Openness at Risk

The Tuesday evening Richland 2 School Board meeting began with a moment of silent prayer at E.L. Wright Middle School. The new Consent Agenda format, adopted at the last meeting, allows items that are considered by the Board as routine to be grouped together and voted on in a single vote. The following are some of the items considered to be routine: the previous meeting’s minutes, the facilities report, technology report, budget report, student discipline and personnel. The intent is to free time in the meeting for agenda items that will need discussion. Secretary Melinda Anderson had some questions regarding change orders on contracted work reported in the facilities report. Rather than pulling the facilities report from the agenda and discussing her concerns publicly, she withdrew her questions, stating that she would talk with Jack Carter, Director of Operations, at a later date. With these unanswered questions, Ms. Anderson and the balance of the Board voted unanimously to approve the Consent Agenda. Hopefully, the answers Ms. Anderson receives from Mr. Carter will allow her approval vote to remain acceptable, because there is no procedure for changing a vote after the fact.

E. L. Wright Middle School reported the rebirth of an after-school tutoring program call S.W.A.G. (Student Warriors Achieve Greatness) improved grades for academically at-risk students. These students focus on math and English; although teacher Shaina Barber said she has seen tremendous improvement in the other areas such as social studies and science.

The Board revisited the Efficiency and Effectiveness Study Update that had been tabled in the last meeting due to unavailable supporting documentation. This study was commissioned in early 2011 by Superintendent Katie Brochu to an outside consulting service called Evergreen. There has been considerable public outcry at the lack of public input before the implementation of the study’s recommendations. Two community members who sit on the evaluation committee report that the district has not involved them in the process. When Board member James Manning asked questions regarding this issue, Board Secretary Melinda Anderson suggested that his questions should be withheld from the public session and addressed in private to the district prior to the Board meeting. This would remove the public from any knowledge of business between Board and district as these are then not part of the written record.

The Board voted to approve the District’s recommendation of Richard Inabinet to serve a three-year term on the 7-member Richland County Board of Assessment Appeals. This appointment serves a vital role in hearing the public’s concerns about property values.

In closing Board statements, Board member Chip Jackson stated that he is unwavering in his support of the District’s direction and will remain so until any measurements can be taken next year.

The next Board meeting will be held at Polo Road Elementary School Feb. 5 with public session beginning at 7 p.m.