Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Your tax dollars at work - More than $468,000,000 of them!

Be sure to watch and read this news article on WIS-TV about the use of your new bond money in Richland School District Two. Click here to go to the WIS-TV story. At the bottom of the WIS-TV story, click through to see about the projects. This connects to the Richland Two website. One of the tabs will be to "High Bond Projects". They mean High School Bond Projects. Keep clicking.

As you'll see in the news story, the District is to manage the new $468,406,000 ($381,952,000 + 86,454,000). That's almost half a BILLION dollars.

Now take a look at the Board of Trustees of Richland School District Two. You'll find them here. These seven people who are not only responsible for managing this new $468 Million, but also millions of dollars of other assets, thousands of students and hundreds of teachers.

Does any reader (or voter) know or care about their backgrounds, skills, training, financial education, critical understanding of financial statements and economic forecasts?

Some of them are closely related to the world of education. Does that necessarily make them the best choices to steer the finances of a large school district?

Every taxpayer should be paying close attention to the School Board and showing up at meetings to examine how the Board conducts business. If you attended 3-4 Board meetings recently, you'd fire most of them, if you owned this business.

Most of them are nice people. I say "most", because some are not. Or they too might even be "nice" people, just ignorant in certain matters or careless in others. One owes over $51,000 in fines and penalties to the South Carolina Ethics Commission. Another made false statements in a police report recently.

But which of them (any?) really has the experience and expertise to direct the management of this new half-billion dollars and the other millions in assets? They should stop nit-picking small matters at Board meetings and concentrate on the important stuff.

When the next School Board election comes around in 2020, perhaps some highly-experienced business people will run for election. The positions of Trustees Elkins-Johnson, Agostini and Shadd will be on the ballot in 2020.

The other four (McKie, Caution-Parker, Holmes and Manning) are safe until 2022.

If more poorly-qualified trustees are elected in 2020, Richland Two will enter very dangerous waters. The rocks are already in sight. The coral reefs are too close.

First Amendment - DOA?

As soon as the video of the March 26, 2019 School Board pops up on YouTube, I'll provide more detail about a serious problem that surfaced at last night's meeting.

At the beginning of the Public Participation segment, Mrs. McKie, in a soft voice barely audible in the large room, made her general introductory remarks about watch for the red light on the microphone, state your name but not your address, you'll have three minutes; don't mention any students or staff by name, and the Board won't respond following your comments.

And then she turned the microphone over to her cohort and fellow illegal Board member, Ms. Holmes.

Holmes ordered speakers to stay on business of the children of the District, not to mention Board members by name, no profanity, and, if a speaker strays, she hoped the Chair would gavel the speaker into submission. Or some such words.

Too bad I wasn't recording the meeting myself. I'll have to wait until the recording is available on YouTube.

In all the school board and other public meetings I have attended, I have never once heard profanity. Where did that come from? Was it an insinuation that "Person A" might use profanity at the microphone?

And exactly when did McKie and Holmes cook up the tag-team match idea? Was the entire Board behind that? Or was the remainder of the Board shocked? Trustee Shadd is an attorney and should be the best-versed member of the Board about the U.S. Constitution. Did he know that was coming?

Placing restrictions on free speech by a public body (government) is really not a very good idea. While they didn't "make a law" and they aren't "Congress", does the First Amendment apply to Richland 2 as a public body?

As soon as the recording is available, I'll post verbatim what Holmes said.

Then you can judge for yourself.

One remedy that the members of the Board might start pondering between now and the Executive Session on April 9 is how to word an apology to the residents of Richland School District Two for the possible infringement on the Constitutional Right to free speech.

Was it a coincidence that last night's verbal warning followed Teresa Holmes' complaint of harassment filed against me last week at the Richland County Sheriff's Department? Why did McKie pick Holmes, who is the newest Board member? Was this payback for my advocacy and activism? Sometimes things are coincidences; sometimes, things are not.

Back to the marathons

The Richland 2 School Board returned to their marathons last night.

For at least one meeting (March 12, 2019) there was hope that sanity and good management skill had returned to the Board. After prior meetings of 3½ hours, the Board got its business done in 1 hour 20 minutes. Trustee Manning expressed it best in his final comment that evening, "Hallelujah!" That was March 12.

But, by last night, there was no countdown clock running. (Hey, there's an idea; set a loud timer for 90 minutes when the meeting starts.) A too-long Inspirational Moment (just how long should a "Moment" be?) opened the meeting. The speaker had a soft voice and could not be heard. The Chair should establish, when a speaker is invited, that an inspiration moment is to be just that - a moment. Or maybe a couple of minutes. Not longer.

During a lengthy recognition ceremony and photo opp, the District staffer grabbed a cordless microphone for her remarks and introductions. THANK YOU. She could be heard. Many of the students mumbled their names, but she spoke clearly and was heard by all.

In another article I shall comment on the introduction of the Public Participation segment of the March 26th meeting. You'll want to see that, for sure.

And then the routine, boring reports and drivel soaked up time. At one point I left, wondering if the Board intended to wind up by midnight.

In the lobby a reporter from ABC Columbia asked to speak with me. He wanted to know about my interaction with the sheriff's department last week.

Then endurance returned and I went back into the meeting room.

More reports. Then a long discussion about whether teachers are allowed to counsel students. Dr. Elkins-Johnson was asking good questions, and then the nitpicking began. As soon as the video-recording is posted to YouTube, I'll put on a large pot of coffee and prepare an Index.

This Board is sucking the humanness out of teaching. The gist of teacher-vs.-counselor is the worry that a teacher might not pack off little Susie to the school counselor quickly enough, if she looks sad one day. I exaggerate only slightly.

How many students will talk to their teacher but won't go the the school counselor right away? Are they just worried about the stigma? Or that they'll get labeled or branded as a wuss?

A teacher is on the front line. One day the School Board says, "Build relationships with your students." Last night it was "Pack 'em off to the counselor and get back to teaching."

Well, that'll sure keep $83/000/year in the counselor's pay envelope and pay increases out-of-sight for the $35,000/year teachers.

That's where I got fed up and left before the end of the meeting.