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Abbeville County School District et al v. State of South Carolina et al, or in other words, the Corridor of Shame lawsuit, has been in the state courts for 20 years. The South Carolina Supreme Court issued its ruling this afternoon. The court opinion references the constitutional duty of the legislature to provide education, acknowledges that the legislature has made commendable efforts to increase school funding, and criticizes the inequitable and confusing funding streams and hodge-podge of laws governing education.
The opinion was written by Chief Justice Jean Toal, and the following paragraph from the 59 page ruling summarizes what many in education have thought for some time.
It is time for the Defendants [The State of South Carolina] to take a broader look at the principal causes for the unfortunate performance of students in the Plaintiff Districts, beyond mere funding. Fixing the violation identified in this case will require lengthy and difficult discussions regarding the wisdom of continuing to enact multiple statutes which have no demonstrated effect on educational problems, or attempting to address deficiencies through underfunded and structurally impaired programming.
The full opinion and dissent follow.
Below is the Agenda for the Monday night meeting of the Rock Hill School Board, with a couple of comments, and a link to the Full Board Packet.
Item 5 Review/Comparison of Strategic Plan and Board Goals (Ref. Policy ADA)
The Board Goals of Academics, Training, and Communications/Involvement, adopted November 2012, are not clear enough in the Strategic plan, which was devised by staff. Superintendent Pew will address the differences in response to board questions resulting from training of last month.
Item 6 Monthly Finance Report ‐ Athletics (Ref. Policy DA, DI)
For the first time ever, in response to board request, Athletic finances from the three high schools are being presented to the board by the finance director, in identical formats. This is a victory for transparency.
8 Discussion on Policy BEDB ‐ Agenda (Ref. Policies BG, BGC/BGD)
The October Business Meeting was very contentious, partly due to confusion over the policy dealing with agenda preparation. The South Carolina School Boards Association policy interpretation is identical to that of the board lawyer, and they feel it does not need to be clarified.
9 Discussion on Policy BDG (BDG‐R) ‐ Board Attorneys / Legal Services (Ref. Policies BG, BGC/BGD)
In the Rule attached to to both the previous Rock Hill Policy and the model policy from the South Carolina School Board Association, the board appoints attorneys and is required to evaluate them on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the policy to be presented at Monday’s meeting makes no provision for regular evaluation or board review or renewal of attorney appointments. The attorneys have done an excellent job, and it is important to keep the same attorney for the duration of a case or legal matter, however, three members of the current board have never had any say whatsoever about the current attorneys much less voted on retaining them, and this is wrong.
The agenda follows, and here is a link to the full board packet.
From Elaine Baker, District Director of Public Information
The 2014 elections are now behind us, and Rock Hill Schools has a new trustee—Helena Miller—and two trustees who were re-elected—Jim Vining and Dr. Jane Sharp. All were asked to share their personal goals for their four-year term on the school board. However, before we share their goals, it must be stated that Rock Hill Schools was privileged to have Ginny Moe serve as a trustee for the past four years, and that we are truly appreciative to Dr. Sara Harper, Leon Putman, Rick Lee and Steve DiNino whose interest in the success of the district and its students accepted the challenge of being a candidate for a seat on the board. We hope all of these citizens will maintain their interest in and continue their support of Rock Hill Schools.
I am excited for the opportunity to serve on the board and be an advocate for students, parents and educators making RH schools the best place for each child to learn. My main personal goal is to improve the organizational communication within the district and promote an open line of communication where students, educators, parents and community members’ voices are heard. Another goal is to work to balance the budget, using creative ideas involving the community so that we can maintain and exceed the current quality of education and give the educators and students a high level of support. I am so excited to get started on this journey.
We are entering exciting times. Fort Mill’s growth is beginning to spill over into our district, and new technology changes everything we do. In the near future we will have to address:
- a course for improving academic performance and utilize technology.
- major facility upgrades and the strategic direction that is best for our community.
- involving employees as we move our district forward.
I am thankful for your support and what you do for this community. Thanks for all you do.
“Thank you” to the many of you who sent me encouraging messages. I think that my re-election is a validation of the Board’s focus on academics and supporting accelerated growth for our students. We will continue to support Dr. Pew as she works with our schools toward that goal. I want to continue to advocate for our teachers, our most important resources, and the ones who directly impact the success of students. I don’t like the idea being suggested in Columbia and Washington of teachers being graded for individual output as if they were workers on an assembly line. I think their strongest power lies in sharing, collaboration, and teamwork. Also, as we worked through the TIF discussions, I became very interested in the possibility of learning opportunities for our students with some of the computer-related businesses which have and may develop in the Knowledge Park area. I want to learn more about this potential. Finally, I want us to continue to ask of proposals and requests made to the Board, “How will this affect student learning?” Of course, what I “hope” to accomplish will be molded and shaped by financial and other stresses as yet unseen.
A big thank you to all who supported me; don’t feel too disappointed. Running for office itself reaffirms faith in the democratic process. Candidates all over the US are winning and losing tonight, and through running for office, all of them have contributed to their communities. A special thank you to those who ran for school boards all over our country and state, and even more thanks to those who ran in Rock Hill School District Three.
All citizens need to continue our interest in governance, and be attentive to our elected officials and the decisions they make for our community, our state, and our nation. As a former elected official, I ask you to share your opinions, ideas, and questions with those in office. Your elected officials can only carry out your wishes if you let them know what those wishes are. Only by working together can we have the great school system in the great community which we are meant to have.
Thanks for voting, and thanks for putting Helena Miller in office. She worked hard on her campaign, and if she works as hard in office, she will be a great school board member. Here is the Oath of Office she will swear at Monday night’s board meeting.
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I am duly qualified, according to the Constitution of this State, to exercise the duties of the office to which I have been elected (or appointed) and that I will, to the best of my ability, discharge the duties thereof and preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of this State and of the United States, so help me God.”
(S.C. Constitution, Art. III, Sect. 26)
The question I have been asked the most during this campaign is “Why are you running for School Board?” A digital copy of my brochure is below, and you can see more details there, but the short version is:
I believe I can best help our community to advance through school board membership. A great community requires a great school district. As a member of the school board I have influenced decisions which will benefit the school district and the community. I hope to continue oversight as necessary adjustments to those decisions are made during implementation.
People wonder why I am interested, because
- I have never been a regular public school employee
- My only child graduated from high school two years ago.
- I have never served in elected office (or even run for any office at all) prior to my election to school board.
The fact is, 80% of the taxpayers are like me. They are not related to the schools in any way. They do not have a child currently in school, nor do they have a family member who works in the schools. I received a property tax bill today, and many of our voters will not hear from the schools except through such a tax bill. Even though people do not know what that school tax is for, most of them want to help our schools. The schools should express the dreams of the community, and should supply the graduates who are a credit to the community.
Our Superintendent, Dr. Kelly Pew, often uses the phrase “career, college, and citizenship ready.” I want to see Rock Hill Schools graduates who are “career, college, and citizenship ready”, and that is why I want to continue to serve on the Rock Hill School Board.
My brochure follows, and below that an excerpt and link from a Great Schools article about what to look for in a School Board candidate.
First of all, you should think about the issues that are important to you in your school district. Are you concerned about student transportation, textbook adoption, funding for extracurricular activities, new curriculum standards and/or construction of new school facilities? What’s your hot button? You’ll want to find out where the candidates stand on issues that are important to you.
You might also look for the following qualities:
- The ability to work well with a team and support group decisions, along with an understanding that the board sets a climate for the entire district
- A desire to work toward a stronger relationship between the district and the public it serves
- A keen eye toward serving the needs of all students, regardless of their abilities and backgrounds
- A professional, poised demeanor and respectful, respectable behavior
- Respect for diverse points of view
- Commitment to the time and energy required each week for meetings, phone calls, conversations, visits to schools, and professional development seminars and workshops
- Knowledge about district policies, guidelines, needs, challenges and strengths
At the heart of it all, members of a district’s board of education must believe, unequivocally, in the value of public education. They must be dedicated to serving and teaching all children. They must believe in the democratic process and understand that their role is to act strategically, in line with the interests of the entire school community.
I received via facebook a question from a charter school parent and former charter board member about whether the charters can be “accepted by RHSD3 as a school of choice just as your other schools that do fall under your umbrella are accepted” and asking that we not “sabotage each other.”
While the Rock Hill School Board cooperates with charter schools, the fact that they are outside our jurisdiction make it legally impossible for the Rock Hill School Board to treat the charters the same as our Schools of Choice. In addition, state law has stringent requirements for local district schools, and while some charters meet all those requirements, some of the requirements are optional for charter schools and can be eliminated by a charter school board at any time, which as you can see would create a bureaucratic nightmare for staff trying to make the charter part of two school systems. My facebook answer below gives more detail.
Hello, and thanks for writing. As you indicate, the Rock Hill School Board as a publicly elected body can levy local taxes, which charter schools do not receive since their boards are not publicly elected. Riverview and YPA charters operate according to contracts (charters) establishing their schools, not according to the policies established by the Rock Hill School Board, however I do not believe that the Rock Hill School District has tried to sabotage private, charter, or home schools in any way. Policies established by the Rock Hill Board of Trustees make many provisions for charter school students to participate.
- Over a year ago I voted with the rest of the Rock Hill School Board to adopt a policy allowing full participation in district extracurricular activities by students and staff of charters.
- In addition, since YPA’s new buildings include no cafeteria, I voted with the Rock Hill Board to approve allowing the Rock Hill School District school lunch provider to cater YPA lunches prepared in Rock Hill School District cafeterias.
- As required by law, Rock Hill Schools accepts for enrollment any student residing in the geographical district, whether they move here from another location or choose to transfer from a private, charter, or home school.
As the Rock Hill School Board does not exercise any authority over these other schools, advertising them as a School of Choice within the Rock Hill School District would be possible for a charter school if the school legally became part of the Rock Hill School System.
The Rock Hill Area Council Board of Directors initiated a series of events that led to connections being made between area business and community leaders and candidates seeking election or re-election to the Rock Hill School Board. Candidates were invited to attend the County-Wide Business After Hours held at Brakefield at Riverwalk on October 16th. Questions were also submitted to the candidates in an attempt to learn more about each of their views.
Three questions and corresponding responses are listed below.
Where do you place “businesses” in priority among the School District’s customers (including students, teachers, parents, community, state system, etc.)? Please explain your answer.
Ginny Moe (Incumbent)
Very high. As a former business owner, I pushed to hire this superintendent for her proven record of training students for the workforce. The school system should produce self-motivated team-playing citizens with problem solving and communication skills. This is good for business and for all the groups mentioned.
Dr. Sarah Harper
Students are top priority. However, the partnership between businesses in our community and our schools is priceless. While the District is responsible for providing the best and most appropriate educational programs for students, the supportive relationship with businesses in the District maximizes the ability of the District to fulfill that mission.
The only customer is the children. Businesses have a vested interest in the system producing a well-educated workforce, benefitting the community. Teachers are the “tools” needed to succeed. The state and parents carry the role of supporters and enablers to reach this goal. We are all in it together.
I think businesses just based on their contributions to education rank high right behind students and parents with regard to priorities among the school districts customers. Without the contributions of businesses not just from a tax standpoint I don’t believe a balanced accessible education is possible for most. Rock Hill’s business community needs to stay involved and committing to helping all kids in the school system achieve academic success.
Dr. Jane Sharp (Incumbent)
Increasing the learning of our students is our number one goal. Communication with parents and community is also a top priority. The Chamber is part of our community. I would like to sit down with businesses to discuss the quality of students we are providing and how well our students are prepared for the local economy. I am also interested in the possibility of internships/job immersion/mentoring opportunities.
Businesses are the end user of the finished education our children receive. It is essential that we work with the business community to make sure that our educational curriculum and graduates meet the needs of industry. We should work closer with business to identify opportunities for internships for students and Public/Private partnerships with business to use private investment dollars for enhancements of industry specific training in our schools.
The school district’s primary customers are the students and parents. Business is a secondary customer, as we are educating the future labor pool business draws from.
Jim Vining (Incumbent)
Using the shewhart cycle for determining customers, our largest customer base would be post education agencies since up to 75% of our graduates will be going there. Next would be business and then military institutions. This is not to say business is second because it would be first for those students targeted for work out of high school.
With the Board’s primary role being that of a governing body, what District policies and practices will best prepare students for the future workforce?
Ginny Moe (Incumbent)
Graduates are workforce-ready through policies requiring board answerability to the public, including the business community. Basic district objectives, sound business practices, student instruction and behavior, and particularly two-way communication and involvement of the public are necessary. The board must demand that the superintendent enforce those policies.
Dr. Sarah Harper
Every policy and practice in the District should be designed to prepare a student for the workforce. Recruiting and hiring the most qualified teachers, providing meaningful staff development and providing the means to enhance the educational process should be considered for every policy that deals directly or indirectly with students.
We need to really work on increased graduation rates and increase STEM curriculum. Policies regarding student accountability and positive reinforcement needs to be fostered along with a better focus on communication and collaboration skills. Partnerships with businesses to enable us to focus efforts on meeting their demands should be prioritized.
Most policies merge and align to setup a program for learning and growth. Students through academics and extra-curricular activities need to be encouraged to take on personal challenges and adopt the attitude that they can make a difference in their own lives. Administrators, teachers, parents, as well as civic groups needs to encourage this growth and foster this positive attitude to help our future leaders find success.
Dr. Jane Sharp (Incumbent)
The number one goal is to improve levels of student achievement. In support of the superintendent’s goal to produce college, tech school, and/or job ready citizens, we are asking of proposals made to us, “How will this improve student learning?” These decisions ideally will be made with discussions with business leaders concerning their responses to the workforce we are providing. We need to be partners in our city’s future.
It is important for the District to recognize that graduating 1000 students annually who will pursue liberal arts degrees will not meet the needs of business. Emphasis on offering opportunities in manufacturing, logistics, construction trades as well as mathematics, science, English and humanities will provide our community with a well-rounded class of graduates who will help promote our economy, enhance our culture and participate in our communities.
K-12 education should provide a solid foundation (reading, math, science, history, civics). Concentrating on fundamentals will prepare all students regardless of the direction they choose in life.
Jim Vining (Incumbent)
Policy BDD because it outlines specific roles for boards and superintendents and BBAA because it reinforces that individual board members have no authority and the most important characteristic for a board member is collaboration in order for the district to move forward. This ensures decisions are made at the right level and with the right input.
In terms of the i-Rock initiative, should the District’s efforts in facilitating student use of mobile technology be increased, decreased, or not changed? Please explain your answer.
Ginny Moe (Incumbent)
Students need mobile devices to prepare for the new mobile world, but the current plan is not adequate. I can support expansion when the plan is modified to include: sustainable financing, introduction to a variety of mobile devices, adequate teacher training, and tracking of measurable results.
Dr. Sarah Harper
Technology is a critical part of the educational process. The District has spent a significant amount of money in the past to ensure our students have access to the changing world through technology. Evaluation of future expenditures is key to ensuring that we move in the right direction with any technology initiative.
We are preparing students for the workforce and college. Businesses want tech-savvy employees and to meet these demands we need to embrace technology. High School students need a laptop-type device to succeed. We can do this through creative funding seeking grants, sponsorships and leaseback options involving local and national businesses.
I think it needs to be realigned. I agree that technology is important I just don’t believe it was handled the correct way. The implementation of the program needs to change so all students in a particular class have the same access to technology. This was never achieved correctly. I also believe at the high school level students need more than just a tablet. They need to ability to write and edit term papers and reports. This is challenging on an ipad.
Dr. Jane Sharp (Incumbent)
Our use of technology has to grow as the teachers grow in comfort and skill in using the devices as an effective supplement to instruction. I support the continuing and increasing use of technology to support our student learning. However, it is a support tool to be used within the curriculum and the learning goals. It is not a panacea or effective tool without appropriate planning and use.
I think we should move forward at the pace included in I-Rock but spend more time providing training to our teachers, use monitoring technology to make sure students do not abuse the tools we provide and address parent concerns about how these powerful tools are used in the classroom and at home. We must make sure students still receive the basic tools while we integrate technology.
I believe iRock should proceed, with the provision that we clearly define the problem we’re trying to solve.
Jim Vining (Incumbent)
Decisions should be based on academic improvement, not technology. IRock was implemented with the understanding phase two would begin once the administration’s academic performance targets were met.