Kershaw County Lands DJJ Grant

I was extremely happy to learn this morning that our district has landed a 3-year, $180,000 grant from the Department of Juvenile Justice to continue the “Job Readiness for Teens” (JRT) program.  This program, which has been funded by the “Safe Schools/Healthy Students” grant, provides job preparation skills, including a paid internship, and academic enrichment for at-risk high school students.  Kudos to Kevin Rhodes, the grant director, for his diligent work to make this happen.  This is a model program, which we will now be able to sustain.  Great news!!

Patriot Night At Doby’s Mill

Attending “Patriot Night” at Doby’s Mill Elementary last evening was great fun!  I always enjoy this event, particularly the Colonial dancing (these kids were great!) and the “Wax Museum,” where the kids dress up as various famous colonial figures and have to stand still like they are wax figures.  This is a wonderful educational opportunity for the students and one for which their pride was obvious.  Great stuff!

Excellent Reopening

I want to thank everyone for helping school to reopen smoothly and productively.  Special thanks to the folks from the County for their work on the roads and bridges yesterday and last night.  In the schools I visited this morning, I was extremely heartened by how everyone got right down to business. Great job!

 

Read Across America Day

“Read Across America” Day is Friday, February 28.  This day is a national observance of the birthday of Dr. Seuss.  Across the country, community members visit classrooms to read to children.  In Kershaw County, we are fortunate to have the Chamber of Commerce as a partner tohelp  line up readers.  This is a wonderful opportunity.  You will be received with great enthusiasm by both students and teachers (and superintendents…)!  If you’re interested, contact Liz Horton at the Chamber (lhorton@kershawcountychamber.org).  I guarantee you’ll have a terrific experience!

Legislative Update – January 24, 2014

GOVERNOR’S PROPOSALS:

Adopting a Fairer and Simpler Education Funding Formula

Funding high-poverty districts, while eliminating several unnecessary weights and redundant programs, will improve equity and allow students to receive a more customized education.

Promoting Student Success by Emphasizing Reading

Ensuring that students are proficient readers before advancing them beyond 3rd grade will improve their performance through middle and high school and reduce dropout rates.

Investing in Educational Technology and Connectivity

Modernizing technology in our schools and improving bandwidth will give students greater access to educational content and also critical computer skills their future employers will demand.

Expanding High-Quality Public School Options for Families

Placing charter schools on a more level financial playing field will expand the range of educational models for parents to consider for their children.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

On Tuesday, January 21nd, the House Ways and Means Public Education and Special Schools Subcommittee met and heard budget requests from the following agencies:

  • South Carolina Public Charter School District
  • ETV

On Wednesday, January 22nd, the House Ways and Means Public Education and Special Schools Subcommittee met and heard budget requests from the following agencies:

  • Christian Soura – Governor’s Office
  • Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities
  • First Steps

On Tuesday, January 21st, the full House Education and Public Works Committee met and reviewed the following bill which was sent back to the subcommittee:

H.3435 (Comprehensive Health Education Act) The bill greatly alters the comprehensive health education programs implemented by school districts. The bill would require reproductive health instruction to be medically accurate, while changing the grade levels at which this instruction would be offered. Under the bill, students must receive 12.5 hours of health education instruction during the ninth or tenth grade. The State Board of Education would be required to develop a health instruction unit every two years, and districts would be required to use the unit unless the district develops its own health instruction unit annually. Additional changes include the teaching of contraceptive methods in relation to pregnancy and disease prevention, rather than just future family planning. Also, the bill would remove the restriction that male and female students must be taught this information separately. Teachers providing comprehensive health instruction would undergo professional development in either reproductive health or pregnancy prevention every two years, and have a certificate in health education by August 1, 2016. In order to ensure compliance, each district would have to send an annual report to the State Department of Education by June 15.

Also, Jerome Singleton, Commissioner of the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL), gave a presentation before the Full House Education Committee on the significant changes the League has made over the past year.

Some of the changes mentioned are as follows:

  1. Created an internal appellant process.
  2. Established new rules to allow transferability of student-athletes within school districts. If a student transfers within his or her home district, that district will be given the authority to determine if a student is eligible to participate in a school’s athletics program. As long as the transfer occurs within the student’s home district, that student can be deemed eligible to participate. A student can only apply for eligibility based on transfer once a year.
  3. Allowed student-athletes who are ineligible to play at the varsity level can be deemed eligible to play at the sub-varsity level.
  4. Implemented changes regarding penalty procedures and self-reporting.

 SENATE

 On Wednesday, January 22, 2014, the Senate Education Committee met and heard a presentation on TransformSC from Pamela Lackey and Mike Brenan.  Ms. Lackey and Mr. Brenan are Co-Chairs of TransformSC.

 On Thursday, January 23, 2014, the Senate Finance Sales and Income Taxation Subcommittee met and reviewed the following bills:

 S.911 (Education Capital Improvements Sales and Use Tax) The bill deletes the requirement that a county must collect at least $7M in a year in state accommodations taxes before imposing the tax.  Sen. Peeler, author of the bill, asked that it be carried over in order to review S.940.

 S.940 (Education Capital Improvements Sales and Use Tax) The bill allows a county that does not collect at least $7M in accommodations tax to impose the sales tax so long as no portion of the county area is subject to more than two percent total sales tax.  After much discussion, the bill was amended to increase the sales tax cap from two percent to three percent. The bill received a favorable report and will be sent to Finance.

Breakfast Meeting At Bethlehem Missionary Baptist

 I was honored to be asked to speak at a forum at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church on Saturday morning.  I was joined by Damian Burris of the Camden Police, Ed Corey from the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Department, and Judge James Davis.  A great discussion about how we can support our young people.  Also wonderful food and fellowship.

ETV Advisory Committee

For the past couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure of serving on the ETV Advisory Committee.  This group consists of people from all walks of life from throughout the state.  Unfortunately, I think, it’s not well known that ETV is so much more than PBS programming like Downton Abbey.  ETV does tremendous work with public safety by providing a statewide emergency network.  ETV provides a significant number of classroom resources for teachers, in addition to a wide variety of quality professional development offerings.   ETV also promotes state government transparency by streaming sessions of the General Assembly.  What is really impressive about ETV is its focus on serving the citizens of South Carolina, which makes being on the Advisory Committee so enjoyable.