Tuesday, April 28, 2020

New Board Policy needed re email addresses

The following email was sent to Richland 2 school district on April 27. Watch tonight's meeting to see if a Trustee makes a motion for a new policy.

Mr. Manning and Supt. Davis,

Board Policy BEDB permits the public to suggest items of business for consideration by the board.

I request a new Board Policy that would require all Board Members to use only official email accounts on the District's email server for school-related correspondence. Full compliance with FOIA Requests to the District can only be guaranteed, when the District controls the retention of email received by and sent by board members. The District-issued email address should replace the personal email address on the Board Members' webpage.

When a personal email account is used for official business, the District cannot control access to and retention of that email for responding to a FOIA request. Currently, two board members use personal accounts: Teresa Holmes and Monica Elkins-Johnson.

A board policy would require them to use an @richland2.org email address for all school-related correspondence. Please include a direction to Holmes and Elkins-Johnson to retain their personal email accounts beyond their term of office (for a specific term; ex., ten years) and not to delete any official correspondence.

It is my understanding that the SCSBA might condone use of personal email accounts; e.g., in small districts without an in-house server. Richland 2 is not in that category.

Will you please place my request on the agenda for the May 12, 2020 Regular Meeting or as soon thereafter as practicable? I shall be happy to address the board at a Regular Meeting and answer questions about the need for this policy.

Perhaps a board member will make a motion at this week's meeting to include this item.


Gus Philpott

Monday, April 27, 2020

Two school board members using personal email

Even since Hillary Clinton got caught using a private email server for official business, the country has held an opinion that "official" business ought to be conducted on "official" email accounts.

Why? Because the unofficial emails are hidden from public view.

Before moving to South Carolina in 2014, I raised this exact issue in Illinois, when certain members of the Woodstock (Ill.) City Council were using personal email accounts for official business.

I attended a training for appointed and elected public officials that was conducted by the Office of the Illinois Attorney General. Since I was not an appointed or elected official, I held my questions until the officials had asked all their questions. And then I asked about use of private email accounts for handling official business.

The trainers from the AG's office said that should not be done.

After the meeting, the trainers thanked me for my good questions. I appreciated that.

Right here in the Richland 2 School District, there are two people on the board who use personal email addresses. One is Trustee Monica Elkins-Johnson, whose email address is "puttingstudentsfirst2012@gmail.com".

The other is Trustee-elect Teresa Holmes, whose email address is "docholmesschoolboard2@gmail.com". I write "Trustee-elect", because Holmes has never legally taken the oath of office after filing her Statement of Economic Interests Report on December 4, 2018.

Apparently, the South Carolina School Boards Association (SCSBA) believes it is okay for a school board member to use a personal email address.

Well, it's not. And the reason it is not, is because there is no guarantee that such email correspondence will be found in response to a FOIA Request to the School District. Only if ALL the emails are on the School District's email server is there a greater assurance (still not perfect) that a FOIA response will be complete.

Even if a board member agrees to comply with a FOIA request, could there be a Hillary Moment. Of course, there could.

More importantly, what about after that board member's term has expired? If Elkins-Johnson or Holmes leaves the school board, how will she preserve ALL the school-related emails?

The answer? She won't. With one click, she can delete that email account and the entire history will be gone. Later she can say, "Oops." But those emails will be gone.

Now is the time for a Board Policy that requires all school board members to use a District-server email account for all school board business.

Is there a Board member who will request such a new Policy?

OK, I'll get the ball rolling. I, as a member of the public, will request this issue be placed on the Agenda for a Regular Meeting. SEE Board Policy BEDB - Board Agenda. "Items of business may be suggested by board members, staff members, or the public."

"State of Emergency" - Really?

The Richland 2 School Board is using the Governor's declaration of a state of emergency as its pretext for holding its Regular and Special Meetings via Zoom; i.e., away from the prying eyes of the public.

Telecasting the meeting is not the same as having the public and the press right in the same room, where the audience can keep an eye on the entire board (including grimaces, body language, side conversations, use of cell phones).

What is a "state of emergency"?

Using the language in the City of Columbia's Code (ART. II, Sec. 31), it is "A state of emergency shall be deemed to exist within the city whenever, during times of great public crisis, disaster, rioting, civil disturbance or catastrophe, or for any other reason, municipal public safety authorities are unable to maintain public order or afford adequate protection for lives, safety, health, welfare or property."

In Richland County, THERE IS NO "great public crisis, disaster, rioting, civil disturbance or catastrophe". Not even in the State of South Carolina.

And what makes Columbia's ordinance, or at least part of it, unconstitutional is the wording "or for any other reason". 

The City of Columbia could presumably declare a state of emergency if Mayor Benjamin got a hangnail. Assuming he could bully a majority of the City Council into agreeing with him. 

A dangerous part of the state-of-emergency ordinance in the City of Columbia is this section:
During the existence of a proclaimed state of emergency when a curfew has been defined and imposed under the provisions of this article, it shall be unlawful for anyone subject to curfew to:
Be or travel upon any public street, alley or roadway or upon public property unless such travel is necessary to obtain medical assistance;
Possess off one's own premises, buy, sell, give away or otherwise transfer or dispose of any explosives, firearms, ammunition or dangerous weapon of any kind; ..."

So, just when law-abiding citizens might need self-protection away from home, the City of Columbia says it is illegal.

See you in court, buddy.

So the pretext (state of emergency) for closing off a Richland 2 board meeting is false, and the public should protest loudly about it.

4/28/20 Meeting Time Corrected

The District's announcement regarding the April 28, 2020 Regular Meeting of the school board has been corrected pertaining to the starting time. The Executive Session will begin shortly after 6:00PM and the Regular meeting will resume at 6:30PM.

The location of the Regular Meeting is not shown in the April 28th updated press release, nor is it shown on the Agenda. The Board apparently plans to meet only via Zoom, effectively eliminating the public and the press from attending the open meeting.

While the announcement states that the meeting will be conducted via Zoom, it does not state that the meeting will not be held in the open and at the regular meeting location, which is at R2i2. Very likely, it will be held entirely remotely, with each board member "attending" from his or her remote location.

The announcement by the District reads, "Due to the restrictions on public gatherings, the meeting will be held using the “Zoom” online meeting platform. The public will be able to view the meeting at http://www.richland2.org/livestream."

The District has failed to explain the "restrictions on public gatherings". Exactly what are they?

When the South Carolina Governor imposed restrictions on groups of more than three people, here is what he had in mind. According to The State newspaper on March 23, 2020,

“It would apply to parties on the beach, to boisterous gatherings or concerts, to spontaneous gatherings or unruly gatherings in shopping centers, parking lots,” McMaster said. “Those are the kinds of things and we have all seen them.
The order does not apply to is [sic] law-abiding businesses or employers, McMaster said."

NOTE: "The order does not apply to is (sic) law-abiding businesses or employers, McMaster said." (emphasis added)

Richland 2 School Board could meet in Open Meetings at R2i2 and employ seating with social-distancing. But it chooses not to. This violates State law.

And, by meeting remotely, the District also violates the requirement that a quorum be present. For Richland 2, a quorum is five. (There are only five legitimate board members; Trustees-elect McKie and Holmes have never legally taken the oath of office.) While the law apparently does not say that a quorum must be present in person, it does not say that it need not. And that's important! It is understood that the quorum must be present in person.

Except that Richland 2 School Board chooses to "interpret" the law, rather than follow it.

Should Richland 2 be following the law - exactly?

Saturday, April 25, 2020

4/28/20 Regular Meeting

The following email was sent to the five legitimate board members of Richland 2 School District, the two trustees-elect (McKie and Holmes), the superintendent, the District's legal counsel, and the District's advisor on Robert's Rules of Order.

If you are interested in attending Tuesday's meeting, you might show up in person. State law makes all meetings of public bodies open. Will the District arrange socially-distant seating? Or will it just refuse admittance to the public, thus risking censure or legal action for prohibiting public attendance?

Members of the Board and Trustees-elect McKie and Holmes,

There is a conflict in information between that published on the District's website as the starting times for the executive (6:00PM) and open (6:30PM) sessions and the times shown in Mrs. Abdus-Saboor's email today, which states the executive session starts at 5:30PM and the open session at 6:00PM.

Regarding the 4/28/20 Agenda,

The 4/21/20 Special-Called Meeting Minutes, attached to the 4/28/20 Regular Meeting Agenda, do not reflect that the meeting was 100% remote without public attendance. The Minutes also do not mention the Live-streaming.

Will you please not approve the Agenda for the 4/28/20 Regular Meeting as prepared, and make a Motion for it to be corrected before it is approved?

State law requires that an Agenda state the location of the meeting of the public body. The 4/28/20 Agenda does not state a location.
SECTION 30-4-60. Meetings of public bodies shall be open.
Every meeting of all public bodies shall be open to the public unless closed pursuant to Section 30-4-70 of this chapter.

SECTION 30-4-80. Notice of meetings of public bodies.
(A) All public bodies, except as provided in subsections (B) and (C) of this section, must give written public notice of their regular meetings at the beginning of each calendar year. The notice must include the dates, times, and places [emphasis added] of such meetings. 

Mrs. Abdus-Saboor's email indicates that the Regular Meeting will be held at R2i2, but the Agenda does not.

I presume that the public can attend the open meeting, as allowed by State law and that seating with regard to social-distancing will be arranged.

Item 4.1 includes the Consent Agenda.
Before the Agenda is approved, will you please make a Motion that the Minutes be corrected?

The Minutes should reflect:
- that no Member of the Board was present in person;
    a. that a quorum was not present in person.
- that the public was prohibited from attending the open meeting, because the meeting was not held in a public-meeting 
- that no roll call was taken;
- that all seven Members attended remotely and none in the presence of one another;
- that there was no Motion or vote in the meeting to permit one or more board member to attend remotely
- that there was no explanation as to why any Member attended remotely (Board Policy BEDM):
    a. The allowance in BEDM for teleconferencing does not include the current circumstances (pandemic or Governor's order);
    b. There was no approval of any Member's request to attend by teleconference;
    c. There was no disclosure of any person(s) present in the location from which a member was participating.
    d. There was no admonition to members to refrain from using cellphones, email, texting, etc. during the meeting.
- that the meeting was Live-streamed.

This is important for any future legal challenge to the Board's meeting in such a manner that no member of the public could attend the Open Meeting in person. The SCSBA is wrong, when it advises that making the meeting "available to the public in real-time" (live-streaming) meets the "open to the public" requirement.

When the Board temporarily suspended Public Participation until the end of this month, it did not address attendance by the public. It only eliminated the three-minute speaking opportunity.

Agenda Item 7.1 did not include publication of the Homeschool Application in the Agenda. Is there such an urgency to this, that it must be voted on at its first reading?

Agenda Item 7.2 There is no attachment of the formal wording of the proposed change to Board Policy BE. The general explanation in a narrative sentence is inadequate notice to Board Members of detail, in expectation of a vote on first reading. On its surface, there is no need for such authority. A "No" vote is called for. 

I suggest a Motion to remove item 7.2 from the Agenda at the beginning of the meeting.

As fiduciaries of the District, it is imperative that you know and follow the law and your Policies scrupulously. Failure to do so may constitute dereliction of duty.

Board Members, you are relying too heavily on faulty advice from the SCSBA. Please make your own decisions in doing what is best for Richland School District Two, with guidance from your own legal counsel.


Gus Philpott

cc: Kathryn Mahoney
      Helen McFadden

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

April 21 Special Meeting Livestream - Grade? D-

Richland 2 School Board needs a class in Livestream. And an instruction that the board meeting by Livestream should be conducted exactly like a face-to-face board meeting. In other words, dress for business!

What went right?

The meeting started. Late, but it started.

What went wrong?

The Chair called for the first Motion of the meeting, and NO ONE promptly responded. It's pitiful how they all wait for someone else to do it. You'd think they were being asked to throw the switch to drop the guillotine. Why didn't the Vice Chair quickly approve the motion? Or the Board Secretary?

And then Trustee-elect McKie called for the wrong Motion. Hello???

Somebody, even the Chair, should have corrected her with "Point of Order". Her buddy, the other Trustee-elect, could have done that. Did no one else notice?

The four-minute delay in starting should have been covered with a message pop-up splashed on the screen to inform viewers to stand by. How many wondered whether the lack of action was because of a problem on their own computer?

The District should provide a number to which a text could be sent when there is a livestream problem.

Board members were apparently not coached on how to participate in a Livestream meeting regarding sound, speaking, identifying yourself before speaking, preventing audio feedback, silencing cell phones. You know, the basics.

The video quality was terrible. Most names on the video frames could not be read.

The seven board members' images should have been prioritized across the top, rather than scattered haphazardly on the screen.

The meeting-control moderator should have muted all, which would have eliminated background noises and cell phones.

If a board member wished to speak, there is probably a "Raise Hand" button and the Chair would call on him or her.

Trustee Agostini raised the question about the need for this meeting. Several others should have spoken on this and supported her question. Instead, the others must have been studying their fingernails, because no one else spoke up.

The superintendent's update could have been five minutes in length, instead of 16. You can watch the re-run yourself and determine how much was "filler".

The board trustees are Fiduciaries. They are supposed to be knowledgeable about business and conduct-of-business rules. And the protocol presented in Robert's Rules of Order. They are not elected to be good, non-confrontational buddies. Yes, they should get along. But, first of all, their obligation is to the taxpayers in the District.

Monday, April 20, 2020

April 21st Agenda - further amended

The Agenda for the April 21st Special-Called Board Meeting has now been further amended.

Item 3.1 now is "New Business - No Action Requested" and the topic is Superintendent Update COVID-19.

What's wrong with this?

An "update" is just that. The superintendent should be making a report to the board. Unless the superintendent is going to ask the board to consider doing something (besides just listening to an "update"), then it is a only Report and not "New Business - No Action Requested".

If the superintendent is asking the board to consider something on which they will be expected to vote next week, April 28, then his Update should have been attached to the Agenda and called something other than an update. The Board members deserve to get it in advance of the meeting, so that they can study it and prepare questions for him to answer while he gives his "update".

Before each board meeting, the board chair (James Manning) and the superintendent put their heads together and settle on the agenda, which is then laid on the board members.

The Continuing Resolution, already on the agenda, has been moved to Item 4.1. That whole item could have waited until the next Regular Meeting, one week from now on April 28.

Will any board member ask what the rush was and why a Special Meeting was called in the first place?

Somewhere in the Board Policies Robert's Rules of Order is mentioned. This board doesn't seem to have a clue what Robert's Rules is all about.

This board needs a skilled Parliamentarian who stands ready to correct the board when it veers off-course. There are many times during board meetings when the board should be steered back on-course or informed through a Point-of-Order that what they are doing or saying is wrong.

Probably a Parliamentarian should be a non-Board position, contracted and paid, and insulated from influence by any board member or administrator.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

An Education - the hard way

Over the past week I have helped a Richland County homeowner who took in a homeless couple. Now he can't get them out.

The couple has five kids; 9, 8, 4, 5 months, 3 weeks. His and hers. The homeowner felt sorry for them after they got kicked out of their prior housing (hotel? motel?) and didn't want the seven to have to live in their car.

Here's the Warning: if you take someone into your home, even if they don't pay rent, you become a Landlord and they become your Tenants. As Tenants, they acquire property rights to your house.

To get them out, you will have to evict them. And the courts are closed.

So you are stuck.

Before you make any similar offer, call your lawyer. Understand your rights before you make a decision.

Unfair? It doesn't matter whether you think this is unfair. You'll be stuck as a victim of South Carolina law.

You might ask yourself: "Who makes dumb laws like these?" Call your State Rep or Senator, and ask his or her viewpoint on this law. If you don't like that viewpoint, there is an election coming up.

Vote 'em out.

Teachers' Hours

It's amazing what you can learn from the Richland 2 School District homepage. For example,

"Teacher office hours for assistance with e-learning/remote learning
All Richland Two teachers will have “office hours” Monday-Friday 9–10:30 a.m. and 2:30–4 p.m. During these times, teachers will be available to check and respond to emails. Parents and teachers can also arrange to talk via telephone or video chat during office hours."

Are these the only hours that teaches working?

Are teachers conducting classes by Zoom?

How many hours/week are teachers working?

Remember when they were demanding 15-minute and 30-minute breaks for planning?

Perhaps some teachers will weigh in here and report what their workweek looks like.

Are teachers receiving full pay during the school-closure order by Gov. McMaster.

Just askin'...

Free meals - WHY?

Do you know that Richland 2 School District is providing free meals to all students under 18 while schools are closed?

According to a message on the District's website,

"Children do not have to attend one of these schools to receive free meals. Pick-up at these sites is open to all children under the age of 18 living in Richland Two attendance zones regardless of the families' free/reduced-price meal status."

This is certainly a generous act of the School District, but I wonder when the School Board approved that. I don't recall ever hearing it mentioned at a school board meeting.

Why is the District spending money to feed children whose families have no financial need for such free food?

Friday, April 17, 2020

District to "Zoom" the April 21st Special Meeting

The following press release was sent out by Richland 2 School District. The time of the meeting is 5:30PM EDT. No information was provided about the Zoom meeting number or any passcode needed, should the Livestream link fail.

No telephone number was provided in the District's announcement for those who cannot or do not wish to connect via computer.

Submit your questions/concerns/issues by email no later than Tuesday, April 21, 12:00PM EDT.

The "official notice" mentioned in the press release doesn't state any information not included in the press release.

"The Richland School District Two Board of Trustees will hold a special called board meeting on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Due to the restrictions on public gatherings, the meeting will be held using the “Zoom” online meeting platform. The public will be able to view the meeting at http://www.richland2.org/livestream.

"During the special called meeting, the board will consider for action a Continuing Resolution for the FY 2020-2021 General Fund Operating Budget. Click here to view the agenda for the meeting, which includes a copy of the continuing resolution.

"Residents of Richland School District Two interested in providing comments on the continuing resolution are encouraged to email their input to budget@richland2.org. Emails need to be received by noon on April 21.

"The official notice is attached. Thank you for helping us notify the public about the meeting."

Chief Communications Officer

April 21st Special Board Meeting - WHY?

The agenda for the April 21st Special-Called Board Meeting has been published. This meeting is totally unnecessary. 

Robert's Rules of Order contains useful information to explain when a Special meeting should be called. Generally, it is when something of great importance and urgency cannot wait until the next Regular meeting. 

Board members should demand of the Board Chair and Superintendent to know exactly what the urgency of this meeting is.

The next Regular Meeting of the board is scheduled for April 28, 2020.

What is so urgent that a Special Meeting is being called?

The only item on the agenda for the 5:30PM Special Meeting is a Continuing Resolution pertaining to the District's operating budget that must be approved by June 30, 2020.

Can you see anything so urgent that this could not wait one week for the Board's attention?

In case you are wondering about this urgent matter, below is the proposed Resolution:

1.                  Board Policy DB provides that, "In case the budget does not receive approval by June 30, the board will adopt a continuing resolution based on last year's operating budget until the budget can be approved."
2.                  The State of South Carolina has initiated a continuing resolution in the event that the state has not completed an adopted budget by June 30, 2020.
3.                  In the event the state's budget is not approved by the beginning of the new fiscal year (July 1, 2020), there will be disruption and uncertainty concerning the effect of the FY 2020-21 budget.
Now therefore, BE IT RESOLVED:
1.                  In the event the State of South Carolina does not vote to give final approval of the State Budget and respective education funding lines from the state budget and respective new guidelines of those funds by the end of the day on June 30, 2020, the Board directs that the FY 2019-20 Board budget, in current form, shall continue to govern and shall provide the legal authority for the receipt and expenditure of funds for the operations of the District, until the Board finds that the Board's FY 2020-21 budget shall go into effect.
2.                  If the State of South Carolina completes final approval to the State budget on or before June 30, 2020, then this resolution shall be moot and of no effect.
3.                  Nothing in this resolution constitutes a waiver of any of the Board's legal status relating to the budget, management and control of the Richland Two School District.

It is so resolved this 21st day of April 2020."

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Public Participation at Board Meetings. Quorum?

If you look at the District's website just before agendas are published, you'll see the Public Participation rules of the Board.

Want to address the Board? Go to a meeting and you'll have three minutes to speak your piece.

Only you won't, because the Board suspended ("temporarily", they said) Public Participation at meetings until the end of April. But they don't tell you that on the website. Is it a big, dark secret?

What the Board did not discuss at the last meeting was its decision about public attendance. If you can get in the door, you won't be able to speak. But can you even get in the door?

What will happen on Tuesday night, April 21, at the Special-Called Board Meeting?

By State law, board meetings are to be open to the public.

Watch the agenda for the starting time.

Will the Board have a quorum in person at the meeting? A quorum is five. I contend it's five in person, not by teleconference. Without five board members present in person, the Board cannot legally meet.

Another dilemma for the Board is that it currently allows two trustees-elect to act as if they are legitimate board members. Amelia McKie and Teresa Holmes have never legally taken the oath of office.

Both of them took the oath on November 13, 2018, before they were eligible to do so. The State law is clear. First you file your Statement of Economic Interest Reprt with the South Carolina Ethics Commission; then you take the oath of office. They filed their SEIs on December 4, three weeks after taking the oath.

So to have a quorum on April 21, all five of the "real" Trustees must attend in person; that means Manning, Agostini, Elkins-Johnson, Shadd, and Caution-Parker must be there in person and not "attending" by phone.

I may be one of very few people in Richland County who believe the law is important and to be followed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Special-Called Board Meeting - April 21

The Richland 2 School District website now displays a calendar event (bottom of homepage) for a Special-Called Board meeting on Tuesday, April 21.

No agenda has been published yet. The District must publish it by Monday, April 20, at 5:30PM. They may publish it sooner, such on Friday afternoon or Thursday afternoon of this week. Whenever it is published, it will be found on the District's website. Click on EXPLORE; then on School Board; then on AGENDA; then on Special-Called Meeting; then on Agenda.

You should be able to learn more about the items on the agenda by clicking on links on the left sidebar, IF the District decides to reveal its plans to the public before the meeting, which is becoming less and less frequent.

A Special-Called Board meeting is an open meeting of the Board. The public is entitled to be present. Will the District try to prevent the public from attending? Will it broadcast only an audio livestream? Will it hold an illegal meeting by not having a quorum (five) present in person?

And is the Board ever going to insist that Amelia McKie and Teresa Holmes finally take the oath of office so that they will become legitimate members of the school board?

And will the Board begin insisting that Amelia McKie start paying off her $51,750 debt to the South Carolina Ethics Commission? Even if she were to pay $1,000/month, she would not have it paid off before the end of her term in November 2022? Will she be too embarrassed to run for a third term?

Richland 2 continues to claim that it is a Premier school district with a Premier Board of Trustees. So long as McKie is still on the Board and owes over $50,000 to the Ethics Commission for her numerous violations, the Board cannot be a "premier" boatd!

Columbia - No "state of emergency"

This is an excellent time for students, parents, teachers, and Administration and the Trustees (and the two Trustees-elect) of Richland 2 School District to study the United States Constitution.

Constitutional rights in Columbia are being violated in the name of health. Is this okay? I say, "Not okay."

The public should be wise in its choices how to protect itself. Government should be wise in its efforts to persuade the public to be wise.

But I don't want Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, China and North Korean tactics employed in the United States.

Recently the mayor of Columbia and the city council voted to put a curfew in place. That triggered an older law that forbids the carrying of firearms during the curfew, even if one has a concealed carry permit. Thus, the City of Columbia attempts to pre-empt the U.S. Constitutional and the State of South Carolina, which grants the privilege of carrying a concealed firearm.

Columbia's state-of-emergency law appears to be unconstitutional.

Columbia's definition of "state of emergency" () reads, "A state of emergency shall be deemed to exist within the city whenever, during times of great public crisis, disaster, rioting, civil disturbance or catastrophe, or for any other reason, municipal public safety authorities are unable to maintain public order or afford adequate protection for lives, safety, health, welfare or property."

By definition, the COVID-19 pandemic, here in this area, does not fall into the category of "great public crisis, disaster, rioting, civil disturbance or catastrophe." 

An extremely worrisome provision of the law is the phrase "or for any other reason". This give carte blanche, "police state" privilege to the mayor and city council, and this is unconstitutional.

Where is the public outcry?

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Look out for Columbia's curfew

I imagine that most Richland 2 School District residents live in Richland County, not within the City Limits of Columbia.

BUT, if you have occasion to travel into or in Columbia during its curfew of 11:00PM-6:00AM, be sure to know the restrictions.

The curfew doesn't just limit your travel to commuting to/from work or for necessary medical reasons, it also disarms you. The Curfew Ordinance (2020-031) triggered a prior state-of-emergency ordinance, and that one apparently forbids a person out during the curfew from being armed in public, even if s/he holds a concealed weapons permit.

I have requested the Ordinance number from the Columbia City Clerk but, so far, the Clerk has not responded. A FOIA Request may be necessary, if the Clerk doesn't reply by Tuesday, April 14.

So, be forewarned. Only the criminals will be out hunting. The entire City of Columbia has become a gun-free zone, and you know what that means.

If you get stopped, and that is quite likely because of the light volume of traffic, you may wish you have decided in advance whether to reveal you are armed (or even just have a firearm in the vehicle). Think about your exact words, should the cop ask if you have a firearm with you (or in the vehicle).

Also, understand your rights to decline any request for a search of your person or your vehicle This might be a good time to get legal advice - before you "need" it. If you call a lawyer, make sure it's a lawyer who understands firearms law, the ugly state-of-emergency Ordinance (not just the curfew ordinance), and the U.S. and South Carolina Constitutions.

Friday, April 10, 2020

New Math

How big a problem is this in our schools today? Is this a problem right here in Richland 2?

Are students being taught to solve math problems in the way that works easily and quickly?

What parent can get the same answer by using the top method?

Just for Fun ...

Not sure of the original source for them. A friend in Colorado emailed them to me.

"Homeschooling is going well. 2 students suspended for fighting and 1 teacher fired for drinking on the job.

"Day 5 of Homeschooling: One of these little monsters called in a bomb threat.

"Day 6 of Homeschooling: My child just said, "I hope I don't have the same teacher next year".... I'm offended."

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Responsible Public Body Listens to Public

The Richland 2 School Board suspended its Public Participation policy on March 31. The suspension is supposed to be "temporary", only until the end of April.

The school board is a public body. South Carolina law requires meetings to be open. That does not mean just making them available by audio-streaming.

By hiding behind the coronavirus threat, the board kept the public from knowing it did not have a quorum at its March 31st meeting until right at the end of the meeting.

At this point it is unclear whether the school board means that the public will be excluded from open meetings or just prohibited from speaking at them.

Here is how a public body in northern Illinois solved this problem.

The McHenry County (Ill.) Board of Health will hold a special, virtual board meeting on April 9, 2020, at 7:00PM. That board invites public comments before 5:00PM on the date of the meeting and provides an email address for them. Presumably, public comments will be read at the meeting.

Thanks to McHenry County Blog (Crystal Lake, Ill.) for informing the public of that important announcement.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Public Body - open meetings

One of my issues with the last Richland 2 School Board meeting is that there was not a quorum present at the meeting. Of course, the public didn't know that until nearly the end of the meeting. Without a legal quorum, the School Board cannot meet and conduct business, which it did.

All seven board members, including the two Trustees-elect (who have never been legally sworn in), were accounted for. I contend that the law requires a quorum in person. At the March 31, 2020 meeting two trustees (Manning and Shadd) were present in person; the other five phoned in.

And the public was excluded from the meeting, as I understand it. I did not attend, so I cannot witness that no member of the public was present or attempted to attend.

Shortly after the open meeting resumed at 6:00PM, Board Chair James Manning announced that some of the board members were attending by phone. Was he being careful not to mention whom or how many?

Toward the end of the meeting, when it was time for Board & Superintendent Comments, he announced that he would start with those who were attending by phone. Trustees Agostini, Elkins-Johnson and Caution-Parker made their comments. Trustees-elect McKie and Holmes made their comments. Shadd passed. Then the superintendent and Chair Manning had their say.

That was the first time that the public learned, via audio livestream, that five were not present.

Board Policy allows for telephonic attendance - under certain conditions. A pandemic is not one of them. The Board should have heard and voted on a motion at the beginning of the meeting about the special circumstances, but it didn't. And no board member said why she was attending remotely.

And the board never officially and legally resumed the open meeting, which would be done by a vote. But it never does that so, in that sense, resuming the open session (after the Executive Session) was not unusual. Not unusual, but wrong. Voting in private to adjourn the executive session is not equivalent to re-entering open session.

How is the remote attendance at a meeting of a public body being handled elsewhere?

In northern Illinois the Algonquin Village Board announced "Pursuant to Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order No. 2020-07 (COVID-19 Executive Order No. 5), Governor Pritzker has suspended certain rules of the Open Meetings Act – specifically the Executive Order permits remote public meetings."

The Village of Algonquin arranged to use Zoom to disclose fully to the public how its meeting was being conducted. Zoom provides video, not just audio.

I'm pretty sure that Livestream.com offers live video-conferencing. Why didn't Richland 2 choose that?

Should the Richland 2 premier school district increase its transparency?

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Conducting a Teleconference

Here is how you conduct a teleconference. Maybe I should have written this over the week-end and sent it to the Richland 2 School Board. No doubt there are manuals and experts available. There is probably even a Teleconferencing for Dummies.

- Provide a telephone number that can be called for the public to join the Livestream event. The S.C.School Boards Assn. (SCSBA) provided this guidance ("If telephonic methods are used, the public must (emphasis in the original) be provided a call-in number, preferably one with the ability to mute the public participants). Richland 2 did not do that!

- Test the system thoroughly ahead of time. Make sure the lines (telephone, computer) work! Work out the bugs ahead of time.
- Provide the board members with a private telephone number to call, if the line of communication is broken or impaired.
- Inform the board of proper teleconferencing conduct.
- The Chair is in charge. Don't talk until recognized. And then, keep it short. No grandstanding.
- When the meeting starts, the Chair should direct the Secretary to call the roll.
- The Secretary should call out the name of each board member and the Supt.
- The verbal response is "Present in person" or "Present by remote connection".
 - Last night there was no identification of remote attendees until the Board & Supt. Comments. There was only a brief mention after the vote on the Consent Agenda that some board members were tele-conferencing.
- Upon completing the roll call, the Secretary announces the number present in person, the number attending remotely, the number absent or excused, and whether a quorum is present. (A quorum needs to be present in person.)
- The Chair moves forward with business.

- Provide the public with a separate Help Line telephone number to call or text, if the Livestream breaks down or if they cannot hear or understand what is being broadcast. A staff member could receive those messages and inform the Chair that the public cannot hear or understand.

- If the public cannot hear or understand, the meeting must stop until the problem is corrected.

- During Livestream (audio only) events, the Secretary should call the roll for every vote. Richland 2 is a public body. The public is entitled to be told what is happening.
- When the Secretary calls the roll, the response from a member should be Yea, Nay, Abstain. If the member does not respond to the first or second call, the Secretary announces that Trustee __(name)__ is not voting.
- The Secretary announces the number of Yeas and Nays  and whether the motions passes or fails.
- The correct reporting of a failed motion is "The vote is 2-5. The motion fails."

When entering Executive Session, a roll call vote should be taken. When telephonic attendance is involved, the member must confirm that no one is present who can overhead any part of the meeting, including the remote member's spoken words.

- Members attending by telephone are to provide their reason for so doing (Board Policy)

- Currently, the Chair reports who made and seconded the motion to end Executive Session. That is not necessary.
- What is necessary, and is not done, is a roll call vote to re-convene the public session. The Board never does this. Which means that, legally, the Regular Meeting never has re-convened. This should be by roll call vote.

- Every member should be instructed to interrupt and speak up if s/he cannot hear everything that is being said.

- Likewise, no member should interrupt and just begin speaking. When a member has something to say, s/he should attract the attention of the Chair and, if attending remotely, provide his/her last name. Not only will it be clear to the Chair who is speaking, but also the Public will know.

- Members need to be reminded that Board Policy instructs members to address only the Chair. This rule is not followed, even in non-Livestream meetings.

During audio Livestream meetings, the Chair should ask the Secretary to call the roll and report the result for every vote on a motion. Otherwise, the public cannot know what is happening.

I'm sure there are additional procedures, and a teleconferencing consultant could advise the board.

If you have ideas for improving last night's call, post them in comments below. Or email them to gusphilpott@gmail.com  Your name or email address will not be published, unless you approve.