampered with grades and credits in an attempt to manipulate the school’s state report card rating.

In an initial response to the investigative findings in the report, Ricketts called them one opinion that he disputed.

Later media reports quoted Ricketts as saying his actions were civil disobedience (the refusal to comply with certain laws as an act of protest) to keep marginal students in school.

However, his actions were also apparently taken to get around exit exam requirements established by state legislation.

A Sun News editorial of November 18, 2004 stated, “Ricketts gave up on the youngsters for whose benefit he manipulated the testing system. In doing so, he effectively denied them their last chance to learn critical skills they need to be successful as adults. For that reason, especially, he deserves the punishment that the Horry County Schools bestowed upon him.”

It is now up to voters to decide if those past actions are acceptable in someone who is a candidate for the chair of the policy making body of Horry County Schools.

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