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Board of School Trustees gets All-America City finalist report

Posted: May 3, 2018 5:13 p.m.
Updated: May 4, 2018 1:00 a.m.

During Tuesay night’s Kershaw County Board of School Trustees, PLAY Foundation Director Laurey Carpenter reported on Kershaw County being named one of 20 finalists being considered as the 2018 National Civic League (NCL) All-America City. She said 32 people representing Kershaw County will be traveling to Denver, Colo., where the All-America City winner will be announced.

“I want to know, for everyone here, there are only 20 finalists nationwide -- does anyone know how many counties are in that top 20?” Carpenter asked. “We, Kershaw County, South Carolina, is the only county in the United States of American that is in the top 20. Without a shadow of a doubt, Kershaw County, South Carolina is No. 1. It’s unbelievable, and now the world is going to know it.”

If Kershaw County wins, she said, it is a designation that can never be taken away.

Carpenter said she and the PLAY Foundation -- which was responsible for bringing an American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compatible playground to Lugoff in 2016 -- have been working on the All-American City application for three years. She said the items highlighted by the NCL’s decision to place the county in the top 20 were 1) having the Community Medical Clinic, making Kershaw County one of only three counties in the nation to have such a facility; 2) that the Kershaw County School District (KCSD) is one of only 13 in the nation able to have grant funding for mental health counselors available for students, combined with the opening of the Jackson Teen Center and an increase in the district’s graduation rate; and 3) the collaborative effort to create VisionKershaw 2030, the county’s 15-year vision plan drafted in 2015 and adopted by county council in 2016.

Carpenter said one of the things the NCL noted about VisionKershaw 2030 was the county’s decision to be proactive by seeking input from the public, including giving the county’s children a voice in its creation.

“They spent a paragraph on discussing the vision of us making sure our children were able to voice and be at the table to do long-term planning for our county,” Carpenter said. “I’m proud to say that with this delegation, we have seven … young adults who are going to be traveling with us. With the youth, that’s the most important part, because it’s our future, and we want to make sure that Kershaw County is the best place.”

Carpenter also laid out the benefits the county could reap by being named 2018’s All-America City, based on what has happened in other communities.

“No. 1, and foremost on everyone’s mind: economic stimulus. All-America finalists and winners find it easier to attract and retain businesses that generate jobs and a stronger tax base. They also attract and retain residents who want a healthy community. Finalists and winners have also seen an increase in tourism and grant opportunities,” Carpenter said.

No. 2 on her list: community pride.

“The award has reinvigorated communities with a new sense of pride, accomplishment and teamwork,” she said. “They work to live up to the label and to maintain such a high standard.”

Community collaboration was the third benefit.

“The application process itself encourages communities to evaluate themselves and foster new partnerships. People often say they learn more about the great things going on in the community because of the application than they ever imagined, myself included,” Carpenter said.

Fourthly, Carpenter said the All-America City Award raises the winning community’s profile to the national level.
Finally, she said those benefits would not only impact the county as a whole, but its three municipalities -- Camden, Elgin and Bethune.

“The reason I spearheaded it as ‘Kershaw County’ -- everyone knows that there is disparity and division in our county when it comes to economics, when it comes to demographics, and with the county designation, believe it or not, all three municipalities win,” Carpenter said, adding that each municipality would be able to include the All-America City designation when writing grants and seeking further economic development.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan provided a brief update to trustees on matters relating to the district’s proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget. He said he and Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson are waiting to see what comes out of a conference committee working to iron out differences between the S.C. House and S.C. Senate versions of the state’s proposed budget. For the moment, the district is holding steady by using the S.C. Senate proposal, and will present that version of the budget to county council next Tuesday.

However, Morgan also said while the district could present that budget “as is,” trustees also have the choice of asking for a millage increase. He said state law would allow council to approve a maximum 5.5 mil increase for the district, although the district could ask for less. Morgan offered two strategies if trustees decided to ask for any additional millage. He suggested the board either focus on using additional millage to fund items trustees believes are more in the county’s purview, or to focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) related expenses. Morgan said whichever route the board chose, if it decided to seek a millage increase, it should tie it to county priorities and then put any district funds freed up by additional millage back into instruction-related expenses.

Trustee Todd McDonald said that at the last board/council ad hoc meeting, a suggestion was made to create a mental health coordinator position in response to the district and county’s efforts toward making schools safer. Morgan said that could cost the district $100,000 to do, but added that creating that position is more of a community, or county, priority than merely the disrict’s.

Trustee Matt Irick said the board should not sell itself short by not asking for a millage increase. In essence, he said if the board doesn’t ask, then council cannot even consider granting the increase.

In the end, the board instructed Morgan to come up with a budget presentation to council that would include a request for the maximum 5.5 mils with the caveat that the additional millage first be put toward a mental health coordinator and, possibly, increasing the number of mental health counselors. Any millage funding remaining after that would be put toward STEM-related costs.

In other business Tuesday:

• KCSD Director of Operations Billy Smith updated trustees on various construction projects, including progress at the new Applied Technology Education Campus; North Central High School athletic field; North Central Middle School’s addition; the new Camden, Lugoff and Wateree elementary schools; ADA-compliant seating at Lugoff-Elgin High School’s athletic field; Zemp Stadium improvements, which should be completed by June 30; and additions to Leslie M. Stover and Lugoff-Elgin middle schools.

• Morgan also reported on the 8th Grade Manufacturing Forum that took place April 27 at the new Central Carolina Technical College campus. He said this was one of the only times he can remember a parent “grabbing” him to tell him how happy they were that their child was being exposed to possible careers in the manufacturing sector.

• Trustees entered executive session to discuss various employment matters and voted afterward in open session to accept the administration’s recommendations.

Trustees also held a special called meeting Wednesday night. They used the meeting to enter executive session to discuss an initial slate of applicants to replace Morgan as superintendent. Morgan is retiring June 30.

Following the executive session, the board voted on an undisclosed number of candidates for a first-round of interviews. Those candidates will be interviewed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Trustees will then announce a smaller number of “finalists” to interview during a second round of interviews on May 17, 18 and 19.

The new superintendent will be chosen from that second round of interviewees, with the board hoping to make the announcement by May 21. The winning candidate would then work with Morgan during a transition period and then take over on July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

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