Thursday, September 16, 2021

Worse than I first thought

I just listened to the re-play of the September 14, 2021 board meeting. It was worse than I thought.

Listen to it. Go to www.livestream.com/richland2 and select the September 14, 2021 meeting. Advance to 13:45 on the timer for the beginning of the meeting at 5:30PM. The board then goes into executive session, which is not broadcast. Advance to 1:14:08, where the public meeting re-convenes.

Skip the first part and advance to 1:16:54 for the fireworks. This is the point where approval of the agenda for the tonight's meeting begins. This is where the meeting begins to disintegrate.

I could analyze for you all the mistakes that were made. The responsibility for the disaster rests squarely on Teresa Holmes' shoulders. If she knew parliamentary procedure, the entire fiasco would have been avoided. And the meeting would have been much shorter. If you want the analysis, let me know. I have detailed notes from the video-recording.

Look particularly at the deer-in-the-headlights expression on Holmes' face after Trustee Agostini makes her secondary motion to remove the superintendent's contract from the agenda. Holmes was lost. She didn't know what to do. 

When Holmes asked the new General Counsel (employee of the District) whether Agostini's motion was germane, the staffer's answer could not be heard. Holmes should have asked Karla Hawkins to step to a microphone. Holmes then asked, "It could go either way?" Apparently, Hawkins indicated yes.

Then Holmes struggled with wording to shoot down Agostini's motion. Holmes asked the attorney if it is in her purview to make a decision about whether Agostini's motion was germane. That was not the original question of the attorney. Of course, Agostini's motion was germane. Holmes didn't want it to be, and she struggled to find a way to boot it.

Holmes made a huge error by not recognizing Trustee McFadden, after Agostini and Scott left the meeting. Holmes said, "Just a minute, Ms. McFadden. I'm sure you are going to join the rest." Meaning to leave the meeting. And then Holmes called on Manning to speak. Again, Holmes demonstrated a gross misunderstanding of parliamentary procedure.

McFadden did speak. She was clear, concise and powerful. Then, while the camera was on McKie, McFadden walked out.

Right then is where the meeting should have adjourned!

It would be in the best interest of Richland Two to remove Holmes from the position of Board Chair and to elect a board member who knows parliamentary procedure. 

Question of the Day: widow or widower

How is a woman whose husband died referred to?

A. Widow

B. Widower

(There is a reason for asking.) Watch for a follow-up article. Put your answer in a Comment below or, for privacy, email it to gusphilpott@gmail.com  Your name or email address will never be made public.

How can you be sure of confidentiality?

I wrote a blog in Illinois, frequently sinking my teeth into the county sheriff's department. The sheriff had his attorney subpoena 27 months' worth of records for my blog, trying to find out where the leaks were. I filed a Motion to Quash the subpoena pro se in Federal Court, and the Magistrate granted my motion, telling the sheriff's attorney she was just on a "fishing expedition" (his words) to uncover the names of deputies who were leaking the dirt to me.

The subpoena was part of a former deputy's wrongful termination lawsuit. I knew I would not reveal my sources, even at the risk of jail time for contempt of court. Fortunately, it never got to that. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

False Statements in The State article

Read carefully today's article in The State about last night's board meeting. Can you spot the lies and other false statements?

The first thing I noticed was the use of an old board photo. It includes former board member James Shadd, who was not re-elected in November 2020. Lashonda McFadden was not pictured or mentioned in the photo caption.

Monica Scott commented on the power claimed by the board chair (trustee-elect) Teresa Holmes. I remember last year when Holmes filled in as board chair and the night she slammed the gavel down like she was in charge of the U.S. Supreme Court. Actually, the board has not "given" more power to the chair. The board has allowed the chair to grab it without a challenge. Maybe that's stopping now.

The article states "Holmes said board members were kept in the loop every step of the way and had weeks to get details on Davis’ proposed contract." If you watched or listened to last night's meeting, you know that Holmes lied when she told the reporter that.

The article continues - “How could they have been cut out of the decision making process when we’re all given the same information at the same time?” The Trustees did NOT get "the same informatino at the same time." Another lie.

When Trustees Agostini, Scott and McFadden walked out, leaving the board with less than a quorum, the ONLY action the chair (Holmes) should have taken was to adjourn the meeting immediately. Holmes was wrong to carry on until the superintendent finally spoke up - twice. First to tell her they had to adjourn, and secondly to remind her that the board had never approved the agenda for the meeting and so could not continue.

Manning then is quoted in the article with an opinion but otherwise false statement - “I think what happened last night was a dereliction of duty and an irresponsible way to govern.” 

The article correctly states "In August, Richland 2’s board voted to request legal advice..." That's exactly what Manning's Motion was. His Motion was NOT to commence legal action. The superintendent did that without the advice and consent of the board.

For that reason alone, he should not be considered for a raise. As a matter of fact, he exceeded his authority and should be terminated for doing so.

The article continues. "Holmes said it was clear the board was voting for legal action ..." and 
“Every board member agreed to do the lawsuit,” Holmes lies again.

There was no vote to begin legal action. Any "vote" in Executive Session, if there was one, is invalid. Is that where Holmes thinks the board voted? They certainly did not so vote for legal action in public session.

The article states that Holmes is "an assistant administrator in Fairfield County Schools" and provides a link to Richland Two's Board Member page. Holmes is no longer employed in Fairfield County Schools. The Board Member page continues obsolete information.

The article continues. "Manning implied other districts have noticed Davis and would be happy to have him." Good. Let them have him.

Read this idiotic statement by Holmes. “In my opinion this should never be able to happen again where three people, who are not a majority of the board, can shut down the business of the district.”

What she fails to say is that "the Squad" (Holmes, McKie, Caution-Parker, Manning) can do whatever they want and completely disregard Agostini, Scott and McFadden, because they, the four, are the majority.

Gall of R2 Superintendent

When last night's Richland 2 school board meeting blew up over the agenda item to give the superintendent a raise, Baron Davis had the gall to suggest that the board ought to meet in a Special-Called Board Meeting to discuss and approve his revised contract.

I hope that legal Trustees Agostini, Scott and McFadden will decline to attend any Special-Called Meeting that includes that agenda item. If they don't attend, the board cannot meet because it won't have a quorum (of five).

Why is the superintendent's contract even open for discussion at this time? Is this a normal review time for his contract? 

Why didn't the board consider the issue of compensation when it lavished praise on him for just doing his job for the past year? On August 13, 2019 the board gave Davis a whopping 12.3% raise of an estimated $23,000. Did he get a pay bump in 2020?

When Davis filed his 2021 Statement of Economic Interests with the South Carolina Ethics Commission on March 17, 2021, he reported $223,882.97 as salary from Richland 2, plus an $18,000 car allowance. He also reported a taxable economic benefit of $760 on insurance provided by the District and $14,000 from the University of South Carolina.

Why does Richland 2 allow him to moonlight for an extra $14,000/year? For $237,000/year Richland 2 ought to get 100% of his time.

Davis also reports a "Family Income" of $78,113 from Richland 2. Does he have a wife working in the District? I thought there were nepotism rules in the District. Maybe not. She might not report directly to him, but indirectly she sure does because he is at the top of the District employee food chain.

Why are the Trustees even allowing any discussion of a compensation increase at this time? Sure, he'll always hold his hand out for more. Gimme, gimme, gimme. So, let him hold his hand out. Just don't put anything in it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

What will Holmes learn?

The lesson for Teresa Holmes from tonight's board meeting is that she is not the Queen of the board. She doesn't get to rule by fiat. She is only one vote when it comes time to vote. 

And vote the board must. She mis-used her authority tonight to shut off other board members who wanted to speak. She didn't listen to the other board members, because she was thinking about how she was going to get her own way.

Watch the replay of the meeting and you see where she gets lost and doesn't know what to do next.

She was elected as board chair at the end of June, and the board could hold another election at any time and elect someone else to be chair. There are really only two good choices: Lindsay Agostini and Monica Scott. 

As a matter of fact, they should hold another election, since Holmes isn't even a legitimate board member.

I wonder what the new Legal Counsel for the District would say, if asked to state the legality of Holmes and McKie being on the board.

Would she make a decision based on the law, or would she make a decision that will preserve her job? And right there is the reason for the school district NOT to have its own, in-house, legal counsel. 

But that's a topic for another article.

Does Holmes have the integrity and the humility to learn from tonight's mistakes?

The ONLY Apology Needed....

The ONLY apology needed at tonight's school board meeting was for Teresa Holmes to admit that she doesn't have a clue how to run a board meeting. SHE is the one whose apology was needed.

Caution-Parker should apologize for referring to the walk-out by Trustees Agostini, Scott and McFadden as "stupid and ignorant".

There was an attempt to ram through an amendment to the superintendent's contract. One trustee mentioned a "raise", so apparently the superintendent was seeking more money on top of the huge raise he got last year.

The fiasco began when the board needed to approve tonight's agenda. There was a motion and second. During discussion Mrs. Agostini wanted to put the vote on the superintendent's contract off to the next meeting.

This is where Teresa Holmes clearly demonstrated her lack of leadership and organizational skills. She tried to dismiss it. She refused to understand that, when Mrs. Agostini made her motion to amend the primary motion to approve the agenda, there should have been a second, then discussion, then a vote.

Monica Scott got up and left the meeting, leaving six in attendance.

Then Lindsay Agostini got up and left, leaving five.

Lashonda McFadden attempted to speak, and Holmes would not recognize her. When Holmes finally recognized her, Mrs. McFadden gave a very clear statement, and then she left. When she left, that meant a quorum no longer existed and business had to stop.

You MUST watch this meeting, which is only 35 minutes long. Go to www.livestream.com/Richland2 and select the video for today's date, September 14, 2021.

Even then Holmes tried to continue. Finally the superintendent explained all they could do was adjourn.

And even then Holmes continued.

Manning tried to shore things up, but Holmes was WRONG. The worst part is that she didn't even know she was wrong. 

The only apology needed tonight was for Holmes to state that her inexperience and lack of leadership skills were the direct cause of what happened. She should have allowed Agostini's secondary motion to continue. The Squad probably would have voted it down, but the meeting would have continued.

The only way to stop a vote on the superintendent's raise was for three board members to walk out. And walk out they did. 

Bravo and kudos to Mrs. Agostini, Ms. Scott and Mrs. McFadden!!! They are the only three worthy of being on the board!

WHO Has Ultimate Responsbility???

 Well, lookee what has shown up in the Agenda for the September 14, 2021 school board meeting. 

When I first looked at the agenda last week, I didn't spot this Resolution. So today, Tuesday, I wonder when it was added. It's possible I just didn't see it. Richland 2 School District never identifies an amended agenda. If the District published this agenda with the Resolution after 5:30PM yesterday, then they violated the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, which requires at least 24 hours' notice.

If you want your blood to boil, read carefully the sixth Whereas: "WHEREAS, local school boards and superintendents, who ultimately bear the responsibility for the well-being of students ..."

Seriously? Who do these people think they are? This is Socialism at its best (worst). NO, IT IS THE PARENTS WHO BEAR THE ULTIMATE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE WELL-BEING OF STUDENTS (THEIR CHILDREN).

Parents must push back on the woke members of the school board and the superintendent!!!

Here's the Resolution, as it appears in the Agenda for tonight's board meeting. Who authorized the legal cost of developing that Resolution? How much did it cost? $1,000? $2,500? The school board should have discussed that first, decided on it, and then authorized the superintendent to get it prepared? Did the superintendent do it on his own? Did the board chair, who is not even legally the board chair, okay it?

Also, notice the absence of an Attestation clause, in which the Secretary attests to the signatures. McKie can't legally do that, because she too is not a legal member of the board and not the legitimate Secretary of the Board.  McKie, of course, won't have the same ethical problem that a previous Secretary had, when that Secretary refused to attest to the legitimacy of the then-board chair (who happened to be McKie).


A RESOLUTION OF THE RICHLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT TWO BOARD OF TRUSTEES URGING THE SOUTH CAROLINA GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO REPEAL 2021-2022 BUDGET PROVISO 1.108 

WHEREAS, South Carolina is among the top 10 states in the nation having the highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita, averaging 5,500 cases a day; and 

WHEREAS, the South Carolina Children’s Hospitals Collaborative recently stated that the number of children ages 0 - 17 in the state requiring hospitalization, including critical, for COVID-19 is rising at an alarming rate; and 

WHEREAS, in Richland School District Two the number of students and staff who have tested positive so far this school year is more than 650, which has resulted in the quarantine of more than 1,860 students and staff; and, 

WHEREAS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status; and, 

WHEREAS, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) strongly recommends universal mask wearing for teachers, staff, and parents in schools; and, 

WHEREAS, local school boards and superintendents, who ultimately bear the responsibility for the well-being of students and staff need flexibility – not limitations – when carefully weighing health and safety guidance at the local, state and federal levels to make decisions for the students and staff in their communities; and, 

WHEREAS, local school district leaders are best positioned to monitor and modify safety protocols and make the best decisions to keep students and employees safe; and, 

WHEREAS, mitigation measures are vitally important to maintain in-person, full time education to ensure students do not fall behind scholastically or socially; and, 

WHEREAS, Proviso 1.108 serves as a barrier for school district leaders to consider every recommended mitigation measure available for the protection of the health and safety of students and staff. 

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Richland School District Two Board of Trustees, by this resolution, strongly urges members of the South Carolina General Assembly to reconvene immediately and repeal Proviso 1.108. 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that copies of this resolution are being furnished to members of the Richland County Legislative Delegation and communicated to our parents, businesses and school supporters. Adopted this 14th day of September, 2021 

________________________ Board Member ________________________ Board Member ________________________ Board Member ________________________ Board Member ________________________ Board Member ________________________ Board Member ________________________ Chairman