Patriot’s Day At Doby’s Mill….

A great display of pictures of Patriot’s Day at Doby’s Mill on The State website…

http://www.thestate.com/2012/02/29/2171702/patriots-day.html

End Of The Month

Got to visit with two School Improvement Councils this past evening, Lugoff-Elgin Middle School and Lugoff Elementary School, to talk about the budget and the recent budget survey.  I always enjoy spending time with SICs.  I appreciated the invitations!

Also got to catch the last couple of innings of the North Central-Lewisville baseball game, part of the MPCU Classic.  Good baseball and outstanding barbecue!  Thanks to Scott Conley and MPCU for their yearly sponsorship of these event!

Email Sent To House Ways And Means Members

The House Ways and Means Committee will be taking up the current version of School Choice legislation today.  Below is an email I sent to committee members:

The purpose of this email is to express my opposition to the School Choice legislation currently under consideration.  Aside from the negative impact of this legislation on funding for public schools, which has been reduced by over $700 million over the past three years, I believe the rationale that this legislation would serve disadvantaged students is at best disingenuous.  If it isn’t, I would challenge the proponents of this legislation to add the following provisions to their legislation:

  • A specified benchmark as to the number of economically disadvantaged students that would be served through this legislation from each county in the state.   If the benchmark in each county is not met in three years, the legislation would automatically sunset.
  • A requirement that the academic progress in reading, writing, and math of economically disadvantaged students served in private schools match or exceed the progress of economically disadvantaged students in public schools, as measured by whatever test is required by the state for public schools.  If performance of the private school students does not meet or exceed that of like public school students at the end of three years, the legislation would also sunset.

An independent consortium of researchers from our state universities could be charged with collecting and analyzing the data involved.  If School Choice proponents object to these provisions, any sensible person would need to ask why they are afraid of transparency and accountability.

Thank you for your consideration.

A Good Article…..

I get pretty bored with the folks that keep repeating like some kind of mantra that education in South Carolina is at the bottom of the nation.  Just isn’t true.  The only point the article below doesn’t make strongly enough is that the achievement of South Carolina students is judged against much higher standards than in most other states…

http://www.aikenstandard.com/story/022712-quality-counts-report–3819597

Way To Go!

Congratulations to Lugoff-Elgin High School wrestler Zach Connell, who won an individual state championship in his weight class this past Saturday.  As I understand it, Ben is the fourth member of his family to win an individual state championship.

A few weeks back, I blogged about the work being done at Pine Tree Hill Elementary School with the “First in Math” program, an online math competition program.  Yesterday, PTH Principal Dr. Lisa Shannon told me that Pine Tree Hill is now first in the state in this this program!

Way to go!!!

Kershaw County Athletes Recognized

 

Great to see a number of Kershaw County athletes recognized in the sports pages of Sunday’s State newspaper for being part of the All-Area team, including:

Clark Joseph of Camden High for cross-country

Kelli Murphy of Lugoff-Elgin High for golf

Katie Tiller from Camden High School for tennis

Josh Ruiz from Lugoff-Elgin High for football

Fidel Wise from Camden High for football

Maggie Speaks of Camden High for volleyball

Lindsay Cobb of Camden High for volleyball

Congratulations!!!

Doby’s Mill Robotics Team Victorious!!!

Made my Saturday!!!  Doby’s Mill Principal Ginger Catoe texted me late in the afternoon on Saturday to tell me that the school’s robotics team had won its regional competition and will go on to national competition in St Louis in April.  This is a tremendous accomplishment against some extremely strong competition.  Absolutely SUPER job!!!

Weekly Legislative Update

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

On Tuesday February, 21st, the full Ways and Means Committee met and debated the general appropriations bill.  The budget deliberations lasted through Thursday when they adopted the appropriations bill for 2012-2013. The committee approved a plan to add $152 million in recurring dollars to the EFA.  The projected base student cost for the FY 2012-2013 is $2012.  Adopted amendments to provisos of note are as follows:

 1.ES (SDE: Employee Salaries) With the additional funds made available, school districts shall give at least a two percents increase in staff salaries regardless of years of experience.  This may be accomplished by either placing instructional staff on the salary schedule according to their current years experience and credentials or by an increase above the current year’s salary.

1.43 (SDE: School District Furlough) Amended the proviso from last year to only allow districts to furlough in case of a midyear reduction in state funding.

1A.16 (SDE-EIA:  XI.C2-Teacher Supplies) Deletes the authority of school boards to retain teacher supply funds in order to preserve jobs.

The budget adopted by the House Ways and Means Committee will now go to the floor to be debated the week of March 12th.

On Tuesday, February 21st, the House Judiciary Committee and reviewed H.3235 (Freedom of Information Act) The bill requires that when a public body grants a request for records, it must furnish the record for inspection or coping not later than thirty days after the date of the formal request.  Also, the cost for copying the documents is limited to fair market value. The bill received a favorable report as amended as follows:

  1. Prohibits public bodies from charging for administrative time in gathering records,
  2. Requires that a public body respond to the FOIA request as quickly as possible but not more than 15 total days from the making of the request,
  3. Requires compliance with the FOIA request no later than 30 days from the original request, unless the records are more than 24 months old, in which case the public body may take up to an additional 45 days to comply,
  4. Requires immediate disclosure (without the need to make a formal FOI request) of any documents used during a public meeting in the preceding six months, and
  5. Requires a 25 percent deposit payment for the total copying costs prior to searching for or copying the records.

SENATE

On Wednesday, February, 22nd, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee met and discussed S.935 (Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day).  The bill would require all schools and school district offices to be closed on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day.  After discussion and testimony, the bill was carried over to the next meeting.

The Senate K-12 subcommittee met again on Thursday, February 23rd, discuss Sen. Fair’s bill (S.604) on eliminating the common core standards for SC.   After much debate and procedural questions, the bill passed out of committee with an unfavorable report.  The bill now goes before the full Senate Committee next week on Wednesday, February 29, at 10:00 AM, 209 Gressette Building.   Larry Kabrovsky, a current state board member, spoke in favor of eliminating the common core standards. He did state that he was testifying as a private citizen and not representing the state board. 

 

Thursday Highlights

While walking around North Central Middle School on Thursday, I had a great conversation with several of the eighth grade team teachers there about how they are approaching writing instruction.  I was really impressed! 

Had a an excellent meeting with a group of staff and parents to generate feedback as part of the process to develop a new Three-Year Gifted Plan.  Lots of good ideas!

In the evening, I presented the results of the recent Budget Survey to County Council.  Council members were especially positive about how the District has handled the extreme challenges of the economic downturn.

Good luck to all the Kershaw County wrestlers who will be competing for individual state titles this weekend!!

Moody’s Affirms District’s A-1 Bond Rating

The Kershaw County School District (KCSD) has been notified by Moody’s that it has affirmed the district’s A1 bond rating and removed the “negative outlook” that had been attached to it.

“This is outstanding news, and reflects the difficult decisions that had to be made by our school board during recent challenging financial times,” said Kershaw County School District Superintendent Frank Morgan.  “To have the negative outlook removed in only 18 months is tremendous.”

KCSD Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson explained that Moody’s cited the increase in the school district’s General Fund reserves, large tax base in close proximity to a metropolitan area and manageable debt burden as the reasons for its decision.   He said Moody’s also felt like the local economy was stable given there are no major changes in top taxpayers, and that Moody’s credited the school board with budgeting “conservatively.” 

“This is good news,” said Morgan.  “This is another indication of our commitment to be good financial stewards of our taxpayers’ funds.”