A local grassroots nonprofit organization is seeking financial support and volunteers to help pass the November Beaufort County school bond referendum to improve student safety and school security and to upgrade outdated school facilities.
The organization, Citizens for Better Schools Now!, is led by Bluffton’s Debbie Burke, Shannon Bedenbaugh of Hilton Head Island, John Joseph of Hilton Head, Judge Joseph Klein of the Dale Community, and Joe Lee of Port Royal, all of whom have backgrounds in community service. They are supported by two experienced public relations professionals, John Williams of Beaufort and Tom Gardo of Hilton Head.
“I see our work as the best kind of community service,” Burke said. “Study after study shows that a healthy, quality public school system enhances home values and is a key factor when businesses are thinking about relocating. Most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.”
Joe Lee, a former Town of Port Royal Councilman agrees. “Our schools are currently in serious need of security upgrades to guard against threats as well as the facility improvements to meet the issues of growth in several areas across the county. It’s a wise business decision and it’s a good community decision to vote yes,” Lee said.
Citizens for Better Schools Now can be found online at their website: VoteYesBetterSchoolsNow.org. The organization is seeking online citizen and business donations for its campaign. The group is a registered charitable non-profit in South Carolina.
“Since the last referendum was passed 11 years ago, children who were in first grade will be high school seniors this year,” points out Bedenbaugh, co-chair of the committee. “Over that time, countywide public school enrollment has increased dramatically, and important upgrades in many areas have been delayed. A ‘yes’ vote in November means we can address these issues now, and at a cost of about $6 to $9 per month for most Beaufort County households.”
Retired Judge Joseph Kline stressed that an affirmative vote for the referendum is a yes vote for a better future for our entire county. “It’s time for our school system to catch up with its deferred maintenance and safety upgrades,” Kline said, pointing out that “costs will only grow, the longer we wait.”
Burke also noted that, when the referendum passes, the school district will create an independent community group to oversee all project expenditures, adding a significant layer of transparency and accountability.
Additional in-depth information about the referendum and the months of work that went into researching school needs can be found both at the School District’s website, beaufortschools.net under the heading REFERENDUM 2019. Tabs include listings of improvements to be made at each school and at each school cluster of elementary, middle and high schools across the county.
The grass roots group also has a Facebook page, VoteYesBeaufortCountySchools, where frequent updates and information are posted.