The resignations of three Aiken County School Board members leave a central and well-populated area of the county without direct representation at a time of uncertainty and turbulence.
The sudden departure of school board members Ahmed Samaha, Tad Barber and Rosemary English means a majority of the city of Aiken and some of its neighbors have no delegates on the education panel, though sitting board members are charged with considering interests across the county.
Barber on Tuesday described it as a "gaping hole."
Samaha that same day told the Aiken Standard the lack of Aiken-area representation on the school board now is an "unfortunate byproduct" of what has transpired. But, he continued, "the truth of the matter is that the city of Aiken didn't really have representation over the last 10 months because our voices typically weren't valued."
English said the gap will make a difference and is of "serious concern" to her. She had not considered the matter right away but said Tuesday the realization would not have prevented her from resigning.
"I hate to do that, but I hate worse the continuation of the direction we were going," said English, a former teacher.
Samaha largely represented southwest Aiken. Barber represented portions of southeast Aiken and areas generally near Wire Road. And English represented Aiken's Northside and a stretch past Interstate 20.
Both men – Samaha and Barber – stepped down Sept. 5 following the school board's decision to accept the resignation of Dr. Sean Alford, the then-Aiken County Public Schools superintendent. English's leave was effective Sept. 13 but was announced prior.
The departure of the three leaves six members on the Aiken County School Board, including the chairman, Keith Liner.
Liner on Tuesday, in response to multiple questions posed by the Aiken Standard, said members generally consider "the district as a whole and make decisions as such."
Dwight Smith represents a school board district that creeps into city limits along Richland Avenue West. Calls made to Smith were not immediately returned Tuesday.
English urged voters to pick replacements – for districts 7, 8 and 9, respectively – with care. She said the next batch of Aiken County School Board members must be "role models." Barber said he hopes the remaining school board members will hold off on any significant policymaking or big decisions until new representatives are elected.
Samaha's and Barber's biographies have been removed from the school board's website.