Vining To Seek Another Term To The Rock Hill School Board

jim-viningI am excited to share the announcement below, which appeared on Jim Vining’s blog this morning. Mr. Vining has been an exceptionally communicative, hard-working and effective chair. Under his leadership board members have worked to gather to accomplish a great deal. He will be on every ballot in the school district in November so I hope you will all go vote for him.

Jim Vining has announced that he will seek another term to the Rock Hill School Board.

Vining said, “It has been my honor to have served the residents of Rock Hill School District Three and I am extremely appreciative for their strong support for our schools. I want to keep the focus on academic progress as we transition into new leadership and technology.”

Vining currently serves as one of two at-large representatives to the Rock Hill School Board. He was first elected in 1998.

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Why $1.3 Million for Special Education?

The Rock Hill School Board voted as part of the 2014-15 budget to add $1.3 Million dollars for special education, most of it in personnel. Our hope for all our kids is that they become the kind of grownup Tim Harris has become. Meet him in the video below.


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Rock Hill School District News

July 16 “District Update”

from Elaine Baker, Director of Information Services

Supt. on Radio Talk Show Today
Dr. Kelly Pew will be on WRHI’s daily community  talk show, “Straight Talk,” today at 12:30. To hear Dr. Pew, one can listen to WRHI, 1340 on the AM dial, or go to the WRHI website, She will also be the featured speaker on July 23 at a meeting of the Rock Hill Area Chamber of Commerce Board.

District’s Partners to be Recognized July 30
The district’s annual community partnership luncheon to recognize outstanding volunteers, business partners and civic organizations will be held on Wednesday morning, July 30, at Events at Manchester, beginning at 11:30. Laurabree Monday and Lucas McFadden, anchors at CN2, will serve as emcees.

School Supply Lists for Students
School supply lists are on the district’s website under the “Parent” link and “Quick Links” on the front page.

Energy Star Schools
Congratulations to Belleview, Ebenezer Avenue, Old Pointe and Rosewood elementary schools on their designation as an ENERGY STAR school.  Buildings that earn EPA’s ENERGY STAR use 35 percent less energy and generate 35 percent few greenhouse gas emissions than similar buildings across the nation. These four schools will be recognized at the August 25 business meeting of the school board.

Back-to-School Celebration
The location for the August 15 Back-to-School Celebration has been changed to South Pointe High from Rock Hill High.

Candidates for School Board
Three seats on the Rock Hill School Board will be up for election on November 4, seats now held by Jim Vining, Ginny Moe and Jane Sharp. Filing to run for the school board will take place at the York County Voter Registration Board in York between noon of August 1 and noon of August 15. Persons interested in running must reside in School Board Districts 2 (Moe) or 4 (Sharp) or run as an at-large (Vining) candidate.

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Old Pointe receives Energy Star

Another Rock Hill Schools location has earned an Energy Star from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. Thanks to Kim Melander, Energy and Systems Manager for Rock Hill Schools, and congratulations to Tanya Campbell, Principal, Old Pointe Elementary School, and the entire staff and student body.


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Mary Fishburne, NWHS grad, Musical Theatre in Charleston

Mary FishburneHere is the latest on the musical theatre happenings in Charleston involving Mary Fishburne, a graduate of Northwestern High in Rock Hill Schools. If you are in Charleston, go to one of her shows!

Much to report for summer!

I hope that everyone is well and staying cool. Here is a chronological report of what I’ve been up to and what is next.

April/May: I spent 3 weeks in New York City studying under the expert company members of Fiasco Theatre Company in their Acting Intensive Workshop. With the opportunities and responsibilities that I’m so lucky to keep having here in Charleston, I want to make sure that I’m doing all that I can to be polished and educated. If you’re in NYC this winter or spring, don’t miss Fiasco’s Into the Woods on Broadway.

The workshop was wonderful but the smells of NY and subway motion were tough because of something that I call my “situation”. I am 4 months into a 9-month situation. It’s a boy, which should be fun. The weeks spent in NYC were pretty sickly, so if you’re a NY friend or teacher reading this, that’s why I didn’t call.

In April, my private students who are seniors heard back from their top-choice colleges, and ALL received scholarships in either theatre or music. Some aren’t necessarily planning to pursue this after college, but it pays (literally) to have arts education. I must brag, as the likelihood of this happening again is somewhat low.

May: I was cast in Pure Theatre’s  new comedy, Folly Beach. Sadly but understandably, the run extends into mid-August, and costuming around my situation would be too tricky. I can’t wait to see the show and highly recommend it.

Also in May, I performed in the opera Hansel and Gretel. It was wonderful singing classically and promoting and preserving the art of opera among young audiences. It is adapted for children and will be performed next at The Library Society on Sept. 14th at 2 p.m. Yes, it will look like Gretel hit the gingerbread house a little too hard.

Piccolo Spoleto got away from us, so we decided to pull Girl Singer from the line-up. We want to give it more attention and care before it returns next time, which will tentatively be early 2015. I can hardly wait!. Clips of two of the five singers are on my website.

June: Rehearsals for Aida are in full-swing. I’m directing 20 high-schoolers in this production with (much needed and much appreciated) help from Thomas Keating and various choreographers in town. Though stressful, I look around multiple times a day and can’t believe my good fortune to be leading such a group. The performances are July 2nd and 3rd and School of the Arts at 7:00. FREE. Here’s a rehearsal clip. 

July: There’s a new theatre in town, 34 West. I will be in their first show, a 60s-inspired evening filled with songs from the era.  One reason I agreed to this is because my character is pregnant!

July 7-11th: Teaching in Broadway Boot Camp. See below.

August: Due to its sold-out run and the high demand for its return, 13 is coming back to the Woolfe Street Playhouse!!!! My dad is filled with compliments, so his endorsements lose some credibility, but my mom, the most critical, called the show, “The most fun I’ve had in years.” Geoff says, “I saw it twice, not just because my wife made me.” The people sitting next to my mom opening night were from out of town, knew no one in the cast, and got on their phones during intermission to buy tickets for that weekend to see it again before they left for Missouri. August 1st-3rd. DON’T. MISS. IT.

Also in August, Immanuel (Manny) Houston and I will be giving a concert where we both impersonate many singers in history. There are over 30 singers that we collectively impersonate, and we are having such fun rehearsing for what I believe will be a very fun and entertaining evening. My Celine Dion songs are getting stronger each day, and his Ray Charles is already concert-ready. It will be at 34 West Theatre on Aug. 14th-16th at 8:00. TICKETS CAN BE BOUGHT HERE.  To be honest, I have no idea how this is going to turn-out, but I’d love to have your support.

Lastly, sister Anne will marry Will Hamilton on August 30th.

Then, it will be the fall, and maybe I’ll send another one of these long, boring emails.
All of my best to everyone, and please be in touch.

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Standardized Tests


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Value added teacher pay based on false research

from the National Education Policy Center:

Debate Intensifies
over Value-Added Research

NEPC reviewer responds to research team’s claim of a connection between teacher value-added scores and student lifetime earnings


William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058,

Moshe Adler, (917) 453-4921,

URL for this press release:, CO (June 24, 2014) – Although policymakers maygrabonto easy answers, questions about teacher effectiveness—how we measure it and what wecanconclude about a teacher’s long-term impact—are being heatedly debated among scholars.Today, the National Education Policy Center published a clear and detailed response to some of the most influential research claims about teacher effectiveness.Those claims were made by researchers Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Jonah Rockoff, who assert a connection between teachers’ “value-added” scores and what their students will earn over their lifetimes. Those assertions made their way into President Obama’s State of the Union message two years ago; they also surfaced in this month’s ruling by a California judge, in the Vergara case, who found that certain due process protections for teachers violated that state’s constitution.

That research, however, cannot bear the weight of critical scrutiny, according to an expert review by Moshe Adler published by the NEPC in April.

Adler’s review—published by NEPC as part of its Think Twice think tank review project—examined two working papers presenting research by Chetty and his colleagues and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Adler is an economist affiliated with both Columbia’s Urban Planning Department as well as the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies at Empire State College, SUNY, and the author the 2010 book, Economics for the Rest of Us: Debunking the Science That Makes Life Dismal.

Chetty, Friedman, and Rockoff wrote a response—which is posted on the NEPC website—taking issue with the criticisms. Accordingly, we asked Adler to continue this important debate, replying to those responses. Adler has now presented an item-by-item explanation of why those responses are inadequate to address the study’s weaknesses.

The influence of the Chetty team’s research includes this statement in President Obama’ 2012 State of the Union address: “We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000.” Similarly, the judge in California’s Vergara litigation cited Chetty’s testimony and the team’s research as evidence that “a single year in a classroom with a grossly ineffective teacher costs students $1.4 million in lifetime earnings per classroom.”

The research claim rests on complex statistical analyses that attempt to attribute a student’s test score growth over a year to one or more of that student’s teachers—and then attempts to link those scores to subsequent student earnings.

According to Adler, however, the judge’s and the president’s conclusions step far beyond what the research can validly demonstrate. Adler explains why the evidence that Chetty and his colleagues cite cannot adequately support either claim: that a teacher’s value-added scores reflect that teacher’s quality, or that the scores predict future student earnings.

“Despite widespread references to this study in policy circles, the shortcomings and shaky extrapolations make this report misleading and unreliable for determining educational policy,” Professor Adler concluded in his April 10 review. That review raised at least nine different concerns, including the improper use of prior research and the failure to report important results when those results contradicted  the authors’ conclusions.

The points Adler makes should give pause to policymakers who have assumed that the evidence is sufficiently solid to be relied upon to frame education reform strategies.

Although the concerns Adler discusses are sometimes technical, they are very clearly explained. Policy makers and researchers considering using the study from Chetty and his colleagues are strongly encouraged to read this robust exchange, which brings forth and clarifies serious and important issues.

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Special Needs Student iPad results from Ohio

Melissa Stanton

Melissa Stanton

On Wednesday nights during the school year I participate in a twitter chat, #1to1techat. Melissa Stanton is a middle school special needs teacher in Ohio who also participates, and I asked Melissa to send me her student test results from Ohio after her first year using iPads in the classroom.

She just sent them, via 140 character twitter message, so they are cryptic, but quite understandable.

As promised results of our state test. Please remember these are kids with speciaI needs had 7 in reading. 7/7 at proficient. +13 to +21 pts

Math gained pts but not proficient. Gained +4 to +31 pts on the test. We struggle more in math. Hope this helps.

I fully expect that iRock, the technology program in the Rock Hill Schools, will be expanded, and we will soon be able to show this kind of progress. You can read Melissa’s blog post “Things I Have Learned This Year” about her first year of classroom iPad teaching by clicking here. Thanks, Melissa, we thought it was just us stressing out over these things!

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Well, a friend is mad at me

In checking my email this morning, I received one from a friend who is really mad at me about the board vote to delay iPad purchases. I am not against iPads, as I hope my notes from the meeting show in the previous post. His email is follows, with my answer.

The business community, besides all the taxes we pay, has supported the technology development in our schools by donating over $300,000 in the past 2 years.  By a 5-2 vote, you decided to not start putting the iPads (technology) in our high schools, therefore telling us that we have wasted our donations.

I hope the voters remember this come November….

My answer:

. . . thanks for writing. I know you are not the only person who is disappointed, and I am sorry. I don’t think anyone believes that your donations have been wasted, and in fact, your donations have opened a new world to our schools and helped us all see what is important about iPads. The vote sounds negative, but I know the board is more supportive of the program than the vote shows, and that eventually the program will be expanded, perhaps even this year. Below is some explanation.

Board members know that technology is essential in today’s schools. so much so that against good financial practice, the board is willing to consider funding iPads from the capital budget, even though by no stretch of the imagination can an item which will last at most three years be called a capital expense. (Expert projections say the life of an iPad is barely over two years now, due to operating systems updates.) We are all disappointed not to have more funding for technology in the operating funds, but the shortage in Special Ed is a legal problem and has been a problem for several years, and that increase, with the unfunded but mandated teacher salary increases, ate up a lot of funding this year. I wish we already had the required personnel in special ed, and then the iPad funding could have come from operational funding, as it should. It is unreasonable to have a five year payment plan for an item expected to last at most three years, and while three year bonds are difficult to work out, if the administration comes back with such a proposal, I believe it would pass.

There are already over 3,000 iPads in the Rock Hill high schools, and I didn’t hear a single board member say they wanted to stop the program, only slow it down. At least two of us, Walter and myself, said we want even more technology than iPads, and Jim has long been a proponent of tech in the schools. As I said last night after the vote, the administration can come back next month with a three year bond or a more clear plan for helping our teachers with the extra professional development needed or more clear evidence that the enormous financial outlay has helped academics and they would probably get the vote they want. With the help the Foundation has offered in funding professional development, I hope more teachers will feel they can use the iPads to good effect. If you’d like, you can read more about this sad vote at my blog here.

Again, I am sorry you are disappointed. I am too.

Ginny Moe
Trustee, Seat Two
Rock Hill School District

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6-23-14 Business meeting – A Roller Coaster Ride

I am not an educator, and I don’t really have the best educational ideas. There are a lot of good educators in the Rock Hill Schools, and they have a lot of better ideas. Tonight Rock Hill School Board Chair Jim Vining  pointed out that their job is to dream and come up with big ideas, and thanked them for doing so. But a lot of them went home disappointed, because part of the board’s job is to figure out what we can afford, and tonight that meant going more slowly on some dreams and stopping some altogether.

Probably the most people were disappointed with the board’s 5-2 vote against purchasing more iPads for the coming year. Let me say right now, I like iPads and I like our schools moving toward one-to-one computing. I just want it to go slower and produce results we can brag about. I also think using iPads exclusively is limiting Rock Hill students, and I can’t justify borrowing on a five year bond for an item expected to last three years. Board members showed no antipathy toward one-to-one, and most of us would like a more robust program, but have too many concerns to feel good about borrowing the money right now. Other concerns mentioned were single-source supplier, need for more versatile (and more expensive) devices, need for more hard evidence (rather than anecdotal evidence) that the devices have helped students. I hope people will take heart, because we will become a one-to-one district, and are just taking a little longer to become one.

One of the happier moments came when Mikki Rentschler, President of the Rock Hill Schools Education Foundation, addressed the board during the Citizen Participation agenda item. Ms. Rentschler is a great supporter of the schools, and was formerly a School Board member. The Foundation will continue to underwrite the iPad fees for those needing scholarship, which has helped a great many students already. In addition, the Foundation has made a commitment to support the Professional Development needed by our teachers for iPad use, which will be a great boon as we seek to expand the program using good data and information. The Foundation helps the schools immeasurably, and all involved deserve the thanks of the entire Rock Hill community.

I surprised my self by changing my own vote on the Late Start professional development days. After many requests, the board has still received little information or data about what is happening on Late Start Days, and how it helps. Again, the reasons given have been anecdotal: people who like them telling us how useful the days are. I was prepared to vote against Late Start Days, since many parents, students, and teachers say they are not useful, and the whole community is inconvenienced by them, but Superintendent Dr. Kelly Pew explained that she intends to use Late Start Days to work on schools and their data. This is a new idea, so I voted with the majority to keep them one more year.

Associate Superintendent Dr. Luanne Kokolis clarified that no busses have been rented without board approval. It is a shame, but she has to refuse to rent when people make their requests too late. I hope they will begin making their requests sooner, so she can rent to them.

I ended up voting for the changes to school buildings, which will be funded through the bond approved tonight. Associate Superintendent Mr. Anthony Cox assured us that the changes to schools will be in keeping with the facilities long-range plan. The board will have a discussion about the direction the facilities plan should take, especially given the continued cuts to our budget from the state. As I said in a previous post, a lot of money can be mis-spent when the goal is not clear. I hope the board discussion about direction for facility use is soon.

The budget was approved as presented, and it is, as discussed previously, not balanced. Most of the questions concerned the enormous increase (a 20% departmental increase) in Exceptional Student Education. Most of this is due to being understaffed, and most of the increase will be used to add personnel. Almost all the rest of the budget increase is due to state required teacher raises and accompanying benefit increases which they did not fund. Other items were increased, such as raises for other staff and increases for electricity, but the administration cut budget for many items and intends to cut more. Again, a shame, but with budget cuts from the state we have little choice.

The board approved changes to salary schedules for a few employees, on the advice of a consultant who showed that our pay scales are out of line in some cases. The board did not approve a step schedule for everyone. The state has set a “step” salary schedule only for certified teachers, and most years the legislature requires the board to give teachers a “step” increase in pay, for another year’s experience. The state is supposed to supply the funding for the step, but as mentioned above, they don’t always do so. For employees not on a step schedule, the board has approved a pay range schedule. Those employees are originally hired at a minimum, medium, or maximum salary level, depending on experience and qualifications. When the board gives an increase, it is in the form of a percentage, and each non-step employee gets that percentage increase. The administration proposed a step schedule for everyone, with the new step schedules for currently non-step employees being in line with their current pay levels. This would probably simplify things, but it also creates the expectation of a raise annually for everyone, a commitment the board is not ready to make. I want to add that these salary schedules have a maximum amount, and our most experienced employees do not get any raise at all most of the time.

Finally, the board will not have a July Work Session, but will meet again on July 28 for a Business Meeting.


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