Friday, January 31, 2020

Sugar-coating by Richland 2


In a story date-lined today, January 31, The State newspaper reports on crimes committed at Ridge View High School on Monday and Tuesday. Charges included assault and battery by mob, second-degree assault and battery, and first degree criminal sexual conduct. 

OK, this is Friday. Why did this not appear in the local newspaper on Wednesday???

You can read the article here.

The four criminals are male; two are 14 years old, and two are 15 years old.

Laws in South Carolina need to be changed, so that criminal acts by these punks, who are not to be confused with "children", can be described with their names, races, grade levels in school, and previous run-ins with the law.

What's the "sugar-coating"? The State's article read, in part,


"Richland District 2 spokesperson Libby Roof sent to The State a statement the school sent to parents: “We became aware of an incident that occurred earlier this week that was a violation of our district’s Student Code of Conduct. ..."

"Incident"? "violation of Student Code of Conduct"?

The miscreants were arrested on criminal charges! The District has to be careful, of course, or parents will retain a hungry lawyer and sue the District. Then the news will be all about a lawsuit by the miscreants and not about their criminal activity.

You'd better believe that the District's lawyers get a chance to approve statements like these, either in each case or as a general format. All politically correct,, of course.

If anyone would like to send me the names of these criminals, I'll publish them. Parents in the District should want to know who is in this kind of trouble.

Staying alive

An article in this morning's The State describes the grief being experienced in Saluda after a single-vehicle crash that killed two high school students and injured one.

Read the article by Sarah Ellis here.

How do we keep kids alive today?

As a former deputy sheriff and motorcycle patrol officer, I would like to see an article in The State that dissects the crash. But it'll never be there, because newspapers don't print analytical articles about fatal crashes. They should.

Readers could learn from such analyses. Parents could sit their children down and explain how they can stay alive.

Maybe the crash in Saluda was "just" an accident. I tend to think not.

Was the driver speeding? Distracted? Impaired? Were the passengers concerned about his driving before the accident?

Or, if he was speeding or driving recklessly, did they think that was "cool"?

Parents, when you see articles about fatal crashes, discuss them with the children in your home. You might just be saving their lives.

Tell them to get out of the car, if the driver is endangering them. Tell them that you will pick them up - anywhere and at any time, no questions asked - if their safety is at risk. And then do it.

Students, get out of the car, even if you are going to get wet or cold or have to walk home.

YOU are responsible for your life.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Gril punches teacher at Westwood HS

WIS-TV reported last night that a female student at Westwood High School punched a teacher in the face at school yesterday.

What kind of little punks are attending Richland 2 schools?

The girl is reported to be 17 years old. Isn't that an adult in South Carolina for this type of crime? What's her name? Where is her booking photo? Height? Weight? Race? Previous disciplinary problems?

I suppose it would be politically (and legally) correct to say the student "allegedly" battered the teacher. And perhaps that the teacher "allegedly" suffered redness and swelling to the eye and jaw. And that the student was "allegedly" arrested before being released to her parents.

At least WIS-TV didn't dodge the gender issue, when it reported that the student was released to her parents. I guess the station could have written "to its parents", but this was a female student punching a teacher.

The District's Board Policies would label this a Level 3 offense, subject to expulsion. Is there any doubt that that kid should be expelled? And prosecuted and jailed after conviction, too?

Make a clear and convincing example out of her that this type of behavior will be dealt with in the harshest manner. Allow no "deals" by prosecution. No "diversion". No opportunity to clear her record. She just destroyed her future.

Tough cookies!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Richland 2 alters agendas

Recently I wrote about the practice of the Richland 2 School District to change a published agenda after a School Board meeting.

It is my very strong belief that the original agenda should be preserved on the District's website.

Rather than reporting action taken only in the Minutes, it is apparently the practice of Richland 2 to alter the published agenda and to add the actions taken at a meeting and the votes by the board. By adding these changes, the original agenda no longer exists.

When I first discovered this, I assumed that the changes were being made after the meeting had ended.

This evening I did not attend the Regular Meeting. At about 7:40PM I logged onto the District's website to examine whether there might have been any changes to the agenda after it was published last week.

To my great surprise, I found that the actions being taken at tonight's meeting are being entered on the Agenda during the meeting!

As it happens, I am reading George Orwell's 1984 this week. If you haven't read it, you can read it on your computer from the www.HooplaDigital.com service of the Richland Public Library system.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Millenials and Communism

Watch this important fireside chat with Dennis Prager.

If you are a student, watch it.

If you are a parent, sit down with your children and watch it. Tell them to put their phones down. Then discuss it.

I am worried about communism and why so many people don't think it's bad. I grew up in the 1940s and the 1950s. My thoughts and beliefs formed them. Why do I fear socialism and the uninformed young people of today?

After you watch it, please comment below.


Saturday, January 18, 2020

R2 Ethics Poster

At last Tuesday's school board Regular Meeting, the inspiration moment was devoted to explaining the Ethical Principles poster that had been signed by all the board members and the taking of a group photo.

\You can view that segment near the beginning of the video-recording on YouTube. It's at 0:02:20 on the timer bar.

At the meeting I was immediately reminded of Amelia McKie's unpaid fines and fees balance of $51,750, owed to the South Carolina Ethics Commission. The fines are related a years' of unfiled required financial statements. In July 2018 the Commission issued a Decision & Order, and McKie basically thumbed her nose at the Commission and failed to make any payments toward her balance.

She could have avoided a substantial increase in the fees by making agreed-upon payments, but she did not. As a result, the Commission tacked on a $10,000 penalty at the end of 2018. Then, in July 2019 the Commission filed a Judgment in the Richland County Common Pleas Court.

What should be happening now is a collection effort by the South Carolina Department of Revenue. Collection action could include garnishing her income from the Richland 2 School District, other income or contract-work receipts, filing a lien on real estate, and taking of assets.

The DOR may be a failing collection agency, though, once you look at the $2.7 Million in outstanding debt owed to the Ethics Commission.

And then The State announced ethics problems of a second Richland County School Board member. James Shadd III owes $1,400 for unfiled financial documents related to his run for office in 2010.

Is this his first encounter with the Ethics Commission? Or did Shadd have a previous negotiated settlement with the Ethics Commission over different violations of ethics laws?

Ethics principles are like integrity and honesty and truth. You're either in or you're out. You reach the mark or you don't. There is no such thing as "very" or "almost" or "a little".

There is no reason for the Ethics Commission to negotiate on the $1,400 fine owed by Shadd. The State's reporter, Lucas DaPrile, wrote that Shadd told him on Friday (January 17, 2020) that he "was working to fix it." What Shadd should have dropped off at the Ethics Commission this week was a check for $1,400, as well as his campaign bank statements.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Two board members should resign

The State newspaper published a story today about $1,400 in unpaid fines owed to the South Carolina Ethics Commission by James Shadd III, who is a trustee on the board. Shadd is serving the last year of a 2016-2020 term,

According to reporter Lucas Daprile, the Ethics Commission assessed this fine for Shadd's failure to file 14 quarterly Campaign Disclosure Reports related to his 2010 run for 5th Circuit Solicitor.

According to the article, Shadd was warned by the Ethics Commission in January 2019 and again in March 2019. The fine was assessed on December 30, 2019.

How is it that an elected official who owes fines even for an unrelated run for a different office does not just pay what he owes.

The article also comments on the $51,750 in fines and fees owed by Amelia McKie, who is a trustee-elect of the school board. I write "trustee-elect" (rather than trustee) because she has never taken the oath of office legally.

McKie and Shadd should "do the right thing" and clear out. In Shadd's case he should resign.

In McKie's case, the District and the Board should stop denying the facts and the very clearly-worded state law and block her from further duties, responsibilities and pay. McKie is usurping public office.

The laws are in place to remove her, but the South Carolina Office of Attorney General will not act to remove her.

The new Debtors' List on the Ethics Commission's website (ethics.sc.gov) is dated 1/13/2020 and includes the debts of both Shadd and McKie. The total owed the Ethics Commission is a whopping $2,762,979.31. Every dollar should be collected!

Text messages subject to FOIA?

When a school board trustee receives text messages and/or email during the public portion of the school board meeting and replies to them, are those messages subject to FOIA?

During the January 7, 2019 Special-Called Board Meeting Trustee Caution-Parker received multiple messages on her cell phone.

Beginning at 1:38:55 on the video-recording, her cell phone screen lit up while she was away from her Board Chair. A second message came in as she returned to her chair.

She can be seen reading it, scrolling through messages and tapping out a reply.

How does the Secretary of the school board pay attention to what is being said in the meeting, when she is paying attention to her phone?

And, worse, she then voted on a motion. Did she have any idea what she voting on?

Is there a Board Policy about use of cell phones, including texting, by Board members during public meetings?

I wonder what the Robert's Rules of Order expert would have to say about this at her next advisory session with the Board.

Board members should put away their cell phones during Board meetings, whether the meeting is open or closed.

Senate Rules. Good enough for Board?

The Rules for the Senate's impeachment trial of President Trump have been published.

If they are good enough for the U.S. Senate, are they good enough for the Richland 2 School Board?

Take a look at the rules as published by Business Insider.

Keep quiet.

Stay off iPhones. Check electronic devices outside the room.

Remain seated.

No side-conversations.

Attend all proceedings.

No outside reading materials.

Some of these would be good rules for Board meetings.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Adjournment Enthusiasm

It was nice to see the School Board happy and excited at the end of the January 14, 2020 Regular Meeting.

When Board Chair Manning called for the vote to adjourn, there was a reason he asked for the members to vote by holding their hands high.

Were they just happy that the meeting was ending at 2:13:00?

Did they get a sudden surge of energy, when they realized the meeting was not going to last three hours?

Look at the enthusiasm of Trustee Caution-Parker.  What made her come to life in such a manner?

I know the answer to that question.

Bond Resolution approved by Board

At the January 14, 2020 Regular Meeting of the School Board there was a Resolution presented to the Board for approval.

Several procedural errors occurred on the way to the vote.

The Resolution was not attached to the original Agenda for the meeting. Because it was not, the public was kept in the dark as to its contents.

At the January 14th Meeting I addressed the board during the Public Participation segment. You can view that portion of the board's meeting on the video-recording of the meeting on YouTube at 0:51:07 on the counter.

After I completed my remarks, Board Chair James Manning stated that the Resolution had been placed on the website at the beginning of the meeting.

At least one Trustee read carefully the eight-page Resolution. In addition pointing out a couple of errors in construction of the Resolution,  she made a motion to strike this sentence from Section 22: "Burr Forman is authorized to associate co-counsel at the direction of the  Superintendent."

You have to know the background of that sentence to understand the motion to strike it.

One year ago the Board considered and passed a long Resolution presented by the Administration that included a sweetheart deal for a small, two-woman, black-owned law firm in Columbia. That Resolution gave the Superintendent the authority to order the huge, experienced, professional law firm of Burr Forman to give a chunk of bond business to Jabber & Isaac, PA as co-counsel. The special deal for co-counsel was at the very end of the lengthy Resolution last year.

Is there a special friendship between one of the principals at Jabber & Isaac and one of the Richland 2 board members?

Last year I examined the website of Jabber & Isaac, PA. At that time the website listed numerous areas of practice for that firm. School bond work was not one of them. Today, school bond work is still not listed.

I have no doubt that Burr Forman provides the inclusivity and diversity sought by the District. Frannie Heizer is a female. I suspect Burr Forman hires many black professionals and staff.

The District must spend its money on professionals with the skills and expertise to do the job right the first time. The District should not tell its legal experts to take on apprentices (and pay them), based on race or gender.

Superintendent Davis gave the board fair warning (1:45:30) that he's not giving up on the co-counsel plans, when he made his remarks during the Board and Superintendent Comments. He stated his intention to include "co-counsel" in future Bond Resolutions.

The Board was wise to vote 7-0 to strike that deal from the Resolution. They will have to be their toes for every Bond Resolution in the future.

Frankly, the vote surprised me. I figured that 4-5 of the Board members would vote No on the Resolution but, this time, they came through on behalf of the taxpayers.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Board Meetings Review

Would it be worthwhile for Board members to watch the January 7, 2020 Special-Called Board Meeting and learn how they could improve meetings?

Should the Board Chair and the Superintendent conduct a training session for the other members of the Board? A public-meetings coach should be hired to coach and train them.

Should the desks be re-arranged in a partial semi-circle, so that Board Chair could see when members had lost interest or were distracted by their purses, cell phones or side conversations? Also, so that he could clearly see hands when there is a hand-vote. He declared that the motion to adjourn the January 7th meeting was unanimous, but Dr. Elkins-Johnson did not vote. So the correct vote was 5-0-1 (Five Yeses; no No votes; one Abstain. (And one Absence.)

Should Board members turn off their cell phones and place them in purses or pockets, so they are not distracted by incoming text messages and do not feel a compulsion to type out replies?

When a member leaves her chair and the room, should the Secretary (or another member) call that to the attention of the Board Chair, so that he can be sure a quorum is still present?

Should any Board member call a Point-of-Order when side conversations are occurring or texting begins?

Should Board members not vote, if they were distracted or engaged in side conversations and missed the discussion? Shouldn't they know what they are voting on?

Sunday, January 12, 2020

1/7/20 Board Vote w/o Quorum Present

During Tuesday's meeting the Board went through many policy revisions.

After 1 hour 37 minutes, Trustee Caution-Parker had left her chair, leaving five Board members seated. McKie was absent for the entire meeting. With Caution-Parker's having stepped away from the Board area, there was no longer a quorum present (legally). She stepped away while the camera was on staff member Mr. Smith, who was requesting that one Policy revision be pulled for further work.

When it was time to vote on a minor revision to Policy JLCDC Food Allergies, the vote was called to be by show of hands. The Chair announced that the vote was unanimous/ But there was a problem.

Caution-Parker was no longer present, which meant a quorum was no longer present. No acknowledgement was made of her having stepped away. The (four) legal board members remaining at the tables were Manning, Agostini, Elkins-Johnson and Shadd.

Teresa Holmes was still there, but she is not a legal member of the board, having never taken the oath of office legally after filing the required Statement of Economic Interests Report with the South Carolina Ethics Commission on December 4, 2018.

So a majority of the board was present, but a quorum was not. When a quorum (five) is not present, the board cannot conduct business; i.e., it cannot vote.

This further emphasizes the importance of correcting this serious defect in board composition.

In watching the video-recording of the board meeting I wondered whether Caution-Parker was ill. She had contributed nothing to the meeting and merely sat in her chair with her outer garment pulled up around her. An opinion from one skilled in body language might explain Caution-Parker's degree of interest in this meeting. As Secretary of the Board, she should be paying sharp attention to the entire proceedings. She receives a sizable sum of money for attending board meetings.

At a recent meeting Mrs. Agostini asked for the Board to recognize late arrivals and early exits of board members. When Caution-Parker left her chair, that should have been noted. Since Caution-Parker is the Secretary, will she see that the appropriate notation in made in the Minutes for the meeting?

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Board Fails Teachers on Self-Defense

At the January 7, 2020 Special-Called Board Meeting the school board utterly failed teachers and staff, when Item 4.19 (Board Policy) JKA Corporal Punishment/ Physical Force came up on the Agenda. The Administration recommended deletion of "to defend one's self" from this Board Policy.

You can view this part of the meeting on the YouTube recording. It starts at 1:14:50.

Dr. Elkins-Johnson started off discussion but then couldn't find her place on her tablet. She deferred to James Shadd. Shadd asked the superintendent if the "yellow" meant that the Administration wanted to strike the phrase "to defend one's self" from the Policy.

Supt. Davis admitted that there had been a lot of conversation around that bullet-point.

The "reasoning" of the Administration was presented; i.e., that self-defense can be read into those examples when force can be used.

But the proposed revision is a CYA effort. You know that one; right? In other words, hang the teachers out to dry.

Trustee-elect Teresa Holmes commented during discussion (1:18:53) that she was "a little on the fence". She wanted to be sure that, if that bullet-point were taken out, she wanted it understood that (teachers could still defend themselves).  She acknowledged what the superintendent was saying about the other "bulletses". (That's not a typo; that's what she said.)

What she doesn't get is that the Policy is the Policy. If it's not in written Policy, it's not going to count when a teacher is threatened with discipline or termination for defending herself. An "understanding" will have little weight in a disciplinary hearing or the termination process. (Recall the teacher who "got into it" with a student at Ridge View High School. I'm sure he didn't feel any support from the Administration.)

Board members need to get OFF the fence and stand up and be counted. Be firm and direct. When you don't agree with something, stop playing nice and say so. The Administration is running all over you. It's the duty of the Board to direct the Administration, not the other way around.

The Board should have left "to defend one's self" in Policy JKA.

Since they didn't, they should put it back in.

Teachers, you'd better get to a board meeting and speak up about this. Or forever hold your peace. You can kiss your income and pension away, if you ever have to defend yourself.

Teachers, tell your cohorts about this blogpost. Ask them to read it. Read it and comment on it.

If you fear retaliation or retribution for commenting on this blog, contact me privately and express your viewpoints. I can publish them in a way that will not be traced back to you.

I went to Federal Court in Illinois to stop a County Sheriff who wanted to know my sources. Deputies were leaking inside information to me. Had the Federal Magistrate Judge not granted my motion to quash the sheriff's subpoena, I would have gone to jail, rather than divulge sources.

Friday, January 10, 2020

McKie's $51,750 Judgment - no payment!

On July 10, 2019, the South Carolina Ethics Commission filed a Judgment for $51,750 against Amelia McKie, Richland 2 School Board Trustee-Elect.

The Judgment resulted from a public Decision and Order that pertained to unfiled Statements of Economic Interests Reports and Campaign Disclosure Reports over several years, including 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The Judgment appears to be languishing in the Richland County Common Pleas Court, where Case Number 2019CP4003809 shows no activity other than the filing six months ago.

In a case such as this, the South Carolina Department of Revenue should be working on collecting the Judgment. As a debt to the State of South Carolina, the DOR could be utilizing the Setoff Debt and GEAR provisions to collect the full amount.

These provisions include "... garnishment of wages and state individual income tax refunds, use of tax liens, and levy of bank accounts". School Board Trustee income is W-2 income (wages).

Is the State proceeding with collection? Will the State garnish McKie's wages?

Has McKie made any payment? According to the S.C. Ethics Commission, no payment has been made.

Why not?

Richland 2 often refers to its being a "premier" school district with a "premier" school board. How can the board be a "premier" board, when a member (and former Board Chair) and now trustee-elect continues to owe $51,750 for violations of ethics laws?

Roll Call Needed

The Richland 2 School Board should change the way it starts meetings and take a roll call by name at the beginning of each meeting.

When the Board Chair calls the meeting to order, the first order of business should be to ask the Secretary to call the roll. The name of each board member should be called, followed by a verbal acknowledgement by that board member. Silence would indicate absence, which should be verbally acknowledged by the Secretary.

If five Board members are present, then the Secretary should inform the Chair that a quorum is present.

Why is this important step omitted by the Richland 2 School Board?

Amelia McKie was absent from the January 7th Special-Called Meeting. Perhaps it didn't matter, because she is not a legal member of the board, having never taken a legally-administered oath of office.

Teresa Holmes falls into the same category, because she too has never taken a legally-administered oath of office.

Five legal board members were present at the January 7th meeting, constituting a quorum. But there have been meetings where one of those five has not been there.

If a board member is attending by telephone, that should be announced at the beginning of the meeting. Then it is imperative that all board members must be able to hear and be heard. Dr. Elkins-Johnson attended by phone recently, and no mention of that was made. She could not be heard throughout the room.

Was she able to hear everything that was said by other members?

It would probably be hard for her to say that she heard everything. She wouldn't know what she didn't hear. Would she?

Jan..14 Agenda published

The Agenda for the January 14 2020 Regular Meeting of the School Board has now been published and can be viewed online on the District's website.

The Board will be asked to approve to a Special Obligation Bond Resolution. As of today, Friday, January 10, 2019, 8:39AM there is no link from the Agenda to that Resolution.

So, here we go again, folks. Taxpayers are being kept in the dark. What is Richland 2 up to, by withholding the content of the Resolution?

Did the Board members receive the Resolution in advance?

The Board will also be asked to approve 31 Policy Revisions.

Want to know more about those? Watch the video-recording of the lengthy Special-Called Board Meeting that was held on January 7. If you wish to comment on any of those revisions, show up at the January 14 meeting and have your say.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

District slowing down on Agenda release

Once upon a time the Richland 2 School District posted its agenda by 5:00PM of the Thursday preceding its next meeting. This would be two business days before the meeting, allowing board members and, more importantly, the public adequate time to read the agenda and its attachments before the meeting.

The District is slowing down on this advance notice.

Why?

By South Carolina law, the notice of the next meeting, whether Regular or Special-Called, is required to be given only one day before the meeting. In a normal week the notice must be given no later than 5:30PM on Monday, if the meeting starts at 5:30PM on Tuesday.

At least two members of the board complained about short notice at the January 7th Special-Called Meeting. Their short-notice complaint pertained to the request of the Administration to spend $9,100,000 of the surplus from the last school year, which ended June 30, 2019.

One could wonder why the others didn't pile on. Don't they care? Aren't they concerned about adequate time to study the details of such a major request?

The absence of  one board "member", Trustee-elect Amelia McKie, went unacknowledged.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

1/7/2020 Special-Called Meeting - What a Joke!

The January 7th Special-Called Board Meeting has already been published on YouTube. Kudos to the District staff person who put it online so quickly.

What a joke!

It took 16 minutes just to get the Agenda approved.

The Board desperately needs a Parliamentarian. And I don't mean someone already on the Board. And definitely not an employee.

Amelia McKie missed the meeting, and no explanation was given. No roll call was taken. Six board members and the superintendent sat at the head tables.

After the meeting was called to order, Board Chair James Manning called for a motion to approve the Agenda.

Mrs. Agostini made a motion, and it was to amend the agenda and change Item 3.1 to "New Business - No Action Needed." James Shadd seconded.

Mrs. Agostini opened the discussion by explaining her reasons. 1. She only learned one day earlier what the vote would be on.

At this time Trustees Caution-Parker and Shadd were engaged in a side conversation, leaning behind Trustee Elkins-Johnson's chair. One of the things I've learned in many years of business and meetings is that it is almost impossible to engage in a private conversation and still hear and understand what is being said by a third party. Furthermore, such a conversation may impede the hearing and understanding of the person behind whose back you are talking.

Agostini's second reason for her motion was that such an important issue as Item 3.1 should be addressed in a Regular Meeting, not in a Special Meeting.

When a vote on the motion was called, Trustee Elkins didn't understand what was being voted on. It was like she was lost in space somewhere. Then, even though the vote had been called, she was allowed to ask a question and then amend the motion that was on the floor for a vote.

A Parliamentarian would have called "Point of Order" and gotten the meeting back on track.

A Parliamentarian would have halted the side conversations.

The vote was 3-3, resulting in the motion's failing.

Then Elkins made a motion to postpone the vote on Item 3.1 to the next meeting. It also failed 3-3.

The Chair asked Elkins a question, but she and Shadd were talking again and she didn't hear the Chair's question. After a pause and no response from her, the Chair continued.

The Chair asked again for a motion to approve the Agenda. After an embarrassing pause when no other Board member spoke up to make the motion, Mrs. Agostini saved the day and made a motion to accept the Agenda. Caution-Parker and Supt. Davis were having a side conversation. Then Caution-Parker seconded the motion.

After the vote was called for, which signals the end of discussion, Elkins commented that she had just received the supporting information on which they were to vote, had gotten it on "short notice", and had had no opportunity to go back and review it.

Mrs. Agostyini said she had just received the information the previous day and (only) because she had requested it from the Chair and the superintendent.

Approval of the Agenda passed on a vote of 5-1. Agostini voted No.

2020 did not start with a "premier board" It started with distraction and disorder. It is way past time for the Board to remind Administration that the Board directs, and the Administration carries out. The Board is NOT a rubber-stamp for the Administration. Or at least it should not be.

The Chair said he was "juicing" on Tuesday and had had no solid food that day. He asked the board's forgiveness if he seemed a little "loopy"

From my previous experience in working with people who were "loopy", last night might have been a good time for the Chair to excuse himself, ask the Board Vice-Chair to take over and then go home. Without his "No" vote, both of the previous motions would have passed.

Discuss of Item 3.1 begins at 16:20 on the YouTube recording of the January 7, 2020 Special-Called Meeting.

Am I too hard on the Board? Remember, they are responsible for a $1,Billion operation. The Administration was asking the Board to spend $9,100,000,000 without much thought. The Board must learn to assert itself and not get jammed into hasty decisions.

To be continued.

So Much Wrong!

There are so many things wrong about the action taken at last night's Special-Called Board Meeting.

Following is my summary, after reading the press release this morning.

Why did the first (original) Agenda published last week for the January 7th meeting not include the attachment explaining the budget Amendment?

Why doesn't the final Agenda carry an "Amended" notation?

Why was the Amendment dealt with on its first reading and at a Special-Called Meeting, not at a Regular Meeting?

Why was the Amendment dealt with at a meeting that included no Public Participation?

Why was the Agenda Item No. 3.1 changed (after the meeting?) to include the language of the Motion AND by whom the Motion and Second were made AND the vote by the Board?

Why is the board adopting a smoke-and-mirrors approach with this amendment to the 2019-20 Budget?

Did the Board violate Board Policy BE Board Meetings?

Did the Board fail to follow Parliamentary Procedure, as described in Robert's Rules of Order, for business at a Special-Called Meeting?

Did the Board violate South Carolina law (S.C. Code of Laws §59-1-340) by conducting business on the Budget Amendment at the January 7, 2020 Special-Called Meeting? What was the Board Chair's explanation of "necessary" that was given in public, if any?

Why did the District's Chief Communication Officer publish a press release at 10:05PM after the Special Meeting?

Why does the Board tolerate the extent of control claimed by Administration, rather than leading and directing the District?

These, and perhaps additional, issues will be addressed on this blog in the following days.

Comments? Please post your comments below.

If you are an employee and fear retaliation for expressing your views, contact me privately. Confidentiality is assured.

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10:05PM Press Release

Following last night's Special-Called Board Meeting, the District's Chief Communication Officer emailed the following press release:

COLUMBIA, S.C. — At the January 7, 2020 special called board meeting, the Richland School District Two Board of Trustees approved a proposal to allocate the $16.9 million surplus from the Fiscal Year 2018-19 General Fund Budget. The allocations include:
·         a one-time General Fund Budget allocation of $25 per student to supplement schools’ discretionary instructional allocations for classroom supplies and instructional initiatives. The estimated cost of this investment is $750,000.
·         a one-time General Fund Budget allocation of $25 per student to media centers for updating circulations and providing additional media supplies and resources. The estimated cost of this investment is $750,000.
·         a one-time bonus of $1,000 to all full-time permanent employees. The estimated cost of this investment is $4,100,000, which includes related fringe.
·         $3.5 million for the Building Fund to help lessen the impact on taxpayers for the funding of annual capital improvement expenditures.

At the December 10, 2019 board meeting, the district’s auditor presented the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report based on an audit of the Fiscal Year 2018-19 General Fund Budget. The auditor reported that the district ended the budget year with a $16.9 million surplus, which is about six percent of the 2018-2019 budget. The source of the surplus was a combination of $9.3 million in lower expenditures than budgeted (primarily in salaries and fringe benefits) and $7.6 million in higher than anticipated revenues ($3.6 million in local taxes and $4.1 million in state revenues).

At the January 7, 2020 board meeting, Dr. Baron R. Davis said, “In the past few years any budget surplus was rolled into the district’s Fund Balance. However this year, district administrators are proposing allocating the surplus to make investments in our students, employees, community and future. The proposal supports our district’s strategic plan, mission and vision.”

The remainder of the surplus will roll over to the district’s Fund Balance to ensure Richland Two maintains a fiscally responsible level of reserves (which is the equivalent of approximately 2.5 months average operating costs). An adequate Fund Balance is necessary to ensure financial security during the first six months of the school year, when state and federal revenues decline and local revenue is minimal. This would prevent the district from having to issue a Tax Anticipation Note, which ultimately costs the district money in the way of interest and issuance costs.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

ID this kid; earn up to $1,000

On December 13 two punks entered a home on Ironweed Court and robbed the occupant of five guns.

See this WIS-TV article and video.
https://www.wistv.com/2019/12/30/rcsd-searching-suspects-who-stole-firearms-home-ironweed-cout/

The kid in the video should be easily identified. Show this video to your kids. If you have any inkling that they suspect whom he is, call the Richland County Sheriff's Department immediately.

Ironweed Court is west of \Rice Creek Elementary School and north of Publix.

There is probably some good reason that WIS-TV didn't publish this information and video until December 30. RCSD should have given it to them right away, like before nearby Ridge View High School let out for the holidays.

If there are teens or young adults in the victim's house, RCSD will be scouring their social media accounts, cell phones and computers for leads to their acquaintances or anyone else who would have known of the guns in the house.

Note to Homeowner. Lock your doors, even when you are home.

Some people think it's silly to be armed while at home. I wonder what this victim thinks now.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Enough, already!!!

When will the school members stand up and shout "Enough!" at the Board Chair and Superintendent. It is they who prepare the agenda for board meetings.

The Special-Called Board Meeting on January 7, 2020 is for approval of a "General Fund Budget Amendment for 2019-20 Fiscal Year" and for reviewing and revising THIRTY-THREE Board Policies.

Members of the public should be alert to the fact that the District is not informing the public of the nature or amount of that Amendment. The Board, no doubt, will receive details in advance, but the public is left in the dark.

DOES ANYONE REALLY CARE?

How many hours will be required of board members to examine carefully the proposed revisions and consider whether the revisions should be accepted as proposed, edited, modified, sent back for more work, or whether the entire Policy should be scrapped?

You can read the proposed revisions by viewing the Agenda on the District's website and clicking on the attachments.

How many of the board members actually and conscientiously read each and every proposed revision, so that they will be fully prepared to ask intelligent questions on Tuesday evening.

I recall one board meeting last year when one of the board members asked a question about a Policy revision (as I recall, it had to do with visiting classrooms). The staff person at the podium was really put on the spot. After a short pause, she explained that the answer to that question was in the Board brief. In other words, if that board member had read the attachment to that item in the Agenda, the board member would have known the answer.

No action is being requested on these 33 revisions on Tuesday night. A vote to approve them will be requested at the January 14th Regular Meeting.


Drug testing of expelled students

On the Special-Called Board Meeting on January 7, 2020 the school board will review and change Board Policy JKEE, which pertains to drug testing of certain expelled students.

Board members should rescind this entire policy.

Once a student is expelled, s/he is expelled. Out. Gone. Done. And that's the end of District involvement in that student's life.

If a student wants to re-enroll and the District evaluates re-enrollment, it should do so based on statements alone.

If the student is found to have violated Board Policy again, then toss him or her out again. A student should not have to give evidence against himself to give the District a heads-up on the violation.

Richland One Special Election - SEI Compliance

On December 31, 2019 Richland School District One held a special election to fill one seat on the school board. The vacancy was created when a member resigned and planned a move to Nebraska for a new job.

The successful candidate in the election is Jonathan M. Milling.

And wonder of all wonders, he filed his Statement of Economic Interests Report with the South Carolina Ethics Commission on October 21, 2019.

When the election is certified by the Richland County Elections Commission, Trustee-Elect Milling will become both qualified and eligible to take the Oath of Office and enter upon his official responsibilities.

Contrast this with two trustees-elect on the Richland School District Two Board. Amelia McKie and Teresa Holmes became qualified for the school board on November 6, 2018, but they have never legally become entitled to take office. They have never taken the oath of office legally.

Both took the oath of office illegally on November 13, 2018; "illegally" because neither had filed her required Statement of Economic Interests Report with the South Carolina Ethics Commission.

After The Independent Voice of Blythewood & Fairfield County blew the whistle, each filed her SEI on December 4, 2018.

Neither McKie nor Holmes has ever taken the oath of office legally on or since December 4, 2018.

Therefore, neither is on the School Board legitimately. Yet they are allowed to serve, to attend executive sessions, to hear confidential student matters and District business, to vote on motions, to be paid for serving, to hold memberships in associations.

How much longer with voters allow McKie and Holmes to usurp public office?

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Open Request to School Board

This is an open request to the Richland 2 School Board to explain to the public why you consider Amelia McKie and Teresa Holmes to be legitimate members of the school board.

McKie and Holmes violated State law by taking the oath of office before filing their Statement of Economic Interests Reports (SEI) with the South Carolina Ethics Commission. (S.C. Code of Laws 8-13-1110(A))

Each took the oath of office on November 13, 2018. But they took the oath illegally on that date.

On November 13, 2018, each was "qualified" to be a board member (having been elected on November 6), but neither was eligible to take the oath of office.

Each filed her SEI on December 4, 2018.

Neither has taken the oath of office since December 4, 2018.

State law requires that the oath be taken before assuming office. Most certainly, this means taken legally. (S.C. Code of Laws 8-3-10)

Please explain to the public exactly what "interpretations" of law on which you are relying, when you allow McKie and Holmes to act as board members and to hold an Officer position on the board.

Please explain why McKie and Holmes are not usurping public office. (S.C. Code of Laws 15-63-60)