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Bus driver honored for heroic actions

Also, Robbins reports on first days of new school year

Posted: August 27, 2018 4:35 p.m.
Updated: August 28, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Jackie Cornelius, a bus driver for the Kershaw County School District (center), accepts a certificate for outstanding accomplishment for taking action in an emergency situation involving a man who she noticed lying face down on the ground. Presenting her with the certificate during the Kershaw County Board of Trustees’ Aug. 21 meeting are Chairman James Smith (left) and Trustee Don Copley.

One afternoon this summer, Jackie Cornelius was driving a bus load of students from a summer reading program at Midway Elementary School when she noticed a man lying face down on the side of the road.

“She stopped the bus, and made sure the students were safe. Then, she called 911 and did everything as instructed by the emergency officials,” Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Shane Robbins said during the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees’ Aug. 21 meeting. “Ms. Cornelius was also able to flag someone down who knew of a nurse who lived nearby who was able to respond before the ambulance got there.”

Robbins explained that the man, who works for AT&T, had apparently become dehydrated.

“The emergency officials said it was a good thing that Ms. Cornelius responded to the situation the way she did. We know she does a great job, every day, caring for our most precious cargo -- which is our students -- but, tonight, we say ‘thank you’ and ‘job well done’ for her thoughtful response in an emergency situation,” Robbins concluded to a round of applause.

Later during the meeting, Robbins reported on several matters connected to the first days of the new school year, which began the day before, on Aug. 20. Robbins, who said he had already visited about 10 of the district’s 18 schools, reported that enrollment stood at 10,852 students, but expected that to change as there were still students going through late registration.

“We, also, probably have some students that are on our books who are not returning, so during the next couple of weeks (KCSD Coordinator for Student information Greta) McAvoy will work on cleaning that up as we identify who those children are,” Robbins said. “You know better than I … that number is elevated, we continue climb at specific locations, so it brings with it its challenges and we’re prepared to deal with those.”

One of those challenges appears to be related to transportation. Robbins acknowledged that the first few days of every school year are particularly difficult and that he and trustees had received some emails regarding transportation issues.
He said the district’s No. 1 priority is safety over convenience.

“The thing that I can tell the board tonight is it’s easy to change, you know -- you think you have a good plan in place, and then when it actually comes to fruition and doesn’t work the way you thought it would work, you adjust it and you modify it and make it a little bit better,” Robbins said.

He said judgment should be withheld on how things went the first few days because “it’s just different,” but said there are some areas that are “heavily, heavily trafficked” that have already been up for discussion for improvement. In fact, Robbins said he and his wife personally experienced that as their son attended his first days of classes at Lugoff-Elgin High School.

“We talked about some things to make it better. So, bear with us. We’re hearing some of the concerns; we’re looking at it, we won’t make knee-jerk reactions,” Robbins said. “Just understand that the reactions, the responses to it will keep safety in the forefront of our minds. But, also, understanding, in the Lugoff area, if you’ve got children dropping off parents at the middle school and the high school … that’s a lot of folks in that one, little condensed area.”

A piece of whatever solution or solutions the district comes up with will include good communication, Robbins added.

“I’ve seen some things, and I’ve tried to check on it … and I think there’s some miscommunication on what can and can’t be done in terms of drop-off and pick-up,” he said.

Robbins also updated the board on the district being one of the state’s eLearning pilot districts. He said there are a lot of pieces and parts to “plug and play” and a lot of training to be done before being 100 percent ready to go. The program would allow students to continue with schoolwork and classes during severe weather. Robbins said the district is “kind of” one-to-one at the high school and middle school levels, but has more work to do to get to that point for the district’s elementary school students.

Robbins and Chairman James Smith also announced that a board retreat is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 22. Plans are to have representatives from the S.C. School Board Association at the retreat to help the board navigate through an overview of all its policies.

KCSD Director of Operations Billy Smith reported on several items. He noted that school buses ran “a little late” on the first day of school, with things improving on the second day and expecting them to improve further as students and drivers got through the first week of school. In addition, the district has made some changes due to safety issues in how to get students into and out of Lugoff-Elgin middle and high schools.

“We closed off that section I call ‘no man’s land’ between the two schools … and it’s raised some problems, but it was all done for the safety of the children, and we will continue to monitor that. If it is a problem, we’ll fix it,” Smith said.

He said cars were backed up for quite a ways in the area. He said a new school resource officer was doing her best to deal with the situation.

“She was doing real well with the traffic from Elgin to Lugoff and the traffic out of Lugoff-Elgin Middle School,” Smith said. “But she was kind of forgetting about the traffic coming from Lugoff to Elgin and it backed up all the way … to the Ford store. This morning, it was only backed up to the pawn shop. She did a much better job today and I went by and praised her for doing a good job today.”

Smith said he will have a full update on bond-funded construction projects at the board’s first full meeting in September.

Also during the Aug. 21 meeting, trustees:

• unanimously approved updates to several policies regarding summer school fees and course credit recovery;

• received an update on the district’s various electronic communication methods, including websites, mobile apps and social media; and

• received an update on AdvanceED Accrediation’s visit set for next spring and the district’s preparations for it.

Trustees also went into executive session to discuss employment and legal matters, but had to vote twice to do so. In a scenario reminiscent of one experienced by Camden City Council during its last meeting, Chairman Smith asked for a motion to go into executive session only for the employment matters. It was not until after the vote was taken (unanimously) that several people realized the legal matters had not been included in the motion.

Smith had trustees return to briefly come out of executive session in order to re-take the vote to include both items. The vote was, again, unanimous, and the executive session took place.

Before leaving the board room, Robbins explained that he had recently been updated by the district’s attorneys on five pending and/or possible litigation matters and would be using the executive session to pass that information on to trustees.
Following the executive session, trustees voted unanimously to accept the administration’s recommendations on the employment matters. No motions were made concerning the legal matters.

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