Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Before sitting down to a seat among other Berkeley County School District school board members for the first time, Jim Hayes received a tense comment from the crowd: “I have my eye on you.”
Hayes won the seat by just two dozen votes two weeks earlier in a special election, beating out GOP-backed Kevin Condon 55 percent to 45 percent. Voter turnout was a dismal 1.7 percent, disappointing both sides of the race.
It’s not lost on Hayes that he’s entering the school board amid fallout from the 2012 school bond referendum with ethics violations alleged against district Communications Director Amy Kovach.
He has one thing to say about it, the tension, and the eyes that will be on him. “Let it go,” Hayes said in an interview with The Independent. “This controversy around our board, it’s in the courts. Let the courts deal with it … it’s been going on long enough. It’s been very divisive.”
During the April 22 meeting, Hayes was joined by his family as he was sworn onto the district’s board. “For all those that supported me, I appreciate it. It wasn’t a long campaign but it was a hard fought campaign,” Hayes said.
Later in the meeting, Berkeley County School District board Chair Kent Murray playfully goaded the newest member of the board after a vote that would spend more than $100,000 out of public coffers.
“Mr. Hayes is already spending money,” Murray said following the 8-0 vote, with board member Frank Wright absent.
It was a joke, and later in an interview with The Independent, Hayes said he takes his new role seriously.
He said his new role will keep him walking a fine line.
“I have to take into consideration the different people we represent,” he said. “I have to think about how this affects the kids, how does this affect the teachers … Now that I’m a retiree, I’m on a fixed income so I have to think about taxes. Goodness gracious, there are so many taxes out there now,” Hayes said.
Attending school board meetings isn’t new to Hayes. He’s served as a teacher and school administrator for 37 years — 27 of those were in Berkeley County schools, including Goose Creek High and Hanahan High.
“It’s the first time sitting in that chair,” Hayes said with a smile. “From that perspective, it’s a little different. You tend to pay more attention to everything being said.”
Hayes retired as assistant principal at Goose Creek High in 2013.
“I’ve spent 37 years working with and for kids, and I’m not finished yet,” he said. “I’d hate to just put it away.”
Hayes will represent District 9, which has only one school, Sangaree Middle. As soon as Nexton Elementary is complete, he will have two schools in his district. But his constituents send students to nearly 14 other schools in the district, he said.
Hayes has his eyes on the future. And the ethics allegations aren’t what he’s focused on. “That is the biggest challenge: being able to keep up with the growth,” Hayes said.
Hayes’ term expires in 2016.