Green’s trustee evaluation mixed

WINNSBORO – Emblematic of how it usually votes on most major issues, the majority of Fairfield County school board trustees gave Superintendent Dr. J.R. Green glowing reviews on his annual performance evaluation.

“Great job!” one trustee wrote.

“Excellent continued work and leadership,” another trustee wrote.

The accolades, however, come in spite of Green’s repeated non-compliance with a board member’s request for budget records which the S.C. Attorney General’s Office has determined board members have an “inherent right” to access.

In all, six board members rated Green’s performance as “Excellent” in every performance metric during the evaluations that were conducted Nov. 19, 2019, according to documents The Voice obtained through the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Not all of the evaluations offered high praise, however.

Board trustee Paula Hartman marked Green down in each of the five categories, grading him with “Needs Improvement” in the areas of Student Achievement and Fiscal Management. Hartman specifically took issue with what she characterized as Green’s lack of transparency in spending taxpayer money from the Superintendent’s Fund.

“You don’t inform the board, as you said you would, what items you pay for out of the discretionary fund,” Hartman wrote.

Hartman also marked Green down in Student Achievement, noting declines in middle and high school test scores. In addition, she rated Green’s leadership as needing improvement.

“Need to keep board informed and give information when asked. Graduation rate fell,” Hartman wrote.

Green could not be reached for comment.

At the November 2019 meeting, when board members evaluated Green, board chairman William Frick praised Green without mentioning Hartman’s negative reviews.

“It looks like there are a whole lot of ‘exemplaries’ on there,” Frick said. “I, for one, am very proud that you are with us. Congratulations on your continued success.”

For years, Hartman and former board member Annie McDaniel have asked for a detailed breakdown of how Superintendent Fund monies are spent.

In May 2017, former board chairman Beth Reid chided Hartman for asking for Superintendent Fund particulars, saying “the board as a whole has to ask the question,” according to a June 1, 2017 story in The Voice.

At the May 2017 meeting, neither Green nor Kevin Robinson, the district’s chief financial officer, could identify the budget line item the district had been using for the superintendent’s fund.

Green hedged when asked point blank the level of support certain organizations received from the fund, which historically and quietly has paid for costly, out-of-state student trips.

“If that’s something the Board wants to direct to me, I’ll be happy to answer directly to the board,” Green said. But he would not answer Hartman.

In June 2019, Green also couldn’t provide financials when asked how much it cost to send the Griffin Bow Tie Club to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

Green’s apparent non-compliance with individual board member requests for budget information is at odds with a 2019 opinion from the South Carolina Attorney General’s office, which states public officials have a right to request district records in the performance of their duties. There is no indication in the opinion that the request must be made by a majority vote of the board.

“An elected official by virtue of the office held has the inherent right of timely access to any and all information possessed by the governmental entity that he or she is duly elected to,” the opinion states.

The Voice requested records from the Churchill Downs trip through the Freedom of Information Act, but the district said it would cost $338 to provide them and declined The Voice’s request for a fee waiver or reduction, which state law allows.

While Green was evaluated in November 2019, the evaluation was not made public. The evaluations, which consist of five questions on a single page, were acquired by The Voice through a Freedom of Information request last month.