Wednesday, May 1, 2019

S.C. Senate and S. 419

This morning I sent an email to all South Carolina Senators, expressing my opinion on the current educational reform legislation.

Many use the boilerplate auto-response: "Thank you for your email. Please know that I read all of my emails..." Yeah, sure...

But, within one hour, I received this individualized response from one Columbia-area Senator (not my own, Mia McLeod, whose office doesn't reply to emails from me or return phone calls). On behalf of this one outstanding Senator came this message:

"Thank you for your email. By all accounts, S. 419, the Education Reform bill, will not be voted on in the Senate this session. More stakeholders must have a say in the bill if we truly want educational reform in this state. Meaningful amendments are needed if Sen. (redacted) is to support S. 419 once it hits the floor of the Senate. Currently it is still in the Senate Education Committee, which he does not a member. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any further concerns."

I removed his name from the email, so that he does not end up being targeted, harassed, doxed, or picketed by the loud advocates clamoring for passage.

At an educational reform forum held at Dent Middle School on March 25th S.C. Sen. Mike Fanning (D-Dist. 17; Great Falls) said the education bill (S.419) should not be passed; instead, it should be worked on further over the summer and fall and then voted on in 2020. I remember his words: "It's better to do it right, than to do it right now." He seemed to dancing to a different tune last week, when SC for Ed was planning to be dancing around the May Pole today.

Kids today, and many parents, don't know the significance of May 1st. Why did SC for Ed pick May 1st for its day of protest? Maybe this explains it.

"May 1 was a symbol of class struggle in Russia for about 100 years (1890-1990). Workers held annual protests on this day from 1890 to 1917, demanding better work conditions and higher wages. In 1918, May 1 became an important public holiday, known as the Day of the International Solidarity of Workers, in the Soviet Union. Most Soviet cities had parades and obligatory workers’ marches on this day until 1990."

Got it, Komrade? Think this is taught in schools today?

Board wasted 30 minutes

At 5:00PM yesterday the Richland 2 School Board held a 30-minute "budget input" session.

What a waste of valuation time of the Board and of the Superintendent.

The opening comments by the Chair were inaudible, as were following comments.

Apparently I was not the only person in the territory of Richland 2 who did not know that this was a time for the public to appear and speak on the budget. Richland 2 should offer mind-reading courses for adults in the District.

I was there to observe. One parent finally spoke about 5:20PM for, maybe, two minutes. The District did a lousy job of publicizing that that 30 minutes was for the public to speak about the proposed budget. What did the board it? It scheduled that part of the meeting for 5:00PM, just when people are leaving work and driving home. Or maybe having an early dinner, in order to be at the board meeting at 6:30PM.

How did the Board members spend their time? Side conversations. Texting. Emailing. Some appeared to be doing Board work of reviewing documents.

This was a public meeting. The Board was on the clock.

Some board members were observed using their cell phones, probably to text or email. What does Board Policy say about this?

Policy BEDL Board Members and Electronic Communications

Issued 9/17
"Board members will not communicate electronically during meetings with members of the public, other board members, or school district staff regarding official school board business, agenda items, or other board matters that are properly discussed publicly during board meetings, as such communications are subject to public disclosure under the state open meeting laws. Board members will refrain from such electronic communications during board meetings on both personal and district owned devices. Electronic communication means, but is not limited to, email, tweets, texts, phone calls, web posts, and other similar electronic communication."
What's the penalty for violating Board Policy? The board has created arduous punishment for teachers, staff and students, but none for itself.

Everything said by a Board member during the public session is to be audible to the public. The public cannot know what is being communicated by text or email, because the public cannot hear it.

This Policy is fairly fresh: September 2017. Everyone on the current board, with the exception of one, was on the board when this Policy was updated.

Who is responsible for policing the board? The members themselves? The superintendent? I suppose he could "remind" them, but he has no authority to insist that they obey board policies. He works for them, not the other way around.

Job security = "don't make waves".

Side conversations?

There must (or should be) something in Board Policies regarding conversations and remarks between board members during a public session. Such remarks are to be audible to the public. That's why it is called an Open Session. The Chair should halt side conversations; but what about those in which she engages?

There were a couple of times last night when the board and superintendent spoke right into the microphone. Supt. Davis is often good about doing so. Often, I say; not always. Teresa Holmes speaks up and right into the microphone. Sometimes. Last night she wanted every teacher in South Carolina to know he or she has her support. VoilĂ ! Mouth up close to the microphone; loud voice! And that night when she took board comment time to sling barbs at me.

Every board member needs to be told and reminded to lean forward; pull the microphone toward you; speak into the microphone with your mouth very close to it; don't turn away from the microphone and continue speaking to another board member. Whose job is it to train them?

Mob rule forces school closures

Teachers lost my respect, when their mob-rule tactics forced closure of Richland 2, Richland 1, Lexington 5 and many other schools in South Carolina, so that the grown-up kiddies could march in Columbia.

The gross irresponsibility of the teachers and the weak-kneed management of school districts is resulting in huge financial losses for school districts, income losses for parents and for hourly staff of school districts, and major and unnecessary inconvenience of parents, not to mention the loss of an important school day and lesson for students.

What's the lesson for students? Strike, if you want something you are not getting. Mob rule works (maybe).

Let's see how that works for them, once they get to the workplace. When an employee tells a normal employer that he is taking a day off, the employer examines the business' workload and determines whether it can do without the employee that day.

That isn't what happened today. SC for Ed stirred up teachers statewide and pointed them at the S.C. Capitol. So teachers put in for a day of personal leave, which is probably negotiated as a paid day off in the teacher's employment contract. Those "leave" days are commonly thought of as necessary for medical appointments and other important tasks that cannot be completed outside of normal working hours.

What a novel "coincidence" that hundreds (thousands?) of teachers would need a day of leave on May 1!

As soon as the May 1 march was announced, school districts and superintendents should have addressed how to handle it. The first step should have been to announce a limit on the number of personal-leave days that would be available at each school.

They didn't do that, and they got caught with their pants sagging down to their knees. And it was too late to pull them up.

The loud expressions of sympathy for the teachers' cause at last night's Richland 2 School Board meeting was a joke. I thought about laughing out loud and rolling on the floor while holding my sides, as one trustee (but not all) spoke more and more loudly in favor of the teachers.

The trustees needed to be smacked on their backsides and reminded that they are elected executives of a multi-million dollar business - the School District. They are responsible to voters, students, parents, and employees. To listen to some of them, you'd think they were union bosses.

This is why a school board should be composed of experienced business people capable of understanding the facts and factors of running a business, not bleeding-heart liberals following sheep over the cliff.