Wednesday, June 26, 2019

2019-2020 Officers

At the June 25, 2019 Richland 2 School Board meeting the officers for the next school year were elected. Their terms-of-office are July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020. They are

James Manning, Chair
Teresa Holmes, Vice Chair
Cheryl Caution-Parker, Secretary

The length of last night's meeting, chaired for the last time by Amelia McKie, was not a record, but it was 2 hours 17 minutes. That was about 1 hour 17 minutes longer than it should have been.

Monica Elkins-Johnson was not present in person, but she did attend by telephone conference call.

You would think that Richland 2 would figure out how to conduct a meeting when one member so attends. Maybe it will learn from last night.

The volume was so low that most of what Dr. Elkins said could not be heard in the meeting room. I wondered whether even those at the board seats could hear what she was saying. The phone equipment appeared to be one of the high-quality and expensive Polycom desk models, which typically cost $200-$300.

Toward the end of the meeting the volume on the phone got turned down, and it appeared that Dr. Elkins telephoned Amelia McKie to say that she wasn't being heard.

Teleconferencing-in a board member creates a special set of legal circumstances.

A major problem at every board meeting is that attendance is not taken. The record shows up in the Minutes, but only because the note-taker puts it there.

McKie stated that Elkins-Johnson would be attending by telephone hook-up. Such attendance is apparently already anticipated and allowed under Board Policy. But proper procedure would have been to have a Motion to permit Elkins-Johnson to attend by telephone and a vote. Just one of those picky rules that the Board sometimes slides past so conveniently.

It was inexcusable that no procedure was set up to amplify Dr. Elkins' voice, so that she could be heard clearly by all Board members and the public. She brought up some excellent points during discussion of the Policy revisions, and her words were lost in the room. Her long comments also were ignored by several board members, who from time-to-time engaged in side conversations. McKie was observed scanning her cell phone and swiping through screens. This is clearly prohibited by Board policy.

The simplest arrangement would have been an additional microphone by the internal speaker of the Polycom. Another solution would have been to turn the microphone of either McKie or the Superintendent to be closer to the Polycom. But I'll bet that Polycom has a port for a direct connection. After all, why spend $300 for a top-of-the-line piece of electronic equipment and not use all its technology?

Too often during last night's meeting the speaker on the Board did not turn on his/her microphone before speaking. Hopefully, their comments will be audible on the YouTube recording.

The only person at the front of the room to lean forward and speak clearly into the microphone was Teresa Holmes. By doing so, she assures that her voice can be heard throughout the room.

I urge the Board to hire a voice coach,, who will explain that a low, soft monotone does not carry through the microphone into the room. When speakers run their words together or mumble downward or sit well back from the microphone and turn their heads away from the microphone, they cannot be heard in the room. The microphones pick up for the YouTube recording and not for amplification in the room during the meeting, unless the microphone is close to the speaker's mouth. It shouldn't be necessary to wait 2-3 days for the YouTube recording to know everything that was said.

Stay tuned for more on the election and the meeting.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Do You Even Care?

The Richland 2 School Board manages almost a billion dollars in assets, employs hundreds (thousands?) of teachers and staff, and has the responsibility for more than 27,000 students.

Voters elect Board members every two years. In some even-numbered years three are elected; in other elections, four are elected. There were four elected in 2018.

Every June the Board itself elects its officers for the following school year. This year's election will be this Tuesday, June 26, 2019.

Voters, taxpayers, parents and students are stuck with the current board until November 2020. But voters can insist on the best of the board for the Board officers.


Contact Board members today, tomorrow and Tuesday, and insist on the highest caliber of officers from the choices available. Their email addresses and telephone numbers are on the District's website.

Should Richland 2 School Board tolerate a Board Chairman who owes $51,000 to the South Carolina Ethics Commission?

Will the Board nominate and elect a popular but inexperienced "freshman" to a position as an officer?

Will any Board member be willing to accept a nomination as Board Secretary, knowing that he or she might risk personal or civil liability by signing future bond documents, if they contain false and/or misleading information?

Will the Officers of the Richland 2 School Board for 2019-2020 have the backbone to demand that future bond documents be 100% true?

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Officers to be elected this Tuesday, June 25.

On Tuesday, June 25, the Richland 2 School Board will elect its officers for the coming school year. The term of office is July 1 - June 30. The positions to be elected are Chairman, Vice Chairman and Secretary.

The School Board elects from its own. Officers must be members of the board. Only board members can vote for officers.

Board Policy BD Organization of the Board provides guidance for the election.

The Chairman is elected first; then the Vice Chairman; then the Secretary.

If there is only one nominee, the vote is by show of hands. If there are two (or more) nominees, the vote is by secret paper ballot. You can see an example of the voting by viewed the YouTube recording of the nominations and voting for officers for the 2018-2019 school year, which was held on June 26, 2018. On YouTube fast-forward to 58:55 for the action.

During this past year there has been a "majority" on the board that has run things. And not for the best. Not in the best interests of the District. Not in the best interest of students. Nor of the voters. Or fairness. Or observation of law.

Will this "majority" attempt to maintain control of the board in the next school year?

For each office to be elected, the majority can be expected to nominate a candidate for the office. The "minority" group should nominate a second person. This will force a secret paper vote. There is always a slim chance that a board member voting in secret will display some backbone that will likely not happen during a show of hands.

The backbone was displayed at the June 2018 election of officers. Amelia McKie was nominated as Chairman by Trustee Caution-Parker, and no second person was nominated. This meant that voting was by a show of hands. The vote was five in favor. Trustees Agostini and Elkins-Johnson did not vote "For".

My guess is that this caught Supt. Davis by surprise. He seemed unsure how to proceed after he realized two had not voted. He then asked if there were any votes Against or Nay, and then he added Abstentions. He should have separated Nay from Abstentions. Only Dr. Elkins-Johnson raised her hand, and it was not determined whether she was voting Nay or abstaining. Mrs. Agostini did not indicate whether she was voting Nay or Abstaining.

For more detail on the June 2018 election of officers, click here.

Because of the way the board has been run for the past year, at this year's election, if a person with poor qualifications for an officer's position is nominated, then a second person should be nominated.

Should nominees not be allowed to vote? If they weren't, that would mean a majority of the others would elect the officer. Because of the small number on the board, this will result in additional problems.

I am reminded on the 1969 movie, Putney Swope. The opening is classic. The Chairman of the Board drops dead during a board meeting, and the board decides it must elected a new chairman. Nobody on the board wants to elect Putney Swope as Chairman of the Board. Several members of the board believe no one else will vote for him, and they think Swope ought to get at least one vote. He ends up with seven votes and becomes the Chairman.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

U.S. National Debt

Are Richland 2 students learning anything at all about the U.S. National Debt?

Are they learning anything at all about personal finances, budgeting, borrowing money, avoiding payday loan scams, high interest rates on credit card debt? Saving money? Investing money?

Are they falling for the vote-buying pitch of the Democrats for the government to forgive or pay off student loans? Your student loan is your debt, not mine. I am not going to pay off your debt!

Watch this PragerU video.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Critical Election June 25

On June 25, 2019 the Richland 2 School Board will elect its officers for the next school year. This election occurs annually, and it was placed on the Agenda for the June 25, 2019 School Board meeting.

The three officers to be elected are Board Chair, Board Vice Chair and Board Secretary.

Should the "high school club" atmosphere of the current "majority" be allowed to continue?

The impact of last year's election has been felt through this school year. Last June Amelia McKie was elected by the board to serve as Board Chair from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. That choice has resulted in long, disorganized school board meetings; dissension among board members; constant calls for compliance with State law; resignation by the Board Secretary (officer); failure to sanction a board member who violated Board Policy by launching a personal and false claim of harassment against a community member with the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

It is the Board Chair and the Superintendent who set the agendas for future meetings. Dissenting board members find it very difficult to get unpopular issues on the agenda for a meeting.

Did the board bother to conduct any due diligence before electing McKie?

If it had, it should have uncovered that she had failed to file required annual Statement of Economic Interests Reports with the South Carolina Ethics Commission for 2015, 2016 and 2017. Those were violations of Board Policy and a violation of State law. A search of the Public Index of the Richland County Fifth Judicial Circuit would have revealed personal information that should have been taken into consideration.

Will McKie seek a second term as Board Chair? She owes $51,750 in fines and penalties to the South Carolina Ethics Commission (as of 6/11/2019). The Ethics Commission should be turning that debt over to the S.C. Department of Revenue for collection.

If she does seek re-election as Chair, what significance with the board give to her current debt to the South Carolina Ethics Commission, on which no meaningful payments have been made?

The board tried to adopt a new Board Policy earlier this year that might have caught up McKie. That proposed policy would have given the board authority to remove an officer; not remove the person from the board, but remove that person as an officer. The vote was 3-4 (including Nay votes of McKie and Holmes). Without those two votes (and there is good reason to omit both votes), the result would have been 3-2 - a Passing vote!

The board could, but won't, remove her from the board. S.C. Code of Laws §59-19-60 reads,

"School district trustees shall be subject to removal from office for cause by the county boards of education, upon notice and after being given an opportunity to be heard by the county board of education. Any such order of removal shall state the grounds thereof, the manner of notice and the hearing accorded the trustee, and any such trustee shall have the right to appeal to the court of common pleas, as provided in Section 59-19-560. Vacancies occurring in the membership of any board of trustees for any cause shall be filled for the unexpired term by the county board of education in the same manner as provided for full-term appointments.

There is no "county board of education" for Richland County. Richland 2 is that board of education. Richland 2 School Board Policy is that a vacant trustee position will be filled by special election conducted by the the Richland County Council. There have been two vacant positions since November 6, 2018.

What "cause" could the board use? How about failure to file required annual forms with the State Ethics Commission? Former Gov. Nikki Haley removed a Richland County Councilman for failure to pay S.C. income taxes for three years. Mrs. Haley referred to that as an act of moral turpitude.

When the school board gets ready to elect its officers for the coming year, it must select three with impeccable integrity, character, honesty, ethics, principles and responsibility.

As it happens, there are three on the board with those qualities who will be eligible for election as an officer for 2019-2020. And it's not the majority that McKie refers to so often as supportive of the superintendent.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Review: June 2018 Board Officer Election

At the last School Board meeting of the 2018-2019 School Year, the Board held an election for Board officers. That election was on June 26, 2018, and it was for the term beginning July 1, 2018 and ending on June 30, 2019.

The Officers are Board Chair, Board Vice Chair and Board Secretary.

If you care to view that election, go to Richland 2's website,
click on EXPLORE; then
click on School Board; then
click on BOARD MEETINGS; then
click on 2017-2018 School Board Meeting Highlights; then
scroll down to June 26, 2018 and
click on Click here to watch the entire meeting.
Fast-forward (drag) to 58:55 on the timer.

Supt. Davis chaired the nominations and the voting.

For Chair, McKie was nominated by Caution-Parker.
By a hand vote of 5-2 (Nay/Abstain by Agostini and Elkins-Johnson), McKie was elected to the office of Chair.

For Vice Chair, Elkins-Johnson was nominated by Manning.
For Vice Chair, Shadd was nominated by Caution-Parker.
By a paper vote of 4-3, Elkins-Johnson was elected to the office of Vice Chair.

For Secretary, Agostini was nominated by Elkins-Johnson.
For Secretary, Shadd was nominated by McKie.
By a paper vote of 5-2, Agostini was elected to the office of Secretary. *

* Mrs. Agostini resigned from the office of Board Secretary on April 26, 2019, after she refused to sign documents associated with a $26,000,000 Bond Notes sale. Mrs. Agostini would not affix her name to the Certificate of Incumbency (which stated Amelia McKie is the Board Chair and that her term of office as Chair is July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019), and she would not sign the Signature and No Litigation Certification (also related to McKie's position).

On April 30, 2019 the Board elected James Shadd as successor Board Secretary for the remainder of the term to June 30, 2019.

Mrs. Agostini continues to serve as School Board Trustee. Her term of office is 2016-2020.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Texting & side conversations during meetings

School Board meetings are public meetings by public bodies.

Anything said at a public meeting by an official should be audible throughout the room.

There is a Board Policy about texting and emailing during meetings. The policy is, Don't. Do. It.

Who will remind board members to put down their phones?

Should the School Board have a parliamentarian or a sergeant-at-arms? Someone to remind them to speak into the microphone and pull the microphone close to them, instead of sitting back 18-24 inches from it or turning away from it while speaking?

Last night's praise for giving good microphone goes to Teresa Holmes and Baron Davis. Thank you.

The booby prizes go to Amelia McKie, Cheryl Caution-Parker and James Shadd. Assuming that what you have to say is important, then say it loudly enough that all can hear you. Please!

Richland Library - irresponsible decision

Richland Library patrons are receiving an email that announces the end to fines.

This is a terrible decision and is going to bite them hard on the bottom line.

OK, so now, when I check out a book, I don't have to return it. I'll just keep it as long as I want. How nice that the Library will remind me that my book is due. I'll just tell them I haven't finished it yet.

And this sentence in the Library's email? "If you lose or damage an item, we’ll simply add a replacement fee to your account so that we can replace the item."

How will it know whether I have lost or damaged it? At what point will they add a replacement fee? The books now have no due dates!!!

I just checked out Operation Lost Trust, by John Crangle. It was published in 2016, and my copy (autographed) looks brand-new and never opened. It's the story of corruption in S.C. government. Only 600 pages?

What does it sell for? $25.00? $50.00? It's not listed on Author Crangle was quoted in the media as saying that wholesale price was less than $25.00; thus, legislators wouldn't have to report his gift on their Ethics Commission filings.

Why should I ever return this book? (If you know me (or even if you don't), I will read it, and I shall return it.)

When I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, its library had a similar policy. Teachers would check out 50-100 books for use in classrooms, and the books were never returned.

You can forget reserving a popular, newly-released book. The first person will check it out and never return it. Then the Library will buy another copy. And another. And another.

Tutoring Policy

The School Board once again nitpicked its way through Policy revisions last night. But they, for a change, did it pretty quickly by voting en masse to approve a large number of the proposed revisions - without showing them to the public.

One target of discussion was Board Policy GCRD - Tutoring for Pay.

I swear, you'd think that Richland 2 is in competition with the Federal Government, when it comes to writing policies. Read Policy GCRD and the proposed revisions here.

What is Richland 2 worried about?

That a teacher might tutor a student on school property. OMG. It's taxpayer-supported property. Can't have that!!! Then the District would have to let private tutoring services onto school property. Well, okay; why not? Just charge a small fee for the use of two chairs and a table for an hour. Let's say, $1.00. Charge the teacher, too.

A staff comment was made that allowing paid tutoring by a teacher on school property would be a violation of State Ethics policy. Well, I'll bet there is a legal way around that.

The prohibition should be on undisclosed tutoring-for-pay. The solution? Just disclose it. The worry seemed to be that a teacher would be tutoring "for personal gain".

How many teachers tutor just for the big bucks they earn after working all day? Half a dozen? Two? One? None?

What about the "personal gain" of the student?

Note the policy reads that "This practice must be limited to children students other than those for whom the teacher is currently exercising teaching, administrative or supervisory responsibility."

That's a pretty dumb restriction. Who would have the best knowledge of that student and his/her needs? The classroom teacher! I don't think any teacher is going to short a kid in the classroom just to drum up a few bucks after school.

Who will best understand the learning style or obstacles to learning of the student in need of tutoring? The classroom teacher, of course!

Maybe, instead of wasting time on re-writing so many policies, somebody ought to just take a big pair of scissors and cut up most of the policies.

12 Years of Perfect Attendance

The best part of last night's school board meeting was the recognition of 12 years of perfect attendance by Chasity Thomas, 2019 graduate of Ridge View High School.

Can you imagine the commitment it takes to attend every single day of school? That was 2,160 days over the 12 years.

Chasity's certificate of perfect attendance was accepted for her by her younger brother, Chase.


Friday, June 7, 2019

"Something so out of kilter"?

At the May 28th Richland 2 School Board Meeting there was quite a discussion after the agenda for the June 11th Board meeting was proposed.

Trustee Lindsay Agostini made a motion to amend the proposed agenda to include having the bond attorney attend the executive session to explain the POS (whatever that is) and the No-Litigation Certificate which are part of the bond documents she refused to sign. The motion was seconded by Dr. Elkins-Johnson.

Trustee Caution-Parker asked if they'd have to pay the attorney to attend. Well, duhhh... of course. Attorneys don't work for free. (Watch the YouTube recording of the 5/28/2019 meeting, and start at (1:21:20) on the timer.)

Caution-Parker asked, "Is there something so out-of-kilter that we need to have her there?" Then Caution-Parker mentioned a letter that Supt. Davis gave to all the board members that explains the attorney's views.

What could that "something so out-of-kilter" be?

Actually, I can name about three things that will create H-U-G-E problems for those who signed the documents, which I have since learned pertain to the April 11, 2019 sale of the bonds.

And probably not just for those who signed, but possibly for the entire Board, because it has not addressed the problem that arose on November 13, 2018.

Notice how McKie allowed the meeting to run out-of-control after the discussion ended and she called for a vote. The voting opened, and then Caution-Parker had a question. She was too late and should have been cut off, but McKie didn't cut her off.

Then McKie recognized James Shadd, who was also too late for discussion. McKie continues to run meetings by the McKie Rules of Order, rather than by Robert's Rules of Order. Shadd, for some strange reason (and especially strange, since he  is an attorney himself) said the bond attorney (Heizer) would not be at an executive session for legal advice.

Well, that's exactly why she would be there.

At that point, Supt. Davis said "the contract has already been signed." What he meant was the contract for the sale of the bonds. And that's why he needed the Board Secretary to hurry up and sign.

Mrs. Agostini was wise to consult with her private attorney and to refuse to sign the Certificate of Incumbency and the Signature and No-Litigation Certification.

After James Shadd was appointed successor Board Secretary, he signed the documents on April 30.

Finally one board member supported Mrs. Agostini. Dr. Elkins-Johnson said it was proper to support a board member's request for clarification. Of course!!!

The vote on the amendment to the motion is shown at (1:32:51). The vote was 3-3 (Failed). Agostini, Elkins-Johnson and Holmes voted in favor. McKie, Caution-Parker and Shadd voted against. Manning was absent. (The vote should have been recorded as 3-3-0-1.)

Tossing out the votes of McKie and Holmes, who are not legal members of the board, then the vote would have been 2-2-0-1. Had Trustee Manning been present, I suspect the vote would have been 3-2 (without the votes of McKie and Holmes recognized), passing instead of failing.

Does anyone remember a Resolution coming before the Board to authorize the Board Chair and the Board Secretary to sign the bond sale documents on behalf of Richland School District Two?

Was that buried in some document or motion months ago, so that the signatures could be affixed without a current Resolution?

2 teens - armed home invasion

As I was driving out of The Summit on Wednesday, June 5, I encountered a long line of traffic backed up on Summit Parkway at Hard Scrabble Road. I turned and drove through Elders Pond subdivision to access Hard Scrabble Road by Walgreens. There were many deputies and at least one K-9 who seemed to be searching around the pond near Kendrick Road.

This article in The State, finally published on June 6, 2019 at 5:08PM, explains what it was all about.

Two students, 14 and 15, are described as having invaded a home on Wild Indigo Court (map), and the younger threatened to kill the teen-age girl who had been asleep when they broke in. Fortunately, she did not hesitate to call the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

Ridge View High School was placed on lockdown. Were the two boys students there? The story says the girl in the home knew them. Was Rice Creek Elementary School also locked down?

Where did they get the gun? Were both armed?

Should the identities of minors who are accused of committing major crimes like this be withheld from the public? I don't think so!

A 14-year-old with a gun who threatens to kill someone does not deserve to have his identity shielded by an archaic law.

If you know who they are, let me know. After I confirm it, I'll publish their names, addresses and the name of any school in which they are enrolled.

Hopefully, they will be charged and tried as adults. They should not be allowed to take advantage of the more lenient treatment that juvenile offenders expect.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Investigations continue

Update to readers....

The change in frequency for postings here has nothing to do with any reduced interest in the shortcomings of the Richland 2 School Board or its willingness to address critical issues that it has been burying since January.

Continued digging is occurring. Sometimes it's just better to dig and not talk about the digging.

When the wheels come off, they will be coming off in a big way.

Certain members of the School Board have failed the public in terms of

They may think they've got a free ride until 2022.

One of these days the S.C. Ethics Commission will get around to turning uncollected debts over the the S.C. Dept. of Revenue. As of May 20, 2019 Amelia McKie owed $51,750 in fines and penalties. According to the Ethics Commission, the period for bargaining and negotiating has expired. That's what she owes. That's what the DOR will be collecting. How does the DOR collect it? By every available means.

Could Gov. Henry McMaster remove McKie from office? He could apply the same standard to McKie that former Gov. Nikki Haley applied when she removed Kelvin Washington from the Richland County Council in March 2016 after his conviction for failing to pay S.C. income tax for three years. Gov. Haley considered that an act of moral turpitude; it wasn't Washington's DUI guilty plea that cooked his goose. It was his failing to pay income taxes.

How similar is a public official's failing to file Statements of Economic Interests Reports and Campaign Disclosure Reports for four years? Pretty close, I'd say.