Beaufort County’s newest school board member holds first town hall, hot topic: rezoning

BLUFFTON, Sc. (WSAV) – The Beaufort County School District’s newest member on the Board of Education, John Dowling, hosted his first town hall, Thursday. Dowling came in about a month earlier, with ideas that challenge Superintendent Jeff Moss and one of his main priorities is to make everything more transparent to the public.

“The board has pretty much walked away from its responsibilities as a school board,” Dowling told News Three.

That’s why he ran for a seat on the Board of Education. He now sits over District 6, where overcrowding is the biggest issue.

“ No one will deny that there’s overcrowding, at at least two schools in Bluffton,” he said, “The question is what is the best way to deal with that?”

One of the least popular options on the table: rezoning that could move hundreds of kids from Bluffton 25 miles north to Broad River.

Dowling’s first town hall gathered passionate parents, some whose kids have been in five schools over the years all while living on the same street in the same house.

“At my children’s school, we get two kids a week new, every day…” one parent said in the town hall.

“Tuesday morning at 9:30, we were given a 50 page document by the Superintendent that took him a month to develop,” Dowling said, “We need time to vet that.”

Parents at the town hall said they’re fed up with the way the board conducts itself, bickering back and forth – even calling the cops on each other at a meeting two days prior.

Parents plea for them to work together, for the kids.

“There are a number of parents that asked, ‘Can you please ask Mr. Dowling if he is just going to go up against any referendum that’s presented at all?’” a parent said.

“What I’m fighting for is the least disruptive solution to the students, the staff, and the taxpayers,” Dowling said, “Are we using our capacity to its fullest? What are the projections for future growth? Do we need a new building?” He added that he is against any rezoning.

Dowling tried to end the town hall an hour and a half in, but parents said they weren’t done.

Dowling said the night was not for answers, but for input. With the superintendent’s proposal on the table, the board will now review it and decide their next steps. Dowling said the soonest date they would have a response would be December 12th.

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