Kudos to Chairman Jim Vining, who herded the Rock Hill School Board through a long and complicated meeting and got us out before we became too mentally exhausted to make sense.
After Executive Session we did not discuss the TIF. As Chairman Vining reported, consultants for the TIF did not have time to produce required documents. The city’s TIF proposal is very flexible, and our school board needs to consider how that flexibility might affect funding over the next twenty-five years. The TIF will be good for the city and the schools, but the board needs to consider many events which might occur and make sure school funding continues to be secure.
The Superintendent’s Goals will be formally adopted during the business meeting. Two years ago the board set district goals of improving academics, teacher training, and communications, and we have consistently been concerned with finances. Dr. Pew’s goals address Academics, Teacher Training, and Finances, and the Communications Advisory Committee will make a report to the administration for Dr. Pew to consider implementing.
The Board is now acting on recommendations of our accrediting agency, AdvancEd, focused on policy. To save enormous amounts of staff research time, we will almost certainly vote at the business meeting to invest about $20,000 this year and about $2,500 annually thereafter to take advantage of the policy services of the South Carolina School Boards Association. I am delighted the accreditation visit and our board study are convincing board members to work with the SCSBA on policy.
Steps being taken to address AdvancEd requirements by the Administration in the areas of Human Resources and Instruction are not as encouraging. HR is required to do a better job of evaluating personnel, and two policies were presented which will help. State rules will effective teacher evaluation difficult, however. The state requires that teachers be hired in the spring, but also that teacher evaluations include information unavailable until summer or even fall. HR personnel are attending state training and working to overcome that timing problem. The Instruction department is required to have much more teacher collaboration, focused on demanding student excellence. Some Rock Hill principals long ago instituted collaboration for excellence with their teachers, and students of those teachers are producing excellent academic results. Since teachers will comprise the “Personal Learning Communities,” as the required collaborative units are called, teachers should be involved in planning from the very start, and at the very least the teachers already involved in successful collaboration should be consulted. No teachers have been included in the first plan devised by the Instruction Department to address AdvancEd requirements, and only a few teachers may be included as the plan moves forward. When asked about including teachers, Dr. Jaworowski said they could include more teachers. To be successful, the plan will need teacher input.
In response to the AdvancEd requirements, we again discussed many policies governing board operations which will probably be adopted at the end of the month, and many more are being updated and revised. Thanks to Mr. Brown, Ms. Douglas, Chairman Vining, and the many administrators who have spent hours studying and changing these and now recommend them.
The student attendance rule is now in effect, as it does not need a board vote, and parents will be happy that attendance procedures are finally more uniform. Ms. Partlow’s HR policies will probably be adopted on second read this month.
The Healthy Foods policy is predicted to lose schools money, but it needn’t do so, if schools would take advantage of the Wellness committees they are supposed to be promoting. That healthy kids make better grades is proven, so I am delighted to report that our state is actually ahead of the rest of the nation on this matter, and our laws will be having a positive effect soon, provided they are not sabotaged by poor implementation, always a fear when leadership has a bad attitude, and unfortunately most people in leadership are already complaining about this new law. The policy will be adopted, as it is the law and we are only changing legal references.
The following two discussions highlight an ambiguity in the district approach to anything involving the public. Is the point
- to develop goodwill in our community or
- to make money in the face of state funding cuts?
- If the point of free sports passes is to develop goodwill, it should be easy to get passes and easy to attend, and the board should find the funds to give the schools extra money for what they lose while they develop goodwill for the district.
- If the point of free sports passes is to earn as much money as possible for the athletics budget, the passes should be difficult to get (like awarding them for years of teaching service) and the schools shouldn’t lose much funding because not many people use passes.
Between one-third and one-half of all attendees are not paying admission. If they all paid, the schools would receive about $20,000 in gate receipts annually, and my choice would be to let seniors in free, and find the funds to reimburse the schools. We need to reach out to our community, and this is one way.
Sports passes were the first issue, and specifically, the disaster of public relations which the Byrnes/Northwestern football game became. Various people made various decisions based on their personal understanding of whether the point is 1) or 2) above, and naturally these decisions were not uniform. Much of the problem was not following policy, resulting in contractual arrangements not being communicated within the administration, people being refused entrance to the game, and customary media access being denied, among other things. Though the Athletic Directors were in attendance, Dr. Kokolis made the report, and the Administration appropriately took much more responsibility for working with athletics than has previously been the case. There has been no SIC or parental or community input for the sports pass plan which was presented, and there is no plan for communicating newly recommended procedures (which are unnecessarily complicated) to the public. I think that means there will be more problems. The board suggested strongly that policy be followed and that changes be discussed with SICs and communicated better. The board is asking Dr. Pew to be vigilant in enforcing policy and requiring that employees do the same, and will support her in any way she needs in enforcing policy.
The sports passes discussion was followed immediately by a letter received today from the Rock Hill Police Department. You are probably not surprised to hear that some people, primarily teens, have been caught sneaking alcoholic beverages into football games, and the police seem to think stopping this is a simple matter of banning all backpacks. The board had a lot of discussion, the upshot being that we hope by Sept. 19 a procedure for safely and easily banning most outside food and beverage from the stadium can be in place. Dr. Kokolis will work to make it so, but it is much more complicated than it first seems. Again, we are worried about creating ill will because we know some people won’t get the message, though the board asked the administration to communicate it well, through the Herald, district wide phone calls, and notes home from school.
Final agenda item was whether the board should begin video recording all meetings and placing them on the website for later watching. The newly revised eleventh edition of Robert’s Rules of Order has ideas about this and electronic meetings, which the administration will check. Contrary to Robert’s Rules of Order, some years ago the board secretary was directed to include some comments as well as votes, but the comments included are selective and may favor one comment over another. The video could be appended to the minutes, much as written statements are sometimes appended, and the minutes could be merely action (vote) reports, as Robert’s Rules require, but we were cautioned that every type electronic record has eventually been abandoned, and we need to keep on paper anything we want to be permanent. The administration will investigate and pursue means of video recording and web storage for public viewing.
Ms. Ann Reid asked for a moment at the end of the meeting. Ms. Reid’s son Terence Reid went through the Rock Hill Schools, played in the band in high school, then to University of South Carolina where he was a cheerleader, and then to Officer’s Training School in the Marines. He is retiring from the Marines at Scott Air Force Base and we are privileged to have an invitation to his ceremony. She is a proud mother, but we can all be proud of the Rock Hill Schools and Terence Reid.