Rock Hill Schools Band Honors

Congratulations to Rock Hill Schools bands and their recent awards:

SPHS BandSouth Pointe Band of Thunder
Directed by James Turner

  • State 3A Championship Competition
  • 3rd place, bronze medal overall
  • 1st place in overall effect

The South Pointe Band of Thunder will be performing this Saturday in District Three Stadium, in exhibition at BandBeat, which they are co- hosting.  The band will perform around 8:45 p.m. depending on how many bands make the finals.  The finals start at 6:30 p.m. and will feature the top bands from the morning show.

RHHS BandRock Hill Band of Distinction
Directed by Joe Gulledge

  • Providence Cup Competition
  • Superior rating
  • 1st place in their class taking home awards for:
  • high music
  • high visual
  • high general effect
  • high color guard
  • grand champion of the class 3A, 4A, 5A divisions
  • grand champion for the day

The Band of Distinction will compete this Saturday in the 5A marching band competition.

NWHS BandNorthwestern Purple Regiment
Directed by Mark Yost

  • 2nd place at the Blythewood Tournament of Bands
  • 2nd place at the SCBDA 4A Upperstate Championship
  • 4th place at the 4A State Championship
Posted in General Education, Music Education, Rock Hill Schools | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Electric Strings Seminar at Northwestern

NWHS StringsRock Hill School District is lucky to be the only school district in York County offering a string orchestra program. Marsha Gross, Strings Teacher at Northwestern High School, sent this note and link to a write-up of the electric strings seminar at the school. Thanks for your work, Mrs. Gross and students!

from Marsha Gross:

I wanted to pass this wonderful link along. It highlights the exceptional string students at NHS. 20 students gave up their Saturday to work with Mr. Scott Laird  from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, an expert teacher in the use of electric strings in the classroom. Both students and teacher learned learned so much about technology and the physics of music and are looking forward using this knowledge to enhance our music education experience at NHS. We are one of the only schools in SC utilizing this cutting edge technology for the the enhancement of the strings program.


Posted in General Education, Music Education, Rock Hill Schools | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

10-27-14 School Board Report

RH3 logoThe TIF was first on the agenda, and that discussion is reported below, but the item of the Rock Hill School Board meeting of most immediate interest to the general public is probably the following ticket policy for sports. While passes are for all events, including arts and sports, this policy applies to sports only. We agreed with the Administration that this policy be used beginning with “Winter Sports” and I asked that “Winter Sports” be defined when communicating the policy.

  1. All senior Club 65 and VIP passes will be honored at all athletic events even when our schools play each other.  The only exception would be high school league playoffs.
  2. Student tickets K-12 will be $3 for athletic events.  The only exception would be for high school league playoffs.
  3. Employees can use their id badge for discounted $3 tickets to athletic events with the exception of high school league playoffs.
  4. Staff of high schools playing in an event can secure a free ticket in athletic office prior to athletic event.

Among other business, the board approved many, many policies, though I voted against two of them. A policy outlining attorney hiring included no provision for any kind of review or evaluation, and while most board members and the superintendent agreed with me that this should probably be included they all voted for it for first read. The superintendent will consult the School Boards Association for advice. A second policy regarding the Board Agenda which I voted against was also accepted by the board for first read, though again, several board members agreed with me that the wording was confusing, and that very same wording in the previous version of the policy led directly to tonight’s disagreement over whether the TIF should even be on the agenda. The policies will be discussed again at the Work Session.

As expected, the Rock Hill School Board Agenda item which required the most discussion was the Tax Increment Financing plan proposed by the City of Rock Hill for the Textile Corridor. After discussion about whether it was legally placed on the agenda, most board members believe the attorney’s reading that it was legally added and could be put to a vote. There followed a thorough presentation by Mayor Doug Echols, many challenging questions which he answered courteously, numerous citizen statements of support for the TIF, interminable challenges to the idea of a TIF and everything about the city, and excoriation of board members and board activity, then the board voted 5-2 in favor of the TIF plan. My comments are in the statements below which I read into the minutes at the meeting.

I. My comments before the vote to delay the TIF vote.

For over a year, board focus on education has been diluted by pressing but short-term matters:

  • a superintendent leaving in the midst of many unfinished projects
  • a need to maintain program without either losing ground or making long-term decisions during an interim superintendency
  • a national superintendent search
  • a new superintendent’s learning curve on district matters
  • an unexpectedly difficult budget cut
  • a finding that one department needed a 20% budget increase
  • And by the TIF.

This school board has taken six months to fulfill our responsibility to understand and evaluate the details of this TIF, even suggesting changes and evaluating their effects. There is an election next week, and the board would have the fiduciary duty to provide any new member who may be elected the same opportunity to study the TIF ideas to that extent. There is no new information, and the board does not need to waste more months on TIF discussion with new or current board members. Our core business is education and the board needs to focus on that core business and resolve the TIF issue. This TIF vote needs to occur now.

II. My comments before the vote to adopt the TIF plan.

The board and city already have a Textile Corridor TIF agreement. This choice tonight is merely a simple yes or no on whether to adopt a new agreement or keep the old one. Deciding which choice to make has been made more complicated by many changes and suggestions. Reasonable people can disagree on which choice to make, but the question before us is still simple: Are the commitments and benefits of the current TIF agreement better or worse than the commitments and benefits of the proposed agreement.

That choice includes questioning three matters.


  • Is the inclusion of a streetcar in the projects relevant to this discussion? It is not.
  • As a citizen I can call my council member all I want about the streetcar, but as a school board member I do not govern that realm. The school board forbidding a streetcar is like the city council forbidding a high school. It is not our purview. What is important is how previous TIFs between the city and the board have affected the district.
  • The inclusion of a streetcar is irrelevant to this discussion.


  • Have previous TIF agreements benefited the schools? They have.
  • Four TIF agreements between the city and the schools have existed, and all four areas produced little school revenue prior to development. The Textile corridor TIF was derailed by the unexpected death of the developer and the worst recession since the Great Depression of 1929, but the other three TIFs have provided benefit to the district. Two of these TIF agreements began producing schools revenue seven years prior to the end of the twenty-five year term, and in 2012 part of the Downtown TIF agreement provided city police officers to schools at no expense to the district.
  • Yes, previous TIF agreements have indeed benefited the schools.


  • Will the TIF advance the board’s strategic vision for the district? Yes it will.
  • School boards have responsibility for long-term strategic planning, but have little control over annual revenue to support that planning. The state estimates the cost of educating a child, the state continually underfunds this cost, and the state prohibits school board taxing which would eliminate that underfunding. This results in a perilous local routine of annual budget cuts which undermine long-term strategic goals. Ultimately, the TIF will increase school revenues and local control over those revenues, and will give the board the ability to continue to fund long-term goals despite state underfunding. The TIF does not raise current taxes for anyone except those who will benefit from their location in the TIF district. The TIF is a long-term strategic financial plan providing board control of the long-term strategic educational plan.
  • The TIF will advance the board’s strategic vision for the district.

Mr. Chairman, the streetcar is irrelevant, schools now benefit from previous TIF projects, this TIF provides strategic financing for district educational programs, and the board needs vote now to adopt it.

Posted in Board Meetings, Rock Hill Schools, School Funding | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10-27-14 Business Meeting Agenda

doug_echols.jpgThe Rock Hill School Board meets tonight for a business meeting. The Agenda follows, and click here to see the full board information packet, and here for an addendum to the packet. The most controversial item is likely to be the TIF proposal between Rock Hill School District and the City of Rock Hill which Mayor Doug Echols has already requested be on our agenda for vote, and which he will address again tonight.


Posted in Board Meetings, Rock Hill Schools, School Funding | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

City of Rock Hill requests School Board vote – video TIF explanation

The City of Rock Hill has formally requested that the Rock Hill School Board take a final, formal up-or-down vote on the Tax Increment Financing plan for the Textile Corridor Knowledge Park proposal. This TIF needs to be approved and it needs to be approved now.

The School Board has three goals for the district:

  • Improvement in Academics
  • Improvement in Teacher Training
  • Improvement in Communications.

The many hours spent by board members, superintendent, and staff studying this TIF for the last ten months have been hours which could have been spent on those educational  goals. An Interim Superintendent, a superintendent search, a new superintendent, a surprisingly large budget shortfall, a shortage of special education employees, all combined to temporarily defer TIF decision, but now those issues are concluded, and the board needs to remove the distraction of the TIF, and focus on the educational mission.

The four reasons I will vote in favor of this TIF are outlined below.

This is a wise financial decision. School revenues are minimal in the bleachery area. Without the TIF, there will be no development of the bleachery, and no increase to those revenues. There is little or no risk to current revenue, but if the development is successful there is much to gain.

Taxes in non-TIF areas of the city and county do not increase. Infrastructure in the TIF area is paid through use of taxes from the TIF area, avoiding taxes or fees on the rest of the county.

The city is trustworthy. In addition to the many joint projects we have, preceding TIF projects have been successful and are producing more revenue than the schools would ever have had without the projects. What is more, on two previous TIFs, when the city retired the TIF bonds, they returned taxes to the schools sooner than expected or required, and this early payback is written into the current TIF.

Some have questioned the streetcar, but it is irrelevant to School Board deliberations. As a citizen, I can ask all the questions I want about the streetcar. As a School Board member, the streetcar is not in my purview. The City Council should make decisions about the streetcar, just like the School Board makes decision about new schools. What is relevant is whether the School Board trusts the City.

The entire article by Don Worthington in the Rock Hill Herald here tells more detail about financial arrangements, but essentially, the vote will be on the proposal most recently made by the City, with the addition of legal language the School Board requested to provide for regular reporting. The TIF is a sound financial investment for the district. You can understand more about TIFs in general and this one in particular by clicking here.


Posted in Board Meetings, Rock Hill Schools, School Funding | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

10-13-14 Work Session report

Five issues from the Oct. 13, 2014 Rock Hill School Board Work Session drew most of my attention. Results of discussion follow. We will be voting on some of these on Oct. 27.

1) New ticket pass recommendations came back to the board with some input from parents through Booster Clubs and School Improvement Councils. I am much more confidant of these recommendations.

  • Student ticket prices K-12 be a reduced price of $3.
  • VIP and Club 65 passes would remain at no cost – free pass.
  • Employees would have a reduced ticket price of $3 when using badge.
  • High school staff members attending games can receive a free ticket from the athletic office prior to game.

2) The report on current enrollment was given with thought to future zoning of elementary schools, since demographically schools are becoming out of balance. My thought is that zoning is an outdated concept, since nowadays people just move, homeschool, or go to a private or charter school if they don’t like their zoned school. I think all schools, including middle and high schools, should be choice schools.The superintendent has promised to get a lot of community involvement as consideration is given to the future of school zones, and she anticipates a process which would take 12-18 months.

3) Dr. Pew’s plan for a baseline survey of employee morale. Mr. Vining warned us that this would entail future resources to make the improvements needed, but since employee morale is very positively correlated with student academic progress, I think the money is a bargain.

4) While the energy policy presented appeared to have no employee input, we were assured that it is only putting into policy the current energy guidelines and assuring that the principal has both authority to enforce energy guidelines and responsibility for the school following them. This seems a good plan to me, because now the energy guidelines are little more than suggestions.

5) One of the many policies discussed was on hiring of attorneys. Legal matters sometimes take a long time to resolve, and there is no sense in changing attorneys in the middle. During my four years on the board, the excellent legal advice we have received has helped the board on many occasion to understand and make decisions. The model board policy on hiring of attorneys has a “Rule” which includes sections on evaluation and employment term of attorneys. The policy recommended by the policy committee removes these sections. Little or no reason for removing evaluation requirements was given, only that formal scheduled evaluation of attorneys is unnecessary because we can always complain if we are unhappy. I disagree, and I will probably vote against adoption of this policy.

Posted in Board Meetings, Rock Hill Schools | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Teacher Voting Contest


Posted in General Education, Rock Hill Schools | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

School Board Candidate Forum at Winthrop

SC Gov. John C. West

SC Gov. John C. West

Winthrop University’s John C. West Forum on Politics and Policy is dedicated to promoting civic engagement in South Carolina. The Winthrop Poll, Constitution Day forums, New Leadership and other West Forum events benefit our community and state. The West Forum hosts two events tomorrow, Tuesday, Oct. 21, one of them a Rock Hill School Board Candidates roundtable. Both are free and open to the public, and a link to a campus map, including parking, is below. Thanks to West Forum co-directors Dr. Karen Kedrowski and Katarina Duich Moyon for their leadership.

11am: Contemporary Questions about Desegregation and Resegregation
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, Dr. Rosalyn Mickelson and Dr. Stephen Smith will discuss desegregation of public schools in the United States and in North and South Carolina in particular.
Tuttle Dining Room, McBryde Hall.
Bring a lunch. Drinks and dessert will be provided.

7:30pm: School Board Candidate Forum
Candidates for the Rock Hill District Three School Board will discuss issues related to our schools.
Moderator: Dr. Laura Ulrich, College of Business
October 21, 7:30pm-8:30pm; Whitton Auditorium, Carroll Hall.

Both events are free and open to the public.

Campus map with parking:

Posted in General Education, Rock Hill Schools | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10-20-14 Board Retreat Agenda

Gwen Hampton, SCSBA

Gwen Hampton, SCSBA

Rock Hill School Board Chair jim Vining instituted administration of a self-evaluation every meeting which you can read here. In conjunction with meeting evaluation, the board has undertaken to become more effective in working together. To that end, Gwen Hampton, South Carolina School Boards Association Director of Leadership Development will lead an afternoon retreat for the Rock Hill School Board on Monday, Oct. 20, from 1:00 -4:30 p.m. Board members have already completed a self-assessment questionnaire which covered the following areas: board leadership, fiscal management, vision, instructional management, community relations, board meetings, board-superintendent relationships, and policy making. The Agenda is below, and was developed from results of the self-assessment. In keeping with the Freedom of Information Act, the meeting is open to the public.

Rock Hill School Board
October 20, 2014
1 – 4:30 p.m.


Welcome ~ Mr. James Vining, Chairman

Workshop Presenter:  Gwen J. Hampton
SCSBA Director of Leadership Development

Introductions and warm-up
Review of roles and responsibilities
Working as a team!
Board Self-assessment
How well are we doing as a board?
Where do we go from here?
Improvement Plan
Wrap-up and evaluation

Posted in Board Meetings, Rock Hill Schools | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Republican Party School Board Questionnaire

This week I received a very nice note from Wes Climer, Chairman of the York County Republican Party. He attached a questionnaire for school board candidates. You can read my answer below, where I asked him to understand that as a board member, I do not even want the hint of partisanship to enter into my campaigning. Thanks for the work of our political party volunteers, and I hope everyone understands that, win or lose, each candidate makes the electoral process a more inclusive one.

To: School Board Candidates

Thank you for offering yourselves for service on the School Board.  It is a great reflection on our community that so many talented people are willing to make such a significant personal investment in the education of our youth.

Given the nonpartisan nature of school board elections, the York County Republican Party will not endorse any candidates in school board races.  But in keeping with our mission to foster substantive debate and a more informed electorate, we would welcome your reply to the attached candidate questionnaire, which reflects issues of import to our members.

Your replies will be made available to our membership by email and distributed to voters by mail.  They will also be posted on our website.

Out of respect for the considerable demands on your time, the eight questions enclosed can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” However, you should feel free to elaborate if you are so inclined.

If you have any questions about the questionnaire, please [contact] me.

Thank you,

Wes Climer

Chairman, York County Republican Party

2014 School Board Candidate Questionnaire

1. Do you support open enrollment for public schools?

2. Do you support expanding scholarship/voucher programs?

3. Do you support broader adoption of charter schools?

4. Should public resources, facilities, and/or extra-curricular activities be made available for children in private and home schools?

5. Is the School District adequately funded at current levels?  More specifically, is the current $/student ratio sufficient?

6. Do you support adoption of Common Core standards?

7. Do you pledge to oppose and vote against any and all efforts to raise taxes?

8. Do you support the South Carolina Civics Education Initiative?

Posted in Board Meetings, General Education | Tagged , , | Leave a comment