Chamber of Commerce Questionnaire

ChamberThe 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.

District 2

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.

Helena Miller
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.

Leon Putman
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.

District 4

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.

Rick Lee
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.

Steve DiNino
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.

At Large

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?

District 2

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.

Helena Miller
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.

Leon Putman
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.

District 4

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.

Rick Lee
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.

Steve DiNino
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.

At Large

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.

District 2

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.

Helena Miller
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.

Leon Putman
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.

District 4

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.

Rick Lee
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.

Steve DiNino
I believe iRock should proceed, with the provision that we clearly define the problem we’re trying to solve.

At Large

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.

 

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Mayor answers TIF questions

On Monday the Rock hill School Board voted to approve the TIF proposal with the City of Rock Hill. Mayor Doug Echols made a presentation, and Trustee Walter Brown asked several questions which the Mayor has answered as below.

On behalf of Mayor Echols I am providing a response to Mr. Brown’s questions.

Question: Section 31-6-50 of State Law deals with the application of proceeds of obligations regarding TIFs…….. HAS THIS BEEN DONE?
Answer: Yes – we have followed the state law.

Question: Section 31-6-30 (5) “Redevelopment plan” means the comprehensive program of the municipality for redevelopment intended by the payment of redevelopment costs to reduce or eliminate those conditions which qualified the redevelopment project area as an agricultural area, blighted area……. HAS THIS SECTION OF STATE LAW BEEN COMPLIED WITH? HAS THE DISTRICT RECEIVED DETAILED COPIES?
Answer: Yes – this was provided at the time that the District was created and a revised plan was provided this summer.

Question: SECTION 31-6-90 (1)(a) The redevelopment plan shall include an assessment of the displacement impact…….. HAS THIS BEEN DONE?
Answer: The plan was included in the redevelopment plan and as far as we know – we have not displaced anyone.

Question: SECTION 31-6-90 (1)(a)(3) Persons displaced by a redevelopment plan are entitled to the benefits and protections available under Section 28-11-10. The costs of the relocation are proper expenditures for the proceeds of any obligations issued under this chapter. THE CITY HAS ALREADY REMOVED HOUSING FROM THE ORIGINAL TEXTILE CORRIDOR WHERE CITIZENS DISPLCE AND IF SO WERE THEY TREATED ACCORDING TO THIS SECTION OF STATE LAW?
Answer: Some housing has been removed but we are not aware of anyone that has been displaced.

SECTION 31-6-70. Ordinance pertaining to allocation of taxes; distribution of surplus funds; termination of redevelopment area status and dissolution of tax allocation fund….. If ten years have passed from the time a redevelopment project area is designated and the municipality has not issued the initial obligations under this chapter to finance the redevelopment project, upon the expiration of the ten-year term, the municipality shall adopt an ordinance terminating the designation of the redevelopment project area. MAYOR ECHOLS IS THIS NOT IN FACT THE URGENCY FOR FORCING THE SCHOOL DISTRICT PASSING THE PROPOSED CHANGES???
Answer: The City issued the first series of bonds ($6.5 million) in 2008 so we are well within the 10 year requirement mentioned in this section – so no – this has nothing to do with the urgency of the action from the School Board.  The urgency is entirely related to negotiations with the Master Developer.  In fact, we really needed approval from the School District several months ago. We are already behind in negotiations – but the action from the School Board should help put us back on track  We certainly appreciate your partnership.

David Vehaun
City Manager

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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
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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.

 

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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.

First:

  • 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.

Second:

  • 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.

Third:

  • 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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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Teacher Voting Contest

100_Percent_Challenge_Flier

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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:  http://www.winthrop.edu/uploadedFiles/virtualtour/maps/ParkingMap.pdf

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