Friday, March 31, 2017

CCSD's Hollinshed and Caesar's Wife

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A decade ago when chairman of the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, current Charleston County School Board member Kevin Hollinshed used his county credit card to pay for an upgrade to first class and Indianapolis Colts tickets. After an Ethics Commission investigation cleared him, partly because the commission had no written policy on credit card use, you would think that he would be extra careful not to run afoul again. Not so.

Hollinshed's excuse for not filing his financial information in his 2016 campaign for School Board is that it's the computer's fault. Somehow all the information he entered on line did not appear in the records kept by the State Ethics Commission. However, no campaign reports from Hollinshed were ever received. You can miss a "button" to click once, but if you miss it every time, something else is wrong. If the school district had never notified him of his non-compliance, would he ever have reported?

No one is suggesting Hollinshed had nefarious contributions for his campaign. Slipshod records are more likely. That doesn't bode well for his oversight of spending as a board member. 

Keep in mind what's going on next door with the Berkeley County School Board. Its members had no idea, no idea what was happening to funds over the course of several years. It's not a pretty story.

"Caesar's wife must be above suspicion." Let's hope Hollinshed takes notice that he now has two strikes. What will people think if there's a third?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Berkeley County School District Soap Opera Continues

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We now learn that BCSD's former treasurer's brother-in-law's firm was financial advisor to the district. Thomas continues to cooperate with the FBI. He hid cost overruns in the building program by dipping surreptitiously into reserves. And no one knew. They are shocked, shocked!

Well, someone knew. Cost overruns or kickbacks? And why did it take persistent FOIA requests to uncover the dirty deeds? Does not the school board have some fiduciary responsibility?

We haven't heard the last of this iceberg. Inquiring minds still ask, "Why is it the FBI and not the IRS leading the investigation? Money laundering? Interstate transfer of funds? Kidnapping?

All we need next are sex, lies, and videotape.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Hold SC Governors Responsible for Education

Have you ever seen anyone run for governor without promising to improve the dismal state of education in South Carolina? Me neither. That focus is the result of voters wishing to see improvement, what else? The reality is that the governor of South Carolina has little authority, if any, over our state's education.

However, again this year our state legislature has the opportunity to give the governor more power. Why would it want to do that? So that whoever is governor can take responsibility for the state education department by appointing its superintendent. What possible advantage derives from a superintendent independent of the state's governor?

Right now, the state superintendent of education runs independently for office on a party ticket the way the lieutenant governor used to do. That process makes the superintendent beholden to political supporters who may not support the governor's agenda. Yet the voters still believe the governor has the responsibility for what happens.

The governor should appoint the state superintendent as is done in 36 other states. It's time to modernize our statewide political system.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

CCSD: Capital Sales Proceeds Should Not Fill Operations Budget!

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The Chicora "Graded" School building deteriorated for years while owned by the Charleston County School District. That was then. The present CCSD administration actually pays to maintain unused buildings, or at least, it gives that impression to taxpayers. A case in point is the Archer campus downtown, claimed to cost $18,000 per year to maintain. 

Have you ever driven past that building? Built in 1936 for black elementary students, it has undergone renovations for use as "swing space" as the district spent its way into multiple new buildings unhampered by lack of capital funds. Now CCSD hopes to sell it and the city block it occupies. The sale of the Laing School property in Mt. Pleasant for $12 million has the administration salivating for more. 

Just a simple query before the district starts devouring itself: into which budget did the $12 million go? In the past, such windfalls (if you can call them that) ended up in the operations budget. How about this one? In other words, is the desire to sell off surplus buildings seen as a money-saving gesture or as a way to build up the operations budget?

As any savvy investor knows, living off capital leads to disaster in the long run.
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Friday, March 17, 2017

Shame on CCSD and North Charleston over Chicora

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The building rots while politicians twiddle their thumbs.

How did the deterioration of Chicora Elementary School happen? Who dropped the ball and allowed thieves to scour all copper from the building? Who allowed the building to deteriorate to its current dilapidated state? Why has nothing happened to secure the building since the City of North Charleston took possession from CCSD?

No one should evince shock over the Charleston County School District's allowing the building to crumble. That's the modus operandi of CCSD regarding older schools. However, why has the City of North Charleston allowed the building to sit as "an eyesore and a threat to public safety" in the middle of one of its neighborhoods? Apparently Mayor Summey has other priorities, such as golf courses.

A reputable organization has proposed a plan to renovate and reuse the almost century-old building, when no one else has come forward. And the City delays.

Do we really need more foot dragging?

How to Spend $40 Million on Charleston County Schools

Gerrita Postlewait may rue the day she asked administrators for ideas on spending an almost $40-million-dollar "windfall" due the district after the termination of a special TIF. It's bad enough that one educrat proposed hiring the district's own "journalist." Now Luther Seabrook's Letter to the Editor points out that after saving $18 million by closing an all-black school, the district feels no compunction to address the needs of black students with the much larger $40 million. He points out that the district caused hardship for the affected students.

Actually, the Charleston County School District causes hardship for every black student stuck in a district school with lower expectations for achievement. These students enter high school doomed to fail if standards are raised there. Seabrook's suggestion for spending the millions on "reading and learning" laboratories in each of CCSD's failing elementary schools should rank high on the Superintendent's list of priorities. 

Shouldn't it?


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Berkeley County School District Puzzles

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New Jersey's evenly-balanced political-party split used to provide so many political scandals: as power switched sides, opponents threw corrupt politicians to the wolves. Now I'm beginning to wonder the same about the Berkeley County School District.

Its battle over the Yes4Schools fiasco has played out in the courts for several years. Now we are treated to the resignation of the BCSD chief financial officer, who somehow forgot which account was designated for several hundred thousand dollars. Oops!

But wait!

Its financial officer, who also oversaw capital expenditures, seems to be cooperating with the feds. He hasn't been charged with anything yet. And it's not the IRS that's unhappy: it's the FBI! 

Gets stranger, doesn't it?

Does anyone in Berkeley County believe the recent resignation of its school superintendent is not connected with these financial misdoings? 

This scandal could have occurred in the Charleston County School District, if forensic audits proposed over the last decade had gone forward. Instead, multiple players were let off the hook. Maybe they knew where the bodies were buried!

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Let's Hear from CCSD's Board Members Who Support Garrett

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One man stands alone, or so it seems from the silence surrounding Todd Garrett's call for action in the Charleston County School District. Are the rest of the Trustees too cowed to speak? Are they, as the following Letter to the Editor suggests, merely "cookie-cutter" members happy to keep the system running as poorly as it does?

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

CCSD's Garrett Throws Down the Gauntlet to Administration

What is the current definition of insane? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get different results? Well, Charleston County School Board member Todd Garrett has asked that insanity to stop,

His message? Why do we still have so many failing schools and "At graduation, only 3.7 percent of our black students and 38.6 percent of our white students meet the Gold Work Keys level that Boeing requires to apply for a position" or attend Trident Tech. Why after so much money has been spent in the district?

Garrett holds the district's feet to the fire: either produce different results or let an outside organization take over those schools. 


Go get 'em, Todd!

Friday, March 03, 2017

Will CCSD's New "Journalist" Present More Fake News?

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It was nice while restraint lasted, but what else could the Charleston County School District do when it had accumulated an embarrassingly large deficit? Now that CCSD expects almost $40 million in "new" revenue, Board Chair Kate Darby enthusiastically supports hiring its own "journalist."

Well, we all must make choices with our funds, but Paul Bowers has pointed out that's the same as the "cost of two first-year teacher salaries." 

No doubt Darby would counter with "who needs more teachers?"

Should we quibble over the definition of "journalist"? "Journalist," "PR flack," it's all the same, right? The educrat who proposed and named this position, Erica Taylor, should be fired. She already has a budget of nearly $1,7 million and 16 employees. Apparently that's not enough for her. She's even requested another $55,000 (another potential teacher) for  "Aggressive PR Efforts (complete District rebranding, town hall meetings, etc.)" and $50,000 (another potential teacher) for "Parent, Teacher, Business, Student Cabinets." 

You would assume that the district has experienced poor relations with our local rag. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The P & C has bent over backward for years to present the district in the best possible light in order to assuage the worries of potential homebuyers from out of state. Frequently it has published the district's press releases verbatim.

In case you're wondering, Taylor envisions "This person will assist in telling the stories of the greatness of our 87 schools and programs, nearly 50,000 students, 5,500 teachers and unique educational offerings." 

Taylor has further grandiose plans--creating a television show and the district's own news channel. No doubt she sees her role as big chief in charge.

Well, why not? When you ask educrats to spend money, they can always find a way. The district should be asking this overstaffed department how it can cut costs instead. As Board member Cindy Bohn Coats asked, "how many people does it take to put out a press release?"

Maybe some of that money could find its way into the classroom and actually affect students.

Nah. Silly me.