Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Schools belong to the public

Oh, really?

I wonder how recently any board member has read this message:

Maintaining excellent public schools requires the cooperation and effort of everyone in the community. Members of the school board are aware that schools belong to the public, and they recognize the importance of keeping the community involved with and informed about the activities of the schools and the school board. Your school board members encourage you to stay informed about education issues and to attend board meetings regularly.

The above paragraph was lifted straight from the District's website. You can read it here.

If a member of the public had been in attendance last night to witness the attacks by McKie, Caution-Parker and Shadd on a local resident and community member (me), would he ever come to another board meeting? Would he ever stick his neck out and risk making a three-minute comment during Public Participation? Would he have the courage to speak out?

Or would he say, "Whoa! I'll never do that!"

The Public Participation Requst to Speak form informs the prospective speaker that the board does not participate in debates. Speakers are requested to refrain from any form of personal abuse.

That request obviously does not apply to the members of the board themselves. Watch the video of last night's meeting, including the discussion at Item 13.1 (beginning at 1:33:40 on the timer) and the Board and Superintendent Comments (beginning at 1:55:50 on the timer). Listen carefully to the attacks by McKie, Caution-Parker and Shadd.

Remember this at the next election of Board members.

Supt. Davis already on conference agenda

Last night the School Board approved a change in the date for the second Regular Meeting in March. The meeting is being changed from March 24 to March 31.

This is being done to accommodate Supt. Baron Davis, so that he can travel to L.A. for a conference sponsored by the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools and Compton and El Segundo USDs.

Supt. Davis' photo and bio already appear on the League's website! He is to speak on Monday, March 23 at 2:30PM P.T.. Scroll down to below the fold on the Davis' webpage there.

So what was all the uproar about last night?

With a speaking date on March 23, he easily could have flown back to Columbia on Monday and fulfilled his superintendent's duties at the March 24 meeting!!! Or he could have designated an Assistant Superintendent to fill in on Tuesday night.

Instead, seven Board members and 15-20 staffers will be expected to adjust the personal time and evening hours to show up. How many already had something else planned for that evening?

How long ago did he accept the speaking engagement?

Did they come to him, or did he approach them and submit his topic for consideration?

The Board got snookered last night, and they fell for it.

Who wants to run for R2 school board?

It's not too early to toss your hat in the ring to be one of the three trustees to be elected in November for the Richland 2 School Board.

On November 3, 2020 District voters will elect persons to fill the expiring terms of James Shadd, Monica Elkins-Johnson and Lindsay Agostini.

I hope Lindsay Agostini will run again. Her insight and attention to detail are obvious. From her questions at school board meetings, it is obvious that she studies the board packets before meetings and begins pondering decisions to be made at meetings. Lindsay absolutely merits re-election, although I won't be surprised if she decides not to run. Too many board votes are 6-1, with Lindsay's standing up for what is right, exercising independence and voting for what is right for the District.  - and seeing the vote go against her position.

Monica Elkins-Johnson asks insightful questions, too. I usually must learn what she said at meetings by watching the YouTube video-recording, because she has a soft voice and turns her head away from the microphone to look at the person she is addressing. She merits re-election. Monica occasionally breaks from the herd mentality.

James Shadd should be replaced. He sides every time with the superintendent, as happened last night. The superintendent can defend himself (with many words) on any issue, but Shadd jumps right in with his 2¢ worth. He refuses to speak loudly or into the microphone without mumbling. Last night was an exception. Watch his closing attack in the Board & Superintendent Comments just before the end of the meeting. Shadd too has had problems with the Ethics Commission and recently allowed a $1,400 debt in Ethics Commission fines to hit the media. Board members should be squeaky clean.

Requirements to run are publicly available. Learn them, including requirements of the S.C. Ethics Commission.

Start your campaign early. For suggestions for low-cost campaigning, call me. I'll be glad to give you ideas. Note the word: give.

The November 2022 election will be even more important. At that time voters will have the opportunity to say Good-bye to Caution-Parker and .McKie. Maybe by then Holmes will have taken the oath legally and have become a legitimate member of the Board.

True Colors

Several men and women at the front tables during last night's School Board meeting showed their true colors. In striving to present themselves as a "Premier Board" of a "Premier School District", they let an unprofessional and ongoing attack occur that was directed at a member of the Richland 2 community (me).

There is no doubt that it is Black Power Month at Richland 2. McKie, Caution-Parker and Shadd flexed their jaw muscles at last night's meeting. And, when Trustee Agostini asked who is paying for the superintendent's jaunt to L.A. in March, he answered with a lengthy and defensive response, rather than just saying that the host organization will reimburse travel expenses, with no payment for his speaking.

This game can get played in both directions. They'll get the last word at a Board meeting, but I'll get the last word here. Of course, they are free to comment below, if they have the courage that Rep. Thigpen mentioned in his inspirational moment.

I wonder whether the Board Chair might have offered me five minutes just before adjournment for rebuttal.

It was a little lopsided to allow three board members to pile on. "Ethics Commission Debtor" McKie led the rush. Caution-Parker displayed outrage (as opposed to sitting wordlessly, as she has through meeting after meeting), and Shadd came alive for the first time in 13 months.

They got to close out the meeting, but there will always be future meetings.

Perhaps at a future meeting some of these questions will come up.

* Is "The Premier 100", the #1 High-Urgency Initiative presented by the superintendent last night, a Board-approved initiative? It is to hire 100 men-of-color. Why isn't it to hire 100 of the best and brightest applicants for employment, rather than men of color? Is Richland 2 going to be racially-biased and discriminate in its hiring practices?

* Has McKie made a payment toward her $51.750 debt to the Ethics Commission?

* Did McKie get fined $100 by the Ethics Commission for filing her January 10, 2020 Campaign Disclosure Report more than 30 days late?

* Has Shadd settled his $1,400 debt to the Ethics Commission?

* Do all of the Board members read and understand all of the electronic packet sent to them before each Board meeting? Or do many of them just vote "Yes" because the superintendent presents it?

Greener's Law? - unknown to the Board

"Never buy ink from a man who buys ink from the barrel."

Sometimes called Greener's Law, the origin of this sentence is in question. One website article identifies several possible sources.

I thought about that phrase after last night's board meeting ended. Several trustees thought they might have gotten the last word.


It's generally not a good idea to argue with a person who writes a blog. I'm generally polite and respectful, unlike Amelia McKie, James Shadd and Cheryl Caution-Parker. And unlike the superintendent's demeaning comment to Trustee Agostini.

If I were on the board of directors of a business and the president spoke to me in public as Baron Davis did to Trustee Agostini, that president would soon be looking for a new job.

Of course, if the board of directors was stacked the way the Richland 2 School Board is, I expect I'd be the Lone Ranger.

I was on a steering committee of a large networking group in Denver, and the six of us got along well. Each person did his or her own job, without assistance or supervision, for more than a year. My role was emcee and treasurer. Over a period of time we began voting on issues and items, and I noticed the votes were 5-1, 5-1, 5-1. Guess who the "1" was.

Then the five wanted to incorporate and elect officers. I asked "Why?" Every week 125 men and women showed up for our Tuesday meeting. We were often SRO. "Why fix something that's not broken?

We engaged a mediator for a Sunday wrangle. One assignment she gave us was to
1. Write down the purpose of Win/Win Forum.
2. Look around and go sit with people with whom you are aligned.

I wrote out my definition of the Purpose. I stood up, looked around and sat back down - by myself. The mediator came to my table and asked if I had understood the assignment. (Yes). Had I done it? (Yes)  Then she read what I had written and said, "Well, that's what this group is about."

To which I responded, "And now you know why you are here.

The group did incorporate and elected officers; I stopped attending. The weekly attendance dropped from 125 to 40.It continued for another 3-4 years with low attendance and then ended.

I'm hiding... I'm hiding ...

Remember the old joke about "I'm hiding"?

Amelia McKie attended last night's Richland 2 School Board meeting by telephone. Where was she?

In most public bodies, when a member attends by telephone, not only is that announced at the beginning of the meeting (as it was last night), but also a vote is taken by those present in person to allow that absent member to attend by phone. Last night it wasn't.

Also, the member's absence is usually explained to the public and to the other board members in public. Last night it wasn't.

This is the second meeting in 2020 that she has missed in person. Why? Was she sick? Traveling on business? Or just hiding out, since she owes $51,750 in fines and penalties to the S.C. Ethics Commission, has a judgment filed against her in Richland County Common Pleas Court for that amount, and missed the January 10, 2020 deadline for filing her Campaign Disclosure Report by more than 30 days.

Does McKie have a business or income? On her latest Statement of Economic Interests Report (SEI), filed yesterday with the S.C. Ethics Commission, she lists private source, personal consulting income from ILLC. No amount of income is required to be disclosed by the Ethics Commission. By allowing her to identify the source as ILLC, it is impossible to determine what ILLC is and whether there might be a conflict of interest, which is the purpose of the SEI. (The S.C. Department of Revenue should be quite interested in that, because it might be able to latch onto it is partial settlement of her $51,750 debt to the Ethics Commission.

McKie must not have any friends on the board, although I'm sure she would claim otherwise. Apparently, not one of her "friends" bothered to remind her that she had failed to file that Campaign Disclosure Report on time. The Ethics Commission allows a five-day grace period for filing and then assesses a $100.00 penalty after 30 days. With friends like those, who needs enemies?

McKie took a big shot at me from hiding, when Item 13.1 came up last night. I can't wait to replay her comments, as soon as the District posts the video-recording on YouTube later today or tomorrow. She was the first to mention the e-mail I had sent to all board members, asking them to vote down the expected motion to change the date of the second Regular Meeting in March.

McKie was really sucking up to the superintendent. Why would a board member do that? The same question could be asked of others on the board. I was just waiting for a giant sucking noise to sweep through the room.

Shadd finds his voice

At last night's Richland 2 School Board meeting Trustee James Shadd finally found his voice!

For the first time in 13 months of my attending board meetings, he could be heard throughout the room.

This remarkable event occurred near the end of the meeting, during the Board and Superintendent Comments. Shadd leaned forward, spoke directly into his microphone, raised his voice to full volume, and looked directly at me. He even acknowledged that he was speaking up.

I guess he felt he needed to don his lawyer hat and bearing to continue to defend the superintendent, as he had during Item 13.1 earlier in the meeting.

Now that you know how to speak up, James, will you please continue to do so at future meetings? It was much better than sitting in the audience, watching you move your lips and listening to you mumble through your hands into the microphone, and trying to guess what you were saying.

By now you have to know that the microphones in front of board members do not amplify voices well in the meeting room. Ask the sound man; he knows this. For them to do so, one needs to place the microphone near his lips and speak directly into it. When the head is turned away from the microphone and the speaking voice is soft or low, the microphone does not amplify a voice in the room.

Like I've been saying for 13 months...

It's too bad that you didn't just limit your comments to the Motion that was on the floor. The Motion, you may remember, was whether to change the date of the second meeting in March, not justify what a good guy you think the superintendent's is.

S.C. rules on FOIA law

An important court decision involving FOIA is reported in The Independent Voice of Blythewood & Fairfield County. Read their article here.

The issue involved an agenda change by a public body. The Voice's story explains it.

How does this apply to Richland 2?

Remember when, recently, Richland 2 failed to post an attachment regarding a Resolution on a bond matter to its agenda?

This meant the public had no idea what the Board was going to consider and be asked to approve. Did the Board even have trouble getting the Resolution in advance?

The public was deprived of the opportunity to read and study the Resolution before the board considered it. At the meeting that night the Board Chair remarked, after my three-minute comment on that issue, that the Resolution had been posted to the website. Actually, it hadn't been; but the Resolution was attached to the Agenda just before the public session started at 6:30PM.

This constituted an illegal change to the agenda within 24 hours. That was a violation of South Carolina Code of Laws Section 30-4-80.

At least one Trustee did read the entire Resolution carefully. That trustee made a motion to delete the sentence allowing the superintendent to direct the District's bond counsel (Burr Forman) to "associate" co-counsel (Jabber & Isaac). In other words, to add an unnecessary component to the bond work. Either the District would cough up the money to pay Jabber & Isaac, or Burr Forman would have to pay Jabber out of the money it is paid by Richland 2.

The Board voted 7-0 to delete that sentence, smacking down the superintendent. But he got in the last word during the Board and Superintendent Comments. He said he'll be asking for Jabber & Isaac to get work in the future.

Jabber & Isaac P.A. lists no bond issue experience whatsoever on its website.

Why does the superintendent like Jabber & Isaac? For diversity? Because the two lawyers there are black, as is he? Because at least one (black) board member may be a good buddy of one of the lawyers there?

The Post and Courier published a lengthy article on February 9, 2020 about the cozy relationship between Richland One School District's President with his lawyer wife on bond issue work. That wife is Tameika Isaac Devine, a Columbia City Councilwoman. Is anyone's nose twitching yet?

Chaos at Board Meeting

Last night's Richland 2 School Board meeting disintegrated into chaos during the discussion of Item 13.1, the plan (by some) to change the date of the second Regular Meeting in March. The superintendent wants to hop off to Los Angeles, and the board needed to approve the change, if it wanted to accommodate his absence.

I had written a email to the board members (and to the the two illegal Trustees-elect), suggesting a few questions and wondering why they didn't hold to the schedule and just have an Assistant Superintendent fill in. Separate articles will follow and will describe the superintendent's snide and demeaning accusation toward one of the trustees and the personal attacks on me by several board members. As soon as the video-recording is published on YouTube by the District, I'll identify the locations of these remarks by the timer on the recording.

You won't want to waste your time listening to the whole two-hour meeting. Frankly, the entire board shouldn't have wasted its time conducting the whole meeting.

All in all, it was a great way to spend the evening of my 81st birthday. I thought about using my three minutes during Public Participation to sing Happy Birthday to me, but I figured that my presence was enough torture for them.

Several thoughts came to mind last night, and I'll expand on them in the following articles. One was "There is no such thing as a short answer". Another was the need for a new honorary degree of M.B.S.  The name of the first honoree is ...  (I'll delay the surprise.)

The disrespect for the Board Chair is amazing. Most board members are either ignorant of meeting rules and just blatantly disregard them. I'll go with the latter. This board would do well to invite the Robert's Rules of Order expert back for a thorough training and ask her to explain the Rules to them in a way they can understand. Kindergarten-level might be needed for many of the board members.

McKie, Shadd and Caution-Parker really ought to think about choosing to bash the man who writes a blog. Their ugliest warts will be exposed - over and over.

The Board Chair should exert his proper and allowable authority over the Board for the conduct of a meeting. James Manning is a nice guy and doesn't want to rule with a heavy hand. The result? Same as in a classroom. A bunch of unruly colleagues just walk all over him. When a board member wants to go on a tear off-topic, he should interrupt them and bring everyone back on topic.