Horry County Schools Board chose its newest member, Melanie Wellons, who will be sworn in next week.
Wellons, a swimming pool contractor, was one of three candidates interviewed Monday for the vacant District 8 seat, which represents parts of Carolina Forest and Socastee.
The vacancy was created after longtime board member and former vice chairman John Poston died Jan. 30, several weeks after being hospitalized with COVID-19.
The candidates were each asked the same questions from current board members about topics including the ongoing pandemic, the penny sales tax and their potential priorities in public office.
Wellons was supportive of the job the board has done in handling the pandemic, while noting that one of her priorities would be to further improve the district’s virtual school program.
She also expressed support for increasing employee salaries, noting a study that was completed last year that recommended spending $10-14 million to bring HCS district salaries up to industry standards.
Christine Rockey, a longtime instructor at Coastal Carolina University, said her top priority would be to return all students back to school full-time — she has two children at Socastee High School, one of the last remaining schools in the district that hasn’t full reopened — and she was critical of some of the ways the district has spent money toward that goal, though she acknowledged hindsight is 20/20, and the board did the best it could with the knowledge it had at the time.
She also expressed a desire to consider block scheduling and move students away from the use of textbooks as a potential cost-cutting measure.
Amanda Whyland, who is a former HCS teacher and now self-employed, also supported the job the board has done during the pandemic, but she said improving communication would be among her top priorities.
“The more we know, the more everyone knows, the calmer and smoother things will be,” she said.
Wellons will serve, per state law, until the next general election, in November 2022 when the person elected will serve the remainder of the term through 2024.