Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Conn. H.S. locks up cell phones

The Branford (Conn.) High School solved the problem of students' using cell phones during the day by locking them up.

Read this article

The article does not say what other steps, if any, were tried before implementing that policy.

Personally, I don't like it. 

I prefer a policy that restricts usage of a cell phone on school property or in a school building or whatever is decided. And then expect the students to follow the policy. (I know. I know... That's like expecting drivers to obey speed limits; right?)

If they don't? Discipline them. But encourage compliance.

Many thanks to the reader (you know who you are) who sent me the article.

BMS SIC speaker gets 4 minutes

A parent somehow missed the first Public Participation segment of the board meeting and stuck around for two hours to speak at about 8:30PM in the second Public Participation segment. She is the chair of the Blythewood Middle School School Improvement Council.

Holmes acknowledged a mistake (of some type) had been made. What was it? Did the woman arrive after 6:15PM?

She read her prepared statement very well.

At the 3:05 mark Holmes called time on the speaker, but the speaker did not stop talking. The speaker continued, without further interruption by Holmes, until she completed her remarks at the 4:00-minute mark.

NOW, somebody please explain why Holmes did not cut her off. 

I'm going to suggest a reason. The speaker was black. Had the speaker been white, Holmes would have continued to interrupt, and Holmes would have signalled the sound guy to cut off the microphone. (Remember when Manning did that recently?)

Holmes' discriminatory act, allowing the woman to continue reading her prepared statement without further interruption, was completely out-of-order. 

And why didn't Holmes read the Rules of the Road before the Public Partication segment, as she always does, emphasizing the three-minute time allotment and that the board does not respond?

SEL dog-and-pony show

At tonight's board meeting there was a long presentation by teachers on SEL.

And then the chair called on the superintendent. How nice it would have been, if he had made a one-minute comment. 

And then Teresa wound up with a rambling comment.

Perhaps all board members and the superintendent should be limited to one minute for questions. So much time was wasted with individual Thank-you's, when one Thank You from the chair would have been sufficient.

Board Policy BEC - Makes no sense

Part of Board Policy BEC - Executive Sessions/Open Meetings makes no sense at all.

The Policy was issued in January 2017.

Paragraph 2 reads, "Before going into executive session, the board chairman will put the question of whether to meet in executive session to a vote. If such vote is favorable, the secretary will then announce the specific purpose [emphasis in the original] of the executive session (i.e., identifying the matter(s) to be considered in executive session), which will be reflected in the minutes."

Now, read that again and tell me what's wrong with it.

What's wrong is that the board would not know on what it is voting, if it votes before it hears the reason. A public body (ex., school board) can only go into executive session for a very short list of reasons. If the board votes first, before they know the reason(s), it would not know if it could legally enter executive session.

The applicable State laws are found at Sections 30-4-70 and 30-4-90 of the S.C. Code of Laws. 

The Board is not following Policy, when the Secretary makes the motion and states the reason(s). The Board should revise the Policy. Will it?

Opening of 5/10/2022 Board Meeting

The chair gaveled the meeting open but failed to call the meeting to order. She just asked for a motion to go into executive session.

Trustees McFadden and Caution-Parker were not present. No reason was given for their absence. 

The chair must have believed that a quorum was present. The board did not have a legal quorum, because Holmes and McKie are not legitimate members of the board. They have never taken the oath-of-office legally; i.e., after filing their Statements of Economic Interests Reports on December 4, 2018.

Only three legitimate board members were present: Agostini, Manning and Scott.

The motion to enter executive session was made and seconded. Trustee Agostini was recognized, and  she mentioned a violation of Board Policy BEC during the April 28, 2022 special-called board meeting, when a board member made a recording that was given to the Richland County Sheriff's Department, and she said she hoped that would not happen again.

Board Policy BEC reads, in part, "Board members or any other persons attending will not use tape recorders or any other other means of sonic or video reproduction to record executive sessions."

What are the consequences or penalties for violating board policy? If there are none, then why have the Policies? Who was the offending board member?

Most of the board members had their tablets open and ready for the vote to go into executive session. Teresa Holmes did not, so the vote was a hand vote; 5-0. Why is it that she cannot turn on her tablet and be prepared for the start of the meeting?

Committee Meeting - Wed., May 11th, 5:30PM, R2i2

One-day notice. Nice, eh? Did they decide on April 28th to hold this meeting on May 11th? They must have, since that is the only time the Committee has met.

From Richland Two:


COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Richland School District Two Board of Trustees will hold a Special Committee Meeting of the Whole on Safety and Security on Wednesday, May 11, at 5:30 p.m. 

Click the link below to view the agenda for the meeting:


The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held in the Boardroom at R2i2 located at 763 Fashion Drive, Columbia, 29229. Please note this meeting will not be streamed live or recorded.

At the Special Committee Meeting, visitors will need to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

From a technical stand-point, this looks like a Board of Trustees meeting, since the Board is to hold the meeting. Because of that, it should be live-streamed and it should be subject to all the other requirements of a public body. If it's a Board meeting, then a quorum needs to be there.

If it is "only" a Committee meeting, then the Committee should announce it. No action can be taken that binds the Board. If it is a Committee meeting, there is no quorum requirement.

This is why the Board of Trustees should not be announcing this meeting.

The above is how the first meetng of the Committee should have been announced - open to the public. Planning the structure of a Committee does not qualify as an exception to Open Meetings laws. The April 28th special-called meeting contained an executive session that very likely was illegal under South Carolina law.

How Much Does the School Board Cost Taxpayers?

When you do your home budget, do you watch your pennies?

Wait 'til you take a look at the 2021-2022 School Year budget for the school board! Not for the District; just for the School Board. Are they watching your pennies? Not hardly. They are just spending OPM. Other Peoples' Money. Comment below.

The recent attention to TRAVEL spending by certain school board members is in the spotlight, thanks to good questions by one school board member who is getting cheated out of a portion of her travel allowance, because other school board members have blown right through the ceiling on their travel allowances.

Even though at least one board member has money remaining in her $7,000 annual allowance for training and travel, the Total for the entire board has been surpassed. That's because of sloppy policies and poor oversight. (The December 14, 2021 meeting recording contains worrisome comments by the superintendent about reimbursement procedures; there appears to be no set District-wide procedure on timing for reimbursement requests.)

Details on individual trustee travel/training spending to follow, as soon as the District complies with my FOIA Request. 

But take a look at the 2nd Quarter summary for the current School Year. Go to Page 5.

When the budget was created, board members were receiving $900/month salary (stipend), which is W-2 income for them. The Chair got more.

Board compensation changed on January 1, 2022, when the District decided to comply with State law and pay board members a per diem, rather than a flat monthly rate. Board members now receive $384 per meeting, and the board chair is now paid $480 per meeting. If chaos is one of the conditons for pay, we're definitely getting our money's worth.

School Board "Salaries and Benefits" total $174,845. Remember; the budget is based on compensation in effect when the school year began on July 1, 2021.

If the board chair was paid $1,200/month, that's $14,400 for the budget.
Six board members at $900/month totals $64,800 ($900x6x12) for the budget.
Salaries total $79,200

How in the world could Benefits total $95,645 (174,845 - $79,200)???

Board Expenses in the 2021-2022 School Year Budget are estimated at $240,200, with this breakdown:

$42,000  Audit Services
$19,500  Legal Services
$63,000  Travel
$60,500  Organizational Dues
$55,200  Other

What is in that $55,000 "Other" list?
Why $60,500 in Organizational Dues?
What does $42,000 Audit Services provide?

Just think, if one or more board members hadn't blown past their spending limit, we'd probably never be paying attention to their spending!!!

The link to the First Quarter Spending on the Board was quickly repaired after I reported it did not work.

What did I find?

The annual Budget for Board Salaries and Benefits shown in the First Quarter Report was $150,026.
The annual Budget for Board Salaries and Benefits shown in the Second Quarter Report was $174,845.

Why and when were Salaries and Benefits increased by $24,819 (16.5%)?