Hamm Takes Top R2 Job

Dr. Debbie Hamm

Dr. Debbie Hamm, who had been serving as Interim Superintendent since the abrupt June 13 departure of former Superintendent Katie Brochu, accepted an employment contract valid thru June 2015 for an annual salary of $199,000. The motion to approve the terms was accepted 6-1 at the Richland 2 School Board meeting Tuesday night at Polo Road Elementary School. Board member Monica Elkins-Johnson voted nay on the grounds that the Board was moving hastily and did not go through a formal interview or national search. Assenting Board members cited longevity, understanding of Richland 2 culture, willingness to expand collaboration and the renewal of joy in the District as considerations for offering the permanent role to Hamm. At the end of the contract, a national search will be conducted and Hamm has the opportunity to put her name in the hat for continued consideration. Hamm told the audience that she is “grateful and it will be a privilege to serve as your superintendent.” She was met with a standing ovation from the audience.

Board adopts plan for Lake Carolina Elementary

A student assignment plan was decided for Lake Carolina Elementary and its newly built partner school just two blocks away, Elementary #19. All students living in the Lake Carolina neighborhood and students in the Ashland neighborhood will attend the two schools with Lake Carolina housing kindergarten through second grade and Elementary #19 housing the upper grades third thru fifth. Elkins-Johnson didn’t support the plan because, she said, she wasn’t comfortable that Lake Carolina teachers could adequately prepare children for third grade under this system. She also voiced concerns that “this establishes a private school in a public school setting.” Board member Melinda Anderson made no comment but also voted against the approved plan. Board member James Manning sees this decision as a new, modern tool for the District in making attendance choices. Board member Chip Jackson told the public that the principals for the two schools located just two blocks apart are proven academic leaders and the opportunity for deep collaboration is exciting for the students.

Melinda Anderson in the news

Perhaps what garnered the most discussion was what was not discussed at the Board meeting – the recent allegations in the news that Board member Melinda Anderson verbally threatened Westwood High School’s head football coach Rodney Summers. Jackson, in closing comments, alluded to this when he gave praise for Chairman Bill Fleming’s excellent leadership for the past month during turbulence within the Board. Prior to the meeting and after the meeting, the audience was expectant that the situation with Anderson would be addressed, but no mention was made. In the recent weeks, Anderson is alleged in a report filed with a Richland County deputy to have threatened to kill her grandson’s football coach and stating that she had a gun. Top executives in the District were present during the reported incident and identified as witnesses to the alleged comments. Anderson denies the comments and says it is beneath her to address such “foolishness.” More recently there have been news reports that a friend was sent by Anderson to the football field to witness Summers’ football practice. A scene allegedly ensued and the School Resource Office, who is also a Richland County deputy, was called to file a complaint report. The District’s students who make threats of bodily harm, meanwhile, routinely face stiff disciplinary action and even expulsion.

The next Board meeting is nearly a month away, Dec. 10, at Blythewood High School.