The legislative advocacy efforts of the Aiken County and Greenville County school boards during the 2012 legislative session have been deemed the best in the state by the South Carolina School Boards Association.

The two school boards were presented with the SCSBA Legislative Advocacy Program of the Year award on Dec. 1 during the annual Legislative and Advocacy Conference at Hilton Head Island.

“We were pleased to receive the award,” said Ray Fleming, Aiken County school board vice chair.

“We’ve been focused on getting more legislative type news out to the general public, to help them become more involved.”

The award honors school boards that have developed and implemented effective legislative advocacy programs in their districts. It was created in 2005 to focus on the association’s mission to be the leading voice for quality public schools throughout the state and nation.

“Local school board members will always be our best lobbyists for public education,” said SCSBA Executive Director Dr. Paul Krohne. “The advocacy network in Aiken County and Greenville County proves there is strength and credibility in speaking with one voice from Columbia to Washington, D.C. As schools continue to do more and more with less and less, it is crucial for local communities, led by their school board, to advocate its vision for their public schools.”

School boards applying for the award must show leadership in supporting and executing best advocacy program practices that impact the legislative process to improve public education.

Board members Keith Liner and Wesley Hightower put together Aiken’s application for the award.

The following is some of the boards’ advocacy efforts:

• Sets legislative goals based on information provided by SCSBA and other educational organizations.

•Hosts a public meeting featuring a legislative debriefing by SCSBA and uses it to identify the effectiveness of its advocacy program and areas to focus on for the upcoming session.

•Participates in SCSBA legislative activities including the Legislative Preview Webcast, 2DAC and Legislative Advocacy Conference and uses SCSBA legislative updates and information throughout the session to communicate with community stakeholders.

•Devotes a portion of each regular monthly meeting to receive a legislative update.

•Works with the board’s Legislative Subcommittee, which coordinates meetings with the local legislative delegation.

•Hosts community workshops throughout the year to dialogue with community stakeholders on various issues including the budget, student achievement and facilities.

•Contributes opinion columns on legislative issues periodically to local media to promote public education support.

•Adopts resolutions of support or opposition on specific issues and distributes them to delegation members and the public.