Friday, December 13, 2019

School Safety Zones

During the closing comments of the l-o-n-g December 10, 2019 Regular Meeting, Supt. Davis spoke about the importance of safe driving in the school safety zones and on school grounds.

He reminded me of the afternoon I was stopped in a line of traffic in front of Summit Parkway Middle School. The Richland 2 employee was doing an excellent job of shepherding students across the street safely and watching both directions of traffic.

A minivan pulled off the school grounds and turned left toward Clemson Road. To my surprise and that of the crossing guard, the right-rear door of the minivan was open. This, of course, endangered passengers in the seat by the open door. There was no way for the crossing guard to signal the driver to close the door or stop the van.

I was behind the first car in the line of traffic and could not get close enough to the minivan to get the driver's attention. The driver should have noticed the open door and refused to move the vehicle until the door was closed. While the minivan was stopped at the red light at Clemson Road, someone finally closed the rear door.

Some states have laws with increased penalties for distracted driving in school zones, such as prohibited use of handheld cell phones. South Carolina does not, but should.

McKie interrupts vote AGAIN

At the December 10 Regular Board Meeting, at 1:25:37 Mrs. Agostini made a motion to pull Policies JIAA and JICH from the mass vote requested by James Shadd. After discussion the Chair called for the votes at 1:33:16.

Once again, Trustee-elect McKie interrupted the vote and began speaking without being recognized by the Chair! This occurred at 1:33:28.

McKie should be reminded of the rules. The discussion period between the Second of the motion and the vote is the time for discussion. Once the vote is called for, discussion is over. If she can't think of her question quickly enough, then she loses the opportunity to ask it.

The Chair should remind her of this - that she is to be recognized before she speaks further. And, if she interrupts the voting, she should be reminded that the discussion has closed and it is time to vote.

It is clear that Mrs. Agostini and Dr. Elkins-Johnson are carefully reading and considering policy revisions before meetings.

The vote on Mrs. Agostini's motion passed 7-0.

Forbid private conversations during meetings

The School Board should not engage in private conversations during board meetings. The public is entitled to hear everything that is said by a board member during an open meeting.

During the discussion of Item 11.5, Board Policy JEB - Entrance Age, McKie and Holmes leaned toward one another while Supt. Davis was answering McKie's question.

Does McKie have super-special hearing and mental capabilities, so that she could hear Supt. Davis' response simultaneously during her conversation with Holmes?

Tuesday night was not an exception. Board members often have side conversations.

The Chair should put a stop to them or allow the public to raise a Point-of-Order and request that those side conversations be spoken into the microphones, so that all can hear everything said during a public meeting.

Aside, of course, from the point that it was quite rude to ask a question and then ignore the answer.

McKie interrupts vote on Motion

At the December 10, 2019 Regular Board Meeting Item 9.3 was a grievance considered during Executive Session. When it was time on the Agenda to vote on matters from the Executive Session, after the student matters were decided, Dr. Elkins-Johnson made a motion (59:14 on the video-recording) to hear the grievance from the former employee. Mrs. Agostini seconded it.

The Chair called for discussion. After a pause, hearing none, he called for the vote.

THEN McKie spoke up (59:44) without being recognized by the Chair, and she said that the grievance matter involved a volunteer employee with a stipend.

I wonder what parts of "volunteer" and "employee" McKie does not understand. A volunteer is not paid. A volunteer would not be an employee. An employee would not be a volunteer. Maybe that's why she failed to list her W-2 employment with the District in the bond document last spring. Does she think she is a volunteer for the $900/month or so that she receives for showing up twice a month at board meetings?

That was completely unnecessary, except to hear her own voice and perhaps for some future political reason, because the full Board knew exactly what the grievance was about. It had, no doubt, been fully discussed in Executive Session.

The Chair is overly polite when McKie pulls these stunts, and the Chair should address her interruptions. McKie acts like she is still the Board Chair; she is not.

Then Dr. Elkins was recognized to speak. She stated that an employee ought to have the right to be heard.

Then Trustee-elect Teresa Holmes made a "point of clarity for my own edification..."  What's that? The dysfunction on this board needs correction!

The motion to hear the grievance failed on a vote of 2-5. The Yes votes were Dr. Elkins-Johnson and Mrs. Agostini. The No votes were Manning, Holmes, McKie, Caution-Parker, and Shadd.

REQUEST TO EMPLOYEE WHO FILED THE GRIEVANCE. IF YOU WANT TO BE HEARD PUBLICLY, PLEASE CONTACT ME BY PHONE OR EMAIL. Do not allow yourself to be silenced. I will publish as much or as little as you wish. Confidentiality is assured, if you don't want your name used.

How dysfunctional is Richland 2 School Board?

Last week's Regular Meeting (December 10, 2019) was 2 hours 55 minutes long!

I slugged my way through the first hour of the video-recording yesterday and, before I continue, I will go back over the 26-minute "Legislative Update" that was Item 8.1.

But first ... when Board Chair James Manning re-convened the Board at 6:30PM after the Executive Session, he asked for a Motion. It took a whole 14 seconds for the Board Secretary (or any Board member) to respond. And then she forgot to turn on her microphone. Hello????

At 25.28 into the meeting Mr. Manning recognized Amelia McKie to present the Legislative Update.

The South Carolina School Boards Association (SCSBA) held a conference last week-end. I was immediately confused as McKie began her comments, because she mentioned, "This week-end we are coming from Friday until Sunday we have the 2019 delegate assembly and legislative conference." So I was prepared to hear about an upcoming meeting.

McKie is a Region 8 director of the SCSBA.

For almost a year I had questioned McKie's legitimacy on the Richland 2 School Board. To my knowledge she has never taken the oath of office legally since December 4, 2018, when she filed her required Statement of Economic Interests Report. To me, and to lawyers I have consulted, this means she is NOT a legal Board member. Because she is not, she should not have been seated at the board since November 13, 2018. She should not have served as Board Chair from November 13, 2018 until June 30, 2019. She should not have signed bond documents in the Spring of 2019. She should not be on the Board now. She should not be the Region 8 director of the SCSBA for Richland 2.

The School Board says this is not a Board matter. Who are they kidding? Can anyone then just sit at the board, attend executive sessions, vote on Board matters, receive monthly compensation for doing so, have their dues and expenses to the SCSBA paid?

Then McKie proceeded to describe the conference that had been held last week-end! On Friday night, before the conference started, she said there was a meeting of the South Carolina Caucus of Black School Board members. She made a point of saying that the Caucus is open to all members of the SCSBA. I wonder how many non-black members attended.

There was quite a catfight at Tuesday's Board meeting. There had been a vote by delegates at the SCSBA meeting about an issue pertaining to an SCSBA recommendation on the State's interest in taking over certain school districts. Some Board members felt they were speaking for Richland 2 School District when they voted. Others felt they were voting their own nterest.

In order to avoid violating State FOIA rules, Board members need to be very careful about expressing positions on behalf of Richland 2. They can't just put their heads together at a conference (or elsewhere) and decide how they are going to vote on an SCSBA issue. There is a Board policy about "representing the Board", not just the FOIA rules. If they are going to speak "for the board", then the Board should convene in public session beforehand, consider a position, vote on it, and authorize who will speak publicly for the board (or vote) on it.

There is a serious fracture on the board. At least two members felt attacked in the 25-minute segment.

It would be a shame if they bailed on the Board, because they are two of the three reasonable heads on the board.

Eventually the two illegally-seated persons (McKie and Holmes) on the board will be removed. They could avoid removal by simply taking the oath of office now

Why won't they? One reason may be because the Board then would have to review all votes by the Board all the way back to November 13, 2018 and change decisions that were swayed by the votes of those two people. The longer they wait to take the oath, the farther back the Board will have to review.

McKie and Holmes illegally took the oath of office on November 13, 2018. Twice, earlier this year, I requested the District to inform me if McKie and Holmes are scheduled to take the oath of office legally, and the District has never informed me of a ceremony to swear them in. It is my understanding that they have taken the oath (illegally) only on November 13, 2018.