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Smith, Halley are school board chair, vice chair

Proctor elected as chaplain

Posted: January 11, 2018 3:30 p.m.
Updated: January 12, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

The Rev. Dr. James P. Smith (center) takes the oath of office as the new chairman of the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees at the beginning of a special daytime meeting Tuesday morning. Administering the oath is Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan (left) as the outgoing chairman, Trustee Ron Blackmon, holds the Bible. Trustees unanimously elected Smith to the chairmanship just a few moments earlier.

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The Rev. Dr. James P. Smith is the new chairman of the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees. Trustee Ron Blackmon, in his last act as the board’s former chair, nominated Smith, who was elected unanimously during a special daytime meeting on Tuesday morning. Smith, who is the senior pastor of St. Matthew United Methodist Church, won Seat 5 in June 2016 defeating the incumbent trustee, Louis Clyburn by a two to one margin.

As his first official act as chairman, Smith called for nominations for vice chair. Trustee Kim Durant nominated Trustee Shirley Halley, who has served as the board’s chaplain for a number of years. Trustees elected her unanimously.

DuRant also nominated Trustee Derrick Proctor to take Halley’s place as chaplain. Proctor was not present, but DuRant said the two of them had spoken, and he was happy to be nominated. Trustees elected Proctor as chaplain unanimously as well.

School boards across the state are mandated to have one daytime meeting per year. Kershaw County uses the first meeting in January for that purpose as an organizational meeting to elect its officers, approve its calendar of meetings and have the chair make committee assignments, all which took place Tuesday.

Smith reappointed Trustee Matt Irick to continue chairing the board’s finance and facilities committee, and Trustee Mark Sury to be the board’s legislative liaison.

Smith had originally asked Trustee Todd McDonald to take over the facilities and finance committee, but McDonald declined. He also asked Smith if he wanted Irick and Sury, like himself, to continuing serving on the joint board/Kershaw County Council ad hoc committee on school resource officer (SRO) funding and growth in the county.

Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said the ad hoc committee should  only meet a few more times. However, McDonald said there will be a “sub-ad hoc committee” to work on promoting retail development that will continue to meet after the main committee’s work ends.

Smith agreed that McDonald, Irick and Sury should continue to serve on the ad hoc committee. 

Later, McDonald reported on the ad hoc committee’s meeting of the previous night. He said the committee looked at the possible growth funding formula for the county to follow when determining school district millage. That work included running a possible growth funding formula through different examples using real numbers.

“And then (KCSD CFO) Donnie (Wilson) and (Kershaw County Administrator) Vic (Carpenter) are supposed to meet to go through the basis for those numbers and report back to the committee,” McDonald said. “The committee also agreed to start formulating our ideas on paper in setting up for the 29th of this month.”

McDonald said there was also a “great discussion” about working together to possibly look at some other communities to see what they are doing to deal with growth and retail development.

“It was a short meeting, but it was a good meeting,” he said.

Blackmon asked if McDonald felt the county would provide strong assistance with student growth issues.

“I don’t feel like it’s wasted breath,” McDonald replied. “I feel like there’s been -- at times -- some friction, but I think some of that friction is kind of changing the mindset to see where the county as a whole is going. I think that, in general, the folks around that table are really trying to find ways to work together, and I think we’re getting a whole lot better through conversation than condemnation.”

McDonald said ad hoc member George Gibson suggested a small group -- Wilson, Carpenter, Irick and someone from county finance -- should meet a couple of times a year to talk about needs.

“I think anytime you have dialog is a good thing; it (has to) be a positive dialog,” he said. “If you’re just sitting around complaining, that doesn’t get anything done, but the ideas that have been coming forth have been pretty good.”

Blackmon then asked whether or not the county still expects the district to, ultimately, take over the entire SRO program.

“No, no,” McDonald replied, “the thing about it is that Step 1 was to stay exactly where we are for full two budget year cycles. We’re not going to address the issue for two full years, (but) work on the possible growth formula. I know that they want to do some shifting, but also at the same time we want to have a formula, so we’ve clearly said it’s a quid pro quo. We’re willing to look at stuff, but (they) need to be willing to look at the growth formula, too. So, like I said, I think it’s been a good dialog. The biggest dialog, I will tell you is forget about SRO, forget about growth formulas, the dialog of ‘we’ve got to do something as a community’ to do retail economic development. Because, absent of a new retail business coming in, we’re just kicking the same can back and forth between people and not getting anything accomplished.”

Blackmon, however, said that after speaking to some people over the weekend, he feels as though SROs are a state and/or county responsibility.

“So, you just expressed an opinion, and there’s an attorney general (AG) opinion and everybody around that table has an opinion, that are all different (about) who should be responsible,” McDonald said. “I think that, at the end of the day, the ad hoc committee as a whole said we don’t have a clear answer at this point because there’s not a clear legal case or a court ruling, so, for right now, we’re going to kind of hold the line for two years before we do anything to see if we can find ways to increase funding, increase revenue and we’re going to have to continuously look at that. Quite frankly, I know the county does wants to shift some of that, and I said to the committee, I don’t mind shifting, slowly, methodically, some of that SRO funding, in my opinion, if the trade-off is we get some kind of agreement where we’re working together.”

Morgan said he thought the previous night’s discussion was a good one, especially as committee members and others begin to gain a sense of “the nuance” involving rising populations of special needs and English as a second language students.

In other business:

• KCSD Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson provided the board with a report on November’s financials;

• trustees approved legislative positions concerning school year start flexibility and postponement of a proposed earnings limitation for working retirees;

• trustees approved adoption of the S.C. School Board Association’s “Ethical Principles” document; and

• trustees unanimously accepted the administration’s recommendations concerning undisclosed employment matters, including one made public after the meeting -- the hiring of retired Richland School District Two elementary school principal Linda Hall to serve as interim principal at Doby’s Mill Elementary School (see DMES’ Catoe becomes state early learning/literacy director).

Morgan also reminded trustees that they have until March 30 to complete their online ethics reporting to the state education department; the district’s teacher recruitment fair will take place Jan. 27 at Lugoff-Elgin Middle School; this coming Monday, a community Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration will take place in the Camden High School auditorium at 5:30 p.m.; and that the board’s next meeting, this coming Tuesday, will begin at 6:30 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. so that the Kershaw County Teacher Forum can conduct its annual board appreciation program at 5:30 p.m. that day.

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