This Made My Day!!!

This morning, I got to talking with a young man who attends one of our middle schools. When he was first starting school, I remember how he struggled with both academics and behavior. Today, he’s taking advanced classes and has become very poised and mature. This didn’t just happen. Teachers and administrators and a lot of other folks worked with his family and more importantly, didn’t give up. There are numerous stories like this in our schools. That’s what makes this district and community so special!

Letter About Accountability Proposal

This letter was published in both the State newspaper and the Chronicle-Independent…..

A recent national survey done by Gallup and the respected education organization Phi Delta Kappa had some very enlightening things to say about the obsession with standardized testing that has gripped our country for the past 20-25 years.

The survey strongly indicated that parents across demographic groups believe that standardized testing is both overemphasized and that such testing is not an accurate indicator of educational quality. Parents in our state and across the nation have reached their saturation point with standardized testing.

Therefore, it is disturbing that the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee (EOC) is about to adopt an accountability system that bases 90% of the accountability for elementary and middle schools on standardized testing.

This accountability system would also require more standardized testing than is being mandated by the federal government. In addition, the ratings categories being considered by the EOC will always identify 20% of all schools as “failing” no matter how much improvement occurs.

The EOC has botched an opportunity with this tone deaf proposal by resorting to the same old warmed-over bubble tests. The EOC needs to come up with something

Rezoning Request in Elgin Area

I recently provided this information to the County concerning a rezoning proposal in the Elgin area under consideration by County Council….     

Thank you for the information concerning the pending rezoning requests in the Elgin area. Based on the information you provided, an additional 352 lots would be available for residential development.

Homes built on these lots would be served by Doby’s Mill Elementary, Stover Middle, and Lugoff-Elgin High.

As a rule of thumb, we calculate that each of these homes would generate an average of 1 elementary student, .5 middle school student, and .5 high school student. Using this calculation, over the course of the buildout of these units, the new homes would generate about 352 elementary students, 176 middle school students, and 176 high school students.

This number of students would undoubtedly tax the capacities of these schools, even though capacity for 150 additional students is being built through the Referendum funding at Doby’s Mill and Stover. It had been hoped that elementary lines in the Elgin area could be redrawn to use the additional capacity at Doby’s Mill to relieve enrollment stress at Blaney. 352 more elementary students at Doby’s Mill would make this difficult.

Lugoff-Elgin High School currently has 1,650 students. At any given time of the day 200-250 students are off site at ATEC or Central Carolina. With the Annex facility, LEHS has a capacity of about 2,000 students. Obviously, 176 additional students would push the school towards the 2,000 mark more quickly.

352 elementary students will require about 14 teachers based on a 25:1 ratio and approximately 3.5 Special Education teachers assuming a normal distribution of Special Education students at a 100:1 ratio. If average salary and benefits for new staff is about $65,000, the cost of the additional teachers is about $1.14 million. 17 new classrooms will generate about $15,400 per classroom ($261,800 total) in startup costs and $368,791 per year in operating costs. Additional buses and drivers would also have to be added. The average cost of a bus is around $100,000 (supplied by the State) and drivers are paid around $25,000 per year (funded locally). This level of increase in students is equivalent to another entire school.

For comparison, Midway Elementary has approximately 400 students. The annual cost to operate that school is $2,272,000 which includes all teachers, Principal, other clerical and custodial staff and all operating expenses. The construction cost to add an additional 17 classrooms would be around $7,800,000 based on current cost for building six new classrooms at Doby’s Mill Elementary.

This continued development in the West Wateree area will create both space and funding challenges. As I indicated to County Council on August 22, primary residences generate no operational funding for schools based on Act 388. Primary residences do generate operational funding for County services.

I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Jim Smith

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. Jim Smith after a long and courageous fight with illness. Mr. Smith first came to Kershaw County after serving our country in the military as part of the first faculty at ATEC, where he also later served as an administrator. Mr. Smith’s vision and leadership in the early years at ATEC were critical to the school’s growth and development.

After retirement from ATEC, Mr. Smith served for a number of years on the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees. He was also active in the community through youth sports, rodeos, and many other areas. You could always find Mr. Smith at school fairs and other school events with his hay wagon or one of his horses for children to ride. He provided a lot of joy for countless children over the years doing this, and I believe he got as much joy as the kids did. (He once got me to sit on a bull at the Midway Elementary Rodeo…One of my favorite memories.)

During Mr. Smith’s tenure on the School Board, the District began a concerted effort to upgrade facilities and implement technology, among many other accomplishments. In working with Mr. Smith as a School Board member, I tremendously valued his straightforward honesty, his common sense, and his tremendous ability to promote discussion and build consensus. You always knew where Mr. Smith stood, but he was always willing to listen and compromise. Mr. Smith was an individual who loved this community and did much to give back to it. He will be missed by many. I will miss him a lot.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Smith’s family.

KCSD News: Families able to register stu

KCSD News: Families able to register students online with web-based system; KCSD Registration Days to be held July 26-27 [ ] #myKCSD #backtoschool

All-Midlands Teams

Kershaw County was well-represented on The State newspaper All-Midlands Baseball and Softball Teams! Zac Branham and Chase Roberts from Lugoff-Elgin High and Devin Beckley from Camden High were named to the Baseball Team. Kelly Graham, Savannah Grigsby, and Bailey Douglas were named to the Softball Team. Congratulations!!

Letter About Planning For Growth

I wrote this letter, which was published in today’s Chronicle-Independent.  I believe that planning for growth in Kershaw County is a critical issue….

Now that all the budgets in Kershaw County have been adopted and we’re a year away from the next budget process, there’s merit in thinking about the budget issues facing Kershaw County moving forward.

Growth, whether it be general population growth or school enrollment growth or both, are increasing the demand for services. Kershaw County’s ongoing struggle with funding growth was seen very clearly this year, especially in the areas of public safety and education. The pressures of growth are exacerbated by the state’s failure to fund its obligations for schools and the local government fund and a highly flawed state tax structure. The state is very good at limiting how localities and school districts can raise money while at the same time fobbing off an increasing level of financial responsibility on local governments and school boards.

At one point in time, I thought the state might eventually step up to its legal financial responsibilities to schools and local governments. I don’t necessarily think that any more, although our local legislative delegation has consistently fought very hard to compel the legislature to meet its legal obligations. What is now in place now relative to state funding is probably the new normal. Therefore, making the tough decisions on how to deal with the costs of population and enrollment growth in Kershaw County will be left to local leaders. We need to understand that the long-term problem in Kershaw County won’t be solved by simply shifting costs for areas like school safety from one government entity to the other, which seemed to be the thrust of this year’s short-term fix.

There needs to be a long-term plan. It’s not in the community’s best interests to keep kicking the growth can down the road and relying on duct tape solutions. I am pleased and excited that County Council has publically committed to sitting down in partnership with the School Board to plan for meeting the costs of future growth in the schools. Since schools are a significant part of local finances, this is a great first step. Having a fiscal plan to meet the needs of population and enrollment growth will also make Kershaw County a more attractive economic development prospect, which is certainly consistent with the vision of our County’s leaders.

We need to be thinking long-term.


Dr. Frank E. Morgan, Superintendent

Kershaw County School District