Tuesday, May 26, 2020

May 26, 2020 Regular Meeting - Ombudsman Report

"Public session starts at 5 p.m." This appeared on the holding page for today's Livestream meeting.

No, actually it doesn't. The public session began at 4:30PM, and the board quickly moved into executive session. The public session re-convened at 5:00PM.

Is there any reason that District Two cannot be accurate and correct about this?

When the meeting resumed at 5:00PM, there was a significant audio problem, and the first seven minutes were unintelligible. There was an audio loop that caused words to be repeated after 1-2 seconds, and this continued to 5:07PM.

The District should provide a call-in number to a staff member, for reports of technical difficulties.

A major item on the agenda tonight was a report by the District's Ombudsman, Kelli Johnson. She had prepared a PowerPoint presentation, and she read it to the board. She. Read. It. The presentation was/is attached to the Agenda, and you can read it yourself. Why would the superintendent not coach her to speak to the board while showing them her presentation?

As she went through her pages, I kept thinking, "This is not the role of an ombudsman." If you have been in a large business, you may know the function of an ombudsman. It's not a 4-1-1 operator. Obviously, the superintendent defined Kelli's job, and she'll do it exactly the way he says. And she won't make any waves.

That could be why she merely read her presentation tonight and was not prepared to answer the most basic questions from the board.

How does Wikipedia define Ombudsman? "An ombudsman, ombudsperson, ombud, or public advocate is an official who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of mal-administration or a violation of rights."

This is definitely not what the District's ombudsman does. It's a feel-good position, designed to do nothing more than listen to people so they'll calm down.

Can you imagine if I contacted Kelli and attempted to discuss the ethical problems on the Board and sought resolution? Kelli would probably lose her job, if she even allowed me in her office, so I won't call her.

She should have shown up tonight with some hard numbers and a couple of pie charts. Instead, she was empty-handed, and a board member had to ask for detailed information. Dr. Elkins-Johnson's request was put forward. I wonder when we'll find out whether the superintendent responded. Will the resopnse be provided to the public at a board meeting? Will the public ever hear the naswer to Dr. Elkins' request?

Then the superintendent gave a COVID-19 update. At the beginning he said that nothing much had changed. And 15 minutes later ...  well, he did say, in answer to one board member's question, that he does not know of even one COVID-19 diagnosis of an employee or student.

So, out of 28,000 students and 3,000+ employees, not even one.

And yet, Richland Two is shut down. How many members of the public attended tonight's meeting? The LIVE counter at the upper left of the screen held steady at "2". So, one other member of the public and I were there. Are there any community members, or even employees, who care?

Misleading countdown timer, 5/26/20

The Richland School District Two Regular Meeting of the school board was supposed to start at 4:30PM. At 4:25PM a countdown timer showed that the meeting would begin in 0 hours 18 min 45 sec. (or at about 4:43PM). Now that might cause some to go away and come back at 4:43PM.

But, surprise! The meeting started on time at 4:30PM. Mr. Manning convened the open meeting and called for a motion to go into Executive Session. Somebody began speaking, and I think somebody started talking over her. There was an audio loop that caused spoken words to be played a second time.

Somebody ought to tell the board members that, when the Chair calls for a motion, the correct response is to ask to recognized. You don't just start  talking - especially when everyone is attending remotely. After each meeting I have written to the board to suggest that they get a Zoom professional consultant to train them how to conduct an electronic meeting properly. Or maybe the superintendent could recommend to the Chair that they do that.

Teresa Holmes had a big smile on her face. Was that her dog that was barking? Again? That same Zoom consultant would have some direct words for her about putting her dog where its bark won't be heard or hiring someone to take it for a walk or even just using her Mute button to silence extraneous noises. It's definitely not cute.

Or was it someone else's dog? The same dog has barked in at least two previous meetings.

Here's the timer at 4:44PM. I caught it just before it vanished.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Next Board Meeting - 5/26/2020

The agenda for the May 26, 2020 Board meeting has been published. The Board will convene at 4:30PM, adjourn to Executive Session, and re-convene in open session at 5:00PM. The meeting will be electronic via Zoom (Livestream?).

[EDIT: At 6:30PM the District emailed a "correction" of time (which it wasn't) and the link for Tuesday's meeting. http://www.richland2.org/livestream ]

The Board again violates the South Carolina FOIA laws by failing to provide a link to the electronic meeting. The meeting is not available to the public on Zoom, as the agenda states. The meeting will probably be shown via Livestream, although that information is not on the District's website as of 4:25PM today, Friday, May 22.

The video on May 19, 2020 Special-Called Board Meeting is on YouTube but NOT yet on District website.

When the Chair called for a Motion to approve the agenda of the May 19th meeting, Teresa Holmes said, "I would like to make a Motion ..."

The correct response from the Chair would have been, "Thank you. I understand that you would like to make the Motion. Please make the Motion."

And when the Chair called for a voice vote, why did some trustees raise their hands? (Hint: they weren't listening.) In a Zoom meeting, the correct call would be for a hand vote, which is visible to and by all. If several participants signify their votes simultaneously by voice, the Chair will not really know who is voting.

There was a significant audio glitch at the beginning of the meeting, when a recorded loop of voices played during the meeting. The sound technician was called to correct it. Also, just before the start of the meeting, a woman's voice could be heard giving a countdown to the start of the meeting.

Is District Two going to figure out how to conduct a Zoom meeting professionally?

When will McKie pay?

Amelia McKie owes $51,750 to the South Carolina Ethics Commission.

A judgment was filed with the Richland County Common Pleas Court on July 10, 2019, and the S.C. Department of Revenue (DOR) should be collecting it. But is the DOR really doing anything? In ten months the only entries of record at the Court are on July 10, 2019. Nothing since!

Combine that with her failure to take the oath of office as Trustee after she became eligible to do so on December 4, 2018.

She did take an oath of office on November 13, 2018, but there were two reasons why that oath was not valid. McKie had not filed her Statement of Economic Interests Report with the S.C. Ethics Commission and one week had not passed after the Richland County Elections Commission certified the November 6, 2018 election. The election was certified on November 9, 2018, and this meant that the earliest date when McKie could take the oath of office, if she were eligible (which she was not) would have been November 16, 2018.

I wonder why the other Trustees don't have a little "sit-down" with her and tell her get her act together or resign from the School Board. McKie has been eligible to take the oath of office since December 4, 2018 but has not done so.

How can Richland School District Two have a premier school board with a person having these two problems?

McKie is not the only person on the board illegitimately.

When McKie and Teresa Holmes finally do take the oath of office, the School District will have to review all the board votes since November 13, 2018 and change all the decisions in which the votes by McKie and Holmes swayed the decision. There are many of them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Rescind Suspension of BEDH - You can help

The Richland 2 School Board has received at least one request to rescind its suspension of Board Policy BEDH.

The request was submitted to the entire board, asking a board member to make a motion at a meeting to add an item to the next agenda for discussion and vote to rescind the suspension. (The public lost its privilege to request agenda items on May 12, 2020.)

It will be interesting to learn what the Board's response is to the request and whether it will acknowledge the request at all..

Do YOU believe the public should be able to speak at Board meetings, as it has for years?

If so, email the Board now. To make your voice heard more loudly, send a bcc to gusphilpott@gmail.com

No public mention will be made of your name. There will be no attribution, but the public will be able to know of the number of requests made. A FOIA request may be made to the District in the future for the number of requests received.

Send your request to the entire board. To ease the pain of finding all their email addresses, here they are:

jamesmanning@richland2.org, lindsayagostini@richland2.org, cherylcautionparker@richland2.org, puttingstudentsfirst2012@gmail.com, docholmesschoolboard2@gmail.com, ameliamckie@richland2.org, jamesshadd@richland2.org

If you wish to copy the superintendent, here is his email address: badavis@richland2.org

McKie and Holmes are included, even though they are not yet legitimate members of the board. I address them as Trustees-elect. As soon as they take the oath of office legally (now that they have filed their Statement of Economic Interests Reports), they will become Trustees.

Holmes and Elkins-Johnson use personal email addresses, although the District should require all trustees to use the "@richland2.org" email address. The District may face an insurmountable problem in the future, should a FOIA Request be made that includes official emails to and from Holmes and Elkins-Johnson, especially after they leave the board.

Board Policy BEDH - Suspended

On May 12, 2020 the Richland 2 School Board voted 6-1 to suspend Board Policy BEDH. Trustee Lindsay Agostini was the sole No vote on the motion to suspend BEDH.

BEDH is the policy that applies to public participation at meetings. When the Board suspended this policy, it axed the public's ability to address the board at meetings. In other words, the Board no longer wishes to hear from the public at meetings. In public. Out in the open. Where others can know how the public feels.

The Board seems to think that the public's sending an email to someone in the District is the same as speaking out at meetngs.

It. Is. Not.

The vote on the Motion to Suspend BEDH, which was made by Eklins-Johnson and seconded by Shadd, can be viewed at 27:40 on the May 12th video. The vote was 6-1. But the video producer failed to show the screen with the result of the vote, so most will not know that it was Trustee Lindsay Agostini who stood up against the board and represented the People by voting as the sole No vote.

Furthermore, the District has not yet changed the Policy on its website. Why not?

Since Policy BEDH is no longer in effect, why hasn't the District so notated on the District's website? If you go to the website today (May 20), you will believe that the public still has the privilege to speak at board meetings.

Who or what controls the publication of Board Policies on the District's website?

Isn't this handled within Richland 2? Or does the Scouth Carolina School Boards Assn. have its nose in District business at this level?

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Robert's Rules of Order

In a number of Regular Meetings of the school board, when the board returns from Executive Session, the Chair describes a vote in Executive Session to end it and return to open session.

NO votes are allowed in Executive Session, even if later disclosed. A vote to end Executive Session is not allowed and is not needed; they just stop talking and move back to the public setting and then they re-convene. They "re-convene" because they had to first convene in open session before they could go into Executive Session.

If any vote at the beginning of the re-convened session should be taken, it would be to re-convene. There is no need to describe returning from Executive Session or what transpired there, since they are precluded from talking about what happened in Executive Session.

Later in the Regular Meeting is an agenda item for voting on any matters from the Executive Session that need action.

This Board should hire the Robert's Rules of Order expert, Helen McFadden. She attended a board meeting several months ago, and interest was expressed by at least one board member that she be invited back.

Livestream Training Needed for Board

The Richland 2 School Board needs training in professional conduct at Livestream Board Meetings.

What's wrong?

One board member's little yapping dog barks.
Keep your hands out of your hair during meetings.
Position your camera so that it faces you directly at eye-level.
Don't fidget.
Keep your hands off the camera.
Present slides from a computer so that the wording can be read.
Train board members on background and lighting.

Board members dressed professionally in business attire for in-person board meetings. Is there any reason that has changed?

2020-2021 Budget Meeting

The Richland 2 School Board held a 20-minute special-called meeting today to discuss the 2020-2021 budget. The meeting was live-streamed.

It was shocking to see that there were only 11-13 people attending this meeting. The counter in the upper left never exceeded 13. Did that include seven on the board, plus Supt. Davis, Libby Roof, Harry Miley and the woman from his department, to whom Dr. Miley gave credit for the report? And me? And one more?

Or was the number (13) those who were attending (excluding the board and staff) and viewing the livestream meeting?

Where were all the teachers who ought to be concerned about whether they are going to get paid or have jobs?

Maybe they were still teaching at 5:00PM. Reports to me indicate that they are having very long days.

Where were the parents and taxpayers who ought to be wondering whether their taxes will be going up?

The District should email survey (SurveyMonkey.com?) after meetings and ask questions, such as:

Did you know about the meeting?
Did you attend the meeting?
Did you plan to attend the meeting but missed it?
Will you watch the replay on YouTube or Livestream?
What would help you attend future board meetings?
 - Email reminder?
- RoboCall?
Should the District create a Public Portal like the City of Columbia?
Should the rescind the suspension of Board Policy BEDH - Public Participation at Meetings?
On a scale of 1-5 (5 being High), how important do you feel your voice is to the School Board?

Electronic surveys are dirt-cheap. But does the Board really want to know what parents, taxpayers and voters think?

Monday, May 18, 2020

Agenda updated for 5/19/20 Special-Called Board Meeting

The agenda for the May 19, 2020 Special-Called Meeting has been updated to include a link to the 2020-2021 Budget. The title slide for the attachment is Budget Workshop. 
Tomorrow's meeting starts at 5:00PM. View the meeting here:   http://www.richland2.org/livestream  
You will NOT have any opportunity to speak or participate!

A Budget Workshop has traditionally been the opportunity for the public to examine and comment on the budget for the coming school year.

Last week the Board suspended Board Policy BEDH - Public Participation at Meetings. It didn't just suspend it temporarily, as Amelia McKie claimed so emphatically. Her wording was false and deceiving, and her statement should have been corrected by the Board Secretary or the Board Chair before the vote was taken.

There was nothing in the Motion about a "temporary" suspension. The Board suspended the public's opportunity to address the board at meetings. In other words, squelched, squashed, silenced. The board should be embarrassed about its vote. The vote was 6-0.

Only Trustee Lindsay Agostini voted NO on the Motion to suspend BEDH.

If you care to look at the proposed budget, it's here. Warning: what is "here" is the link posted by the District at this moment (5/19;/20 10:20AM). It can be changed at any time before today at 5:00PM.

If you have a comment on the budget, email your comments to board members, whose email addresses are here.  Or phone them.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Letter to the Editor, The Voice

The following Letter to the Editor has been sent to The Voice of Blythewood & Fairfield County. Be sure to read The Voice often. Remember, it is the paper that discovered that Amelia McKie and Teresa Holmes had failed to file the Statements of Economic Interest Reports with the S.C. Ethics Commission before taking the oath of office. It also reported extensively of McKie's $51,750 debt to the S.C. Ethics Commission for four years' worth of failure regarding required reporting.

The Richland 2 School Board stuck it to the voters, taxpayers, parents, staff and students on May 12, when it voted to suspend Board Policy BEDH - Public Participation at Meetings. Not suspend it temporarily, as Amelia McKie explained. There was no "temporarily" about it. They voted 6-1 to suspend it. That means it is no longer in effect.

Is the suspension of BEDH a First Amendment violation? An infringement on free speech? After all, the school board is a public body. Meetings are (supposed to be) open. Trustee Agostini explained the "meeting portal" (https://columbiacitysc.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx) that the City of Columbia has opened. 

BEDH allowed the public to speak at board meetings. No more. BEDH allowed the public to suggest items for board consideration. No more. The Richland 2 Board suspended BEDH at the suggestion and encouragement of the S.C. School Boards Assn. Who runs the Richland 2 District? The SCSBA? No, the elected school board does. At least, it ought to.

When "temporary" was not part of the Motion, why would McKie say the suspension is temporary? Was that an attempt to mislead the public? Why didn't the Chairman clarify before the vote that the suspension would NOT be temporary?

Trustee Elkins-Johnson wanted the suspension only through the end of the summer, but she gave up easily when she wasn't supported. Trustee Lindsay Agostini was the only school member to vote NO. Thank you, Lindsay, for sticking up for the voters and taxpayers. 

Gus Philpott

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Board Policy BEDH - 3/31/20 Action. 5/12/20 Action

In its Regular Meeting on March 31, 2020 your Richland 2 School Board suspended Board Policy BEDH - Public Participation at Meetings. Its action was to suspend this policy temporarily until April 30, 2020.

You'd think by now that suspension of BEDH would have been notated somewhere on the District's website, so that the public would be duly and legally informed of this action. A good place to notate that would be right in the Policy itself.

You might want to read Board Policy BEDH. It describes the conditions of speaking publicly at Board meetings and also described how you, the public, can initiate items for a future Board agenda. Go to the District's website; read it. When you do, it will look like that policy is in effect today. It is not.

Those privileges vanished, temporarily, on March 31, 2020. But only until April 30, 2020.

Then, on May 12, 2020, with BEDH out from under its temporary suspension, the Board acted on BEDH again. This time the Board suspended BEDH.

Not temporarily, as Amelia McKie said at the meeting.
Not until the end of summer, as Monica Elkins-Johnson wanted.
Not until the end of the state of emergency, ambiguous as that is.
Not until the end of the pandemic.

The Board SUSPENDED Policy BEDH. Period. As in, a done deal. As in, permanently.

This is your School Board - working hard on your behalf - muzzling you, the public.

If you disagree, contact the Board by phone and in writing. And post your objection here. Write to The State newspaper; call your TV stations; write to The Voice of Blythewood & Fairfield County.

Sending it to the board (only) means that your request will disappear into the Black Hole.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Special-Called Meeting - Tues., May 19. 5:00PM, Zoom?

The District has announced a Special-Called Board Meeting for Tuesday, May 19, 2020 at 5:00P.M.

The purpose of the meeting is FY 20-21 General Fund Budget Update.

Budget Updates have traditionally been preceded by a period of public participation. The Board nixed the entire public participation aspect of board meetings earlier this week. And the Agenda for the meeting provides no means for the public to provide input about the budget for the next school year.

At Tuesday's Board meeting this week Trustee Lindsay Agostini mentioned that the City of Columbia City Council  provides a public access portal. Why can't Richland 2 do the same?

READ HERE how the City of Columbia accommodates the public. "You may also register at this site to post comments about items on the agenda. Comments posted about specific agenda items prior to 2:00 p.m. will be read during the Public Comment segment of the meeting."

WHAT? They will read comments from the public AT the public meeting? Really?

If the Richland 2 School Board was really interested in the opinion of members of the public, it would do this. But it doesn't. Trustee Agostini would favor this, I'll bet. So would Trustee Elkins-Johnson. The rest of them? Probably not.

According to the Agenda, the meeting will be held "Electronically via Zoom".

If you were lucky enough to see the Press Release by the District, you would know that the meeting will not be on Zoom. It will be broadcast on   www.richland2.org/livestream

State law requires the District to publish the location of the meeting. If it is to be broadcast only on the internet, then the URL for the meeting should be shown on the agenda.

I can't figure out what part of that is so difficult for someone at Richland 2 to understand. I mean, these are people with degree and certificates and PhD's and (you name it). Does no one think to ask, "How will the public find this meeting?"

As of right now (5/15/20, 6:35PM, there is no message on the District's homepage that provides the location of the meeting. Maybe that will change on Monday. Maybe not. Anyone looking at the Agenda, where the location is supposed to be shown, will be out-of-luck.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Bring back open meetings

The Richland 2 School Board could meet in open sessions. All it would have to do is arrange seating at a decent interval.

Pretty simple, eh? And seat the trustees at six-foot intervals at the front of the room. That would eliminate side-conversations that distract them from paying attention to business.

Email the trustees now. Their email addresses are here.

And ask them to rescind the suspension of Policy BEDH - Public Participation at Meetings. Your voice is important and needs to be heard.

Public Participation at school board meetings is not just sending them an email.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Public Speaking at Board Meetings? Forget it.

At last night's (May 12, 2020) Regular Meeting of the school board, Board Chair James Manning remarked that traditionally the Richland 2 Board has provided two public speaking times at its meetings. He followed that up by saying that not every school board allows the public to speak at meetings.

Who was that comedienne who always said, "Isn't that nice?" Lily Tomlin?

I was waiting for him to say that the public ought be darned thankful that the board lets them speak.

Lindsay Agostini was the only trustee to speak up on behalf of the public and to place value on what the public has to say.

He also said that the public can send email to the board and administration of the district, as if he equates that to standing up in front of the board and saying what's on your mind for three minutes.

Former Board Chair Craig Plank was good about saying at the beginning of Public Participation segments that the board would not respond that night to comments made by the public but that a member of the staff would get in touch with the speaker.

It was nice to hear. It was nice of him to say that. It didn't happen, but it was nice to hear.

In February 2018 I addressed the Board and requested a survey of teachers, staff, parents and community members on the topic of arming teachers. That meeting was two weeks after the shootings at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Did anyone contact me? No, not until I followed up with Craig. The the superintendent called me to tell me there was not going to be any survey.

Of course, I wondered when the board had considered my request and made a decision. It hadn't. The superintendent decided.

Then I requested the District to apply for a grant from the NRA School Shield Safety Program. The money is given with no strings attached, to be used to analyze safety at schools and improve it. Again, no response until I followed up with Craig. Then the superintendent called to say the district would not apply for such a grant. The Board never considered it or decided. The superintendent said No. Richland 2 seeks grants all the time. Why not ask for $10,-15,-20,000 and see what happens? If it had been from the Brady bunch or MOMs Demand Action, they would have run toward the money. But from the NRA? Are you kidding? Take money from the NRA?

But now no member of the public will be able to speak up at board meetings to ask questions. You won't be able to ask when Amelia McKie is going to pay her $51,750 judgment owed to the S.C. Ethics Commission. You won't be able to ask when Amelia McKie and Teresa Holmes will finally take the oath of office and begin legitimate members of the school board. And you won't be able to submit suggestions to the District for items to be included on the agendas for meetings.

What you CAN do is call your favorite board member and try to persuade him or her to make a motion to add an item on the agenda. But board members are already having problems getting items on the agenda. It is the Board Chair and superintendent who set the agenda.

You know those bobbleheads on car dashboards - the ones that move when the car hits a pothole or bounces over railroad tracks? That's our board, except Lindsay Agostini and Monica Elkins-Johnson.

But they don't get any support from the other five board members, when it comes to using common sense. So they could make a motion for some really good idea and, if The Squad didn't like it, you can bank on four trustees voting No.

Too harsh? Just watch the May 12, 2020 board meeting. You may need to pull the timer back to 0:00 for the start of the meeting. To view the part where you lose, move the timer to 19:11.

The public lost on May 12, 2020.

This afternoon I watched the first 28 minutes of yesterday's (May 12, 2020) Regular Board Meeting.

If you want to see how a meeting should not be conducted, watch it. Take notes. Try to follow what was going on.

The result of the suspension of Board Policy BEDH is that you, the public, the voter, the taxpayer, have lost your privilege to speak at Board meetings and to suggest agenda items to the Board.

Mrs. Agostini solutions and suggestions for allowing the public to continue to participate. She argued for a deadline to the suspension. Her suggestions were ignored by the other six board members.

Mckie interrupted and spoke without being recognized by the Chair. McKie said the suspension was temporary. IT IS NOT.

Elkins-Johnson first said she wanted it only through the summer. Then Manning confused her and she apparently gave up on what she wanted.

Manning said that this board does not intend to squash public participation. YET THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THEY DID.

Manning said the public can send emails to the board and administration. That is not "participating."

If you hurry, you can still read and print Policy BEDH on the District's website. I urge you to do so.

Last night's discussion did not include mention of the future of Policy BEDH. Will it remain on the website but just be marked "Suspended indefinitely, 5/12/2020"? Or will it be removed?

It should not be removed. The policy was suspended, not rescinded. Policy BEDH is still a Board Policy. Let's see what happens.

If it vanishes but you want a copy, request it by sending an email to the District. If you don't get it, email me at gusphilpott@gmail.com

The public should demand restoration of Policy BEDH. Now.

I could write a book about what was wrong with the way the Board handled last night's discussion and decision. Instead, go to the District's video-recording of the meeting and watch it from 19:11 on the timer. It's a three-ring circus. It's a disaster.

If you have a really sharp eye, you'll spot that the screenshot of the website meeting announcement is in error. It reads "Public session begins at 5 p.m." The public session actually began at 4:30 p.m. After an executive session, the Public session was scheduled to re-convene at 5 p.m.

Lastly, the pecking order of images on the Zoom/Livestream presentation of the board meetings should not put the superintendent's screen at the top left. That position ought to be reserved for the Board Chair, who conducts the meeting. Then the other board member's screens should be shown, and the superintendent's screen should be at the bottom right.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Passive-Aggressive Behavior at board meeting

I missed the first part of this afternoon's board meeting, because I drove a neighbor to the ER at the V.A. Hospital.

By the time I could join the Zoom meeting, it was about 5:35PM and the agenda item about suspending Board Policy BEDH - Public Participation at Meetings was underway. There was a motion pending to approve the suspension, and Trustee Lindsay Agostini was making a secondary motion to put a time-limit on the suspension.

Her motion needed a second, but Trustee-Elect (and Board Vice-Chair) Holmes was recognized and stated that the state-of-emergency was over. Finally, the Chair, James Manning, interrupted her and said he was waiting for a second to Agostini's secondary motion.

Manning should have cut Holmes off immediately with a Point-of-Order, but he didn't. He let her say what she wanted to say.

Then he asked again for a second to Agostini's motion. A second to her motion would have opened up discussion on her secondary motion.

What response did Manning get to his request for a second?

The Board Vice-Chair (Trustee-elect Holmes) ,who had spoken out of order, said nothing.
The Board Secretary, Caution-Parker, said nothing.
James Shadd said nothing.
Monica Elkins-Johnson said nothing.
Trustee-elect McKie said nothing.
Even the Board Chair (James Manning), who could have seconded the motion, said nothing.

So the secondary motion died for lack of a second.

This is one worthless board. The secondary motion should have received a second, so that it could be discussed. And this is not the first time that Mrs. Agostini has made a motion and failed to hear a second.

Later on, McKie was vociferous in her ongoing praise for the superintendent. You'd think she worked for him. She can talk and talk and say nothing. She has been on the board for 5½ years and even served a year as Board Chair, and still she won't support another board member with a simple "Second".

Certain of the board members (McKie, Holmes, Caution-Parker, Shadd) are blind followers of any that the S.C. School Boards Assn. suggests. The suspension of BEDH was recommended by the SCSBA. As elected school board members in this district, they are responsible to this district, not to the SCSBA.

Then the primary motion - to suspend BEDH indefinitely - was voted on. The vote was 6-1.

Such an agenda item, with its resulting vote, is TOTALLY against the best interests of the school district. Now you, the public, cannot speak at board meetings. You cannot suggest items for the board to consider. Just sit there, keep your mouths shut, pay your taxes and be good little boys and girls.

That is what your school board told you tonight.

What can you do about it? Contact the board members. Tell them you do NOT approve. Demand that they vote again and, next time, rescind their decision to suspend the Public Participation at Meetings decision.

T.A. at Windsor Elementary arrested

You have to read all the way to the last paragraph in this story to find out that Windsor Elementary is a Richland 2 school. https://www.thestate.com/news/local/crime/article242654606.html

A 35-year-old teaching assistant, Anna Valeria Howard, was arrested on May 8 and accused of giving a prescription pill to a six-year-old student.

The story indicates that courthouse closures resulted in delays in the arrest, "... as well as Howard’s willingness to cooperate with the investigation."  I wonder whether the reporter meant "unwillingness".

The story doesn't report the outcome of her arrest. Was she just cited for "unlawful neglect of a child" or was she jailed? If so, how much was the bond? Is she still in jail?

Windsor Elementary is located at 9800 Dunbarton Drive (29223). For those who don't know, that's on the west side of Sesquicentennial State Park, between the Park and Two Notch Road.

The story in The State includes "However, the 6-year-old later tested positive for amphetamines, and investigators discovered Howard had an amphetamine prescription." It doesn't report how much "later" nor whether the amphetamine in the child's blood was the same as Howard's prescription.

Can we expect this case, in the hands of a good lawyer, to implode?

Monday, May 11, 2020

R2 Board attempts to pull a fast one

Minutes before the time to amend the agenda for the May 12, 2020 Regular Meeting of the Board, the District published a revised agenda, adding an item that is very important to the public.

The Board will be asked to suspend Board Policy BEDH - Public Participation at Meetings. Previously, the Board suspended Policy BEDH temporarily. Now it wants to suspend it. Period.

The District's email to media announcing this agenda change was sent out at 3:56PM. The deadline was 4:30PM. An agenda cannot be changed within 24 hours of the meeting, and tomorrow's meeting starts at 4:30PM.

The District attempts to put the responsibility for the proposed suspension on the S.C. School Boards Assn. (SCSBA)  It needs to have the guts to accept the responsibility and make decisions on its own. It is swallowing too much of the Kool-Aid from the SCSBA. That association does not put the public first. It is an association of school boards, and it proposes what is best for them, not for us.

To know what Richland 2 wants to do away with, go to the District's website - www.richland2.org

Click on EXPLORE (top right)
Click on School Board
On the left sidebar, click on B - SCHOOL BOARD GOVERNANCE & OPERATIONS
Scroll down and click on Policy BEDH

What does BEDH cover?

It leads off with "The public is invited to attend board meetings..." Wrong. State law says board meetings are open to the public. There is no "invitation" involved. It is your lawful right to attend all meetings of the board. You have the right to know what's going on. They must meet and act in public, not in secret.

Paragraph 2 dictates what you can say and how you say it. It does not say that you cannot complain about how or what the board is doing.

Policy BEDH says the public can request an item to be on the agenda. Maybe suspending this Policy is their way of not responding to my request that the Board adopt a policy requiring all board members to use the District's email service.  Such a new policy would require two board members (Holmes and Elkins-Johnson) to stop using personal email accounts for board business. When they do, it is hard to FOIA their emails. Think Hillary Clinton and her private server.

This Policy also covers members of the public who want to speak at board meetings. They want to do away with this!

The board already tries to censure speakers who have "personal complaints" about anyone connected with the school system.

My complaints about the two illegitimate members on the board (McKie and Holmes) or the (illegitimate) board member (McKie) who owes $51,750 to the S.C. Ethics Commission are not "personal" complaints. Every voter in the District and every Richland 2 employee and five board members should be outraged by those issues.

I'm not the only one complaining about those issues, but I am the only one who hasn't given up. For a while I thought the S.C. Attorney General would arrange for McKie and Holmes to appear before the S.C. Supreme Court to answer why they have not taken the oath of office legally yet. After all, they were elected on November 6, 2018. They became eligible to take the oath of office legally on December 4, 2018 and have not done so.

Call your board members immediately and tell them to vote NO on this item on the May 12 agenda. If you are reading this after May 12 and if they approved it, call them and ask them to vote again and rescind the suspension of Policy BEDH.

R2 Agenda for 5/12/2020 Grade? F

The District has failed once again to meet state law in announcing a meeting of the school board.

The agenda for the May 12th Regular Meeting does not indicate the location for the meeting.

A page of the website preceding the Agenda lists "Zoom" and no further explanation.

When (If) you visit the District's homepage for more information, you learn that the meeting is not on Zoom. You must view the meeting at www.richland2.org/livestream

How many people will go to Zoom and then start scratching their heads? And miss the meeting.

One of the trustees asked at a recent meeting for the agenda to show the correct meeting location. Well???

The pertinent section of the S.C. Code of Laws is

"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 of such meetings. An agenda for regularly scheduled or special meetings must be posted on a bulletin board in a publicly accessible place at the office or meeting place of the public body and on a public website maintained by the body, if any, at least twenty-four hours prior to such meetings. All public bodies must post on such bulletin board or website, if any, public notice for any called, special, or rescheduled meetings. Such notice must include the agenda, date, time, and place [emphasis added] of the meeting, ..."

Sunday, May 10, 2020

R2 Supt. Travel Expenses

Reporter Michael Smith has written an interesting article for The Voice of Blythewood & Fairfield County about the travel expenses for the past two years of Supt. Davis. You can read the article here.

Davis' expenses and reimbursements show a pattern that deserves careful examination.

The Richland 2 Board should form an Audit Committee and look carefully at the expenses. The Board should also examine anticipated travel and expenses of the superintendent and not just allow him carte blanche for what he thinks he needs to do.

The Voice article quotes part of a prepared statement from District 2.

“It’s been a long standing practice in Richland Two that the superintendent attends professional learning opportunities with members of the board,” the statement reads. “The superintendent is charged with working with the school board to develop and implement policies that define organizational expectations and to establish and maintain effective channels of communication with board members.
“As a result, the superintendent regularly attends professional development conferences with school board members as a way to meet performance standards that are part of the superintendent’s evaluation criteria,” the statement continued.
That written, prepared statement follows wording used often in reports to the Board at meetings. In other words, lots of words that don't really mean anything. And does it lead to a question about how much Richland 2 School District spends for travel for Board members to attend the same meetings and conferences? How many Board members attended those same conferences, and at what cost?
Exactly how many of those conferences provided training on "working with the school board"? 
"Effective channels of communication with board members"? Is there something new we don't know about? Something besides telephone, email and in-person reports? 
For example, Board members have trouble getting sufficient advance information on which they will be expected to vote. Trustee Elkins-Johnson has asked for information sooner on more than one occasion. How many conferences must one attend to understand, when the Board asks for something, they get it?
In a subsequent article I'll write about some of the expenses that need careful review.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Richland 2 H.S. Graduation Schedule

From Richland 2 School District:

"High school graduation is an exciting and important time in the lives of our Richland Two families. The district will hold graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020 on June 1-5 at Harry Parone Stadium, located on the campus of Spring Valley High School at 120 Sparkleberry Lane.

Ceremonies will begin at 8 a.m. each day. The schedule is as follows:
·         June 1: Spring Valley
·         June 2: Richland Northeast
·         June 3: Blythewood
·         June 4: Westwood
·         June 5: Ridge View

Social distancing practices will be observed, and each graduate will be permitted two guests. Graduation ceremonies will again be streamed live online. More specifics will be shared with seniors and parents by each school as details are confirmed.

It’s more than fair to say that 2020 has posed significant challenges to this school year, especially for seniors. The global health pandemic caused by COVID-19 prompted the Colonial Life Arena, where the district has held graduation in recent years, to cancel all events through July 31. In April, the district assembled a task force to come up with multiple viable options for graduation ceremonies observing social distancing as well as alternatives to a traditional ceremony. Representatives from each high school including students as well as district administrators served on the task force.

Richland Two Superintendent Dr. Baron R. Davis said, “I want to thank the task force for the hard work they have put in to make graduations possible for our seniors. They did a phenomenal job examining all the possibilities and providing a solid recommendation for a meaningful and safe way to honor our seniors.

“As we finalize the logistics for the ceremonies, our focus remains on the safety and welfare of those who will attend. These graduation ceremonies will look very different from those in the past but they will certainly reflect the resiliency of the Class of 2020 and provide a meaningful tribute to our seniors.”

Only invited guests of each senior will be permitted to attend these ceremonies. Each graduation will be streamed live on the Richland Two website at https://livestream.com/richland2."

School Board Changes Meeting Time - May 12

The agenda for the May 12th Regular Meeting of the School Board has been published on the District's website. Go to www.Richland2.org
Click on EXPLORE
Click on School Board
Click on AGENDA
Click on the calendar icon under Meetings
     NOTE: the new starting times
Click on View the Agenda

The Regular meeting will be called to order this week at 4:30PM.
The Board will immediately go into Executive Session.
The Board will re-convene in open session at 5:00PM.

This represents a 1½-hour advance in the meeting times.

The Board will not meet in public on May 12, although it could. It will meet on the Zoom video-conference platform. The agenda contains NO link to that Zoom meeting. (See below for the link.)

Now, why is the meeting so early?

At the April 28 Regular Meeting the Board blindly followed the Board Chair and the superintendent off the cliff, after the Chair and the superintendent placed an item on the agenda for a first-reading vote that would give authority to the Chair and superintendent to change the time of a Regular Meeting during a "state of emergency".

If you want to try to understand the reasoning that was given in response to questions and comments by two Board members, I invite you to watch/listen to the April 28 board meeting. The explanation made no sense at all to me. The other four board members, who normally roll over for anything the superintendent wants, just sat there like bumps on a log.

When it was time to vote, the vote was, unsurprisingly, 5-2.

The Zoom meeting may be available at www.richland2.org/livestream

Merely announcing "Zoom" on the agenda is insufficient notice to the public when to find and view the public meeting. You'd think by now the District would have figured out how to comply with South Carolina FOIA and Open Meetings requirements regarding public meetings!

On the agenda for a first-reading vote is a move that will result in Joseph Keels Elementary School's becoming a Magnet School. In the past, proposed actions have been submitted for a first reading and then followed with a vote on the proposal at a second board meeting, often two weeks later. The Chair and the superintendent have started a trend now to jam votes into the first reading, before trustees have time and resources to study and consider a matter.

On this issue, the vote should be postponed; if it isn't postponed, then the vote should be "No", so that the trustees have adequate time to do their due diligences. They are, after all, fiduciaries of the School District and are expected to make responsible decisions.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Traffic on Hard Scrabble Rd.

The choice of Rice Creek Elementary School for the three-day COVID-19 Testing Site was poorly thought-out. Drive by and figure out how fire, rescue or law-enforcement could possible get through.

Sound off. Tell the School District what you think about the choice. The Administration made the choice. Did the board even know about it?

Tell Mia McLeod and Ivory Thigpen what you think.

Tell Sheriff Lott and the Fire Chief what you think.

Demand better. And hope your house doesn't catch fire while Hard Scrabble Road is effectively shut down.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Board member's barking dog

Which board member owns a dog that barked during the 4/28/2020 board meeting?

Either the board member should mute her Zoom participation or the moderator should mute all except the Chair.

The video of the meeting was altered from what actually happened on April 28, 2020. When it was time for the pledge of allegiance, most of the board members stood and recited it. Trustee Elkins-Johnson did not.

When the video of the meeting was published, a U.S. Flag was shown in motion. That did not happen during the meeting! It should not have been inserted into the video that was published.

On the agenda was a Homeschool Application, with approval of it sought on first reading. Waiver of the two-readings rule was not apparently sought from the board, and they just let it slide right on through. Mrs. Agostini moved for approval of "the homeschool application presented to us tonight on April 28, 2020."

The draft of the application should have been attached to the agenda and made available to the public and to the board members before the meeting. Mrs. Agostini's motion makes it clear that the Administration did not inform the members of the board about the content of the application before the meeting.

I don't know why the board members stand for this type of control by the Administration of the District. Other board members have repeatedly asked the superintendent to give them adequate notice of proposals. That is not always happening, and they don't demand his compliance.

Who works for whom?

Does video of 4/28/2020 Meeting Exist?

This morning a FOIA Request was sent to Richland 2 School District for a copy of the video-recording of the April 28, 2020 Regular Meeting of the School Board.

Why did I send a FOIA Request?

The superintendent has not responded to Monday's email about the video.

The Board Chair has not responded to an email sent late yesterday afternoon about this video.

It either exists or it doesn't.

If it doesn't, there should be no delay in saying so and explaining why.

If it does exist, it should have been posted already. Videos are normally posted on YouTube and on the District's website by the Thursday following the Tuesday meeting.

Why is it different this time?

EDIT: The 4/28/2020 video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKOpcXiolLI&feature=youtu.be

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

COVID-19 Testing May 6-8

You can tell it's election season right around the bend.

The first email I received about the three days of free COVID-19 testing at Rice Creek Elementary came from State Sen. Mia McLeod. The second came from State Rep. Ivory Thigpen.

I may be the only person in the Richland 2 School District who wonders WHY this is being done at Rice Creek Elementary.

Schools are closed right? Presumably, the buildings have been deep-cleaned and sanitized.

Now Rice Creek Elementary will be the site of COVID-19 testing. Is this outside, drive-through only? Or will possible carriers of the virus be admitted into the school building? The announcement reads Drive-Thru and Walk-Up.

I don't recall hearing any mention at a school board meeting, when the Administration requested approval from the Board to permit this use of the building, especially since it is related to the pandemic about which many are worried.

The current school board has turned far too much discretionary authority over to the Administration.

Was this use of Rice Creek Elementary discussed at the April 28, 2020 Regular Meering?

If it was, the public will not know it, because the Zoom recording of the meeting has not been published by the District on YouTube or on the District's website.

Monday morning I emailed Supt. Davis to ask when it would be posted. As of now, he has not replied. Did the District botch the recording? If it didn't, is there a reason it is being withheld?

Remember all the hoopla surrounding the announcement that Zoom technology was going to be used and how the public would be able to watch a recording of the meeting?.While it was possible to watch it if you tuned in during the time for the meeting, it should be posted afterwards for those who didn't or who couldn't.

Maybe I'll hear from the Supt. or the Board Chair or someone else on Wednesday. Or maybe it will be posted on Wednesday.

NOTE: Will the doors of the school remained locked? Will no one be allowed to enter the school - for any reason, including bathroom use?

Monday, May 4, 2020

McKie Still Owes $51,750

According to the South Carolina Ethics Commission today, Trustee-elect Amelia McKie of the Richland 2 School Board still owes $51,750. (The term "Trustee-elect" is used, because McKie has never taken the oath of office legally and is, in my opinion, an illegitimate member of rhe board.)

Her debt was created by repeated failures to file required forms with the Ethics Commission over a period of four years.

The Commission held a hearing in 2018 and assessed fines. When she didn't pay the fines, penalties were added. When she didn't make any payments, the Ethics Commission filed a Judgment in Richland County Common Pleas Court in July 2019.

And still she hasn't paid.

The South Carolina Department of Revenue is responsible for collecting debts to the State. The DOR cites privacy rules in its refusal to disclose any collection action being taken.

According to the 4/3/2020 Debtors' List on the Ethics Commission's website, it is owed a total of $2,717,461.32. The largest debt is $212,746.60, and the date of the oldest debt is 2001.

How much longer will the Richland 2 School Board tolerate the presence of a person on the board who thumbs her nose at an Ethics Commission debt? If McKie assigned her whole $900/month school board income to this debt, she wouldn't even get it paid off before the end of her term in November 2022.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Head in the game?

While waiting for the Richland 2 School District to post the video-recording of the April 28, 2020 Regular Meeting on YouTube.com, I listened again to the recording of the April 21, 2020 Special-Called Board Meeting.

How important is it for board members to listen and to pay attention? Even when they are sitting comfortably at home and participating in a Zoom meeting?

Go to the April 21, 2020 meeting here.

You'll notice what happens right at the beginning of the meeting. Board Chair James Manning calls for a motion to approve the agenda for the meeting. There is silence for THIRTEEN (13) seconds!!!

Because it is a Zoom meeting the viewer can see all the board members. They just sit there. WHY?

Finally, after 13 seconds, Trustee-elect McKie speaks and makes a motion to convene the meeting.

Never before has there been a motion to convene the meeting. At this point the Board Chair repeats his request for a motion to approve the agenda, and McKie makes that motion. This is what I mean by "having your head in the game."

First of all, why did it take 13 seconds to respond to the Chair's request. And then why was the wrong motion made?

For some reason unknown to the public, the District has not yet posted the April 28, 2020 Regular Meeting. Usually meeting videos have been posted within two days of the meeting. The District has not yet posted any explanation for the delay.