Property Secured for Secret Project

Two items particularly perked my ears at the Tuesday night Richland 2 School Board meeting, held at Polo Road Elementary School.

First, under Contractual Matters, the Board voted unanimously to accept a motion giving Superintendent Katie Brochu the right to secure a ground lease for 26 acres of land for a 99 year lease. While Board members remained mum about the specific location or purpose of the leased land, rumor continues to swirl that after many overdue months an agreement has been reached with Clemson University on the Clemson Extension property just off Clemson Road for the purpose of building a Student Education Center.

Second, the public currently has two opportunities to address the Board at each meeting. Individuals are given three minutes to voice their concern, praise or comment — once at the beginning of the meeting and again at the end. Chairman Bill Fleming said he would like to eliminate one of those opportunities. Susan Brill concurred, as did Barbara Specter and Melinda Anderson. James Manning, however, stood alone saying he saw no need to make such a change. He said the Board needs every opportunity it can get to hear from the community. Some people, he said, would like to speak before a topic is covered while others would like to comment after the vote is taken. The Board will vote on the matter at the next meeting.

The District’s most rigorous math and science magnet program, housed at Spring Valley High School, was showcased during Student Presentation. Manning, a professed advocate of project-based learning, said that he would like to see the District explore the Discovery program and its success with students in the same way as other project-based learning experiments the District is currently pursuing.

Suzi Fields, a retired Richland 2 elementary school teacher, whose children and grandchildren attend Richland 2 schools, spoke passionately about the District bringing three elementary basics back into practice: instruction in cursive writing, Spanish language from kindergarten and exposure to stringed instruments.

As in past meetings, the Board had many questions for the principals who helped craft the new Student Dress Policy. The principals explained that the policy was written to give administrators, particularly in the middle and high school, the authority to specify violations for specific dress codes with the over-riding intent that dress should not be a deterrent to a productive educational environment. Board members hope to see more specific language added for the next meeting when a vote is expected.

A public hearing was held at the meeting so the Board could get feedback regarding next year’s budget proposal. A second public hearing for the general fund budget will occur at 5 p.m. at the next School Board meeting held at Westwood High School on April 23. This will be the public’s last opportunity to address the Board and District regarding the budget before it is adopted later in that meeting. Look for a budget primer in my next column.