The Real Deal
Q: Is the Boys and Girls Club operating a child care program in Richland Two schools during Phase 1 of the Reopening Plan?
Richland Two has partnered with the Boys and Girls Club to offer optional eLearning Support for Richland Two employees' children. In order to provide a truly premier virtual educational experience for our students, we must support our teachers’ desire to be able to teach from their classrooms. Many of them expressed the need to have access to their classroom learning environments while teaching virtually. However, many also needed supervision for their own elementary-aged children. We believe that, as one of Richland County’s largest employers, we must set an example for meeting employee needs while still ensuring safety and learning support for their children.
- Why did Richland Two choose to work with the Boys & Girls Club as your Supervised Learning Program provider? The Boys & Girls Club has been providing childcare and eLearning support for the children of First Responders since the beginning of the pandemic. They have a proven track record of following stringent COVID-19 prevention procedures and had a successful summer with no COVID cases. Boys & Girls Club also has the ability to have very small numbers of children in each of their groups, and the groups are able to be kept at a safe distance from one another. For the Richland Two employee program, a site will support two to three groups of students and the groups are capped at 15 total people in each group including Boys and Girls Club staff. Employees are responsible for covering the cost of the child care provided by the Boys and Girls Club.
- Why can’t Richland Two provide this for the families of all students? It is simply a matter of numbers. The greater the population of students in any given environment, the greater the risk of viral spread. Currently less than 50 children of Richland Two employees have been signed up for the program and we will only be opening one or two sites at this time. This program will in no way impact when we are able to transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2. The district has spent a great deal of time gathering information about community resources for small-group eLearning support for families. A listing of those resources can be found at www.richland2.org/reopeningschools.
Q: What is the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, and why was it discussed at a Richland Two Board Meeting?
The March 24 Board Meeting was moved to March 31 to accommodate a request for Richland Two Superintendent, Dr. Baron R. Davis, to speak at the Spring Convening of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools.
Richland Two was invited to join the league in 2014 under the leadership of Dr. Debbie Hamm, Richland Two’s superintendent at the time. The district’s membership was renewed in the fall of 2017, shortly after Dr. Davis took over as superintendent.
The Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools is “a national network of forward-thinking education leaders.” Member districts partner with leading entrepreneurs, researches and education leaders to “pioneer innovative learning and leadership practices that lead to improved outcomes for students and that help prepare them for learning for life.”
Richland 2 is one of four South Carolina school districts part of the league that includes 114 school districts in 34 states. The other league members from South Carolina are Lexington County School District One, Rock Hill Public Schools and Spartanburg School District Seven.
League members are represented by their superintendent, who commits to:
- Attend biannual League meetings, which feature classroom visits, collaborative problem-solving, and relationship-building with peers and partners;
- Participate in League challenge collaboratives on a broad range of topics relevant to the changing needs of school districts;
- Support Digital Promise research and provide feedback so it translates easily into classroom experiences and expands what we know about teaching and learning;
- Engage with entrepreneurs to advance edtech product development steeped in the latest learning science and meets district needs;
- Participate in the League’s professional learning community by connecting with other members online, in person, and at each other’s school districts.
Learn more about about cell phone towers on district property.
Q: Is the district going to allow employees to possess weapons on school property?
A: At the October 15, 2019 meeting of the Richland Two Board of Trustees, the board heard first reading of a proposed change to Board Policy GBEB. The change addresses district employees and weapons on school property.
It’s important to note that district administrators never had any plans to amend the policy in order to permit any district employee to carry weapons on school property (excluding those who may have been authorized to do so as part of their duties, i.e. manager of emergency services and the assistant security manager — See Historical Context below for more information on these two positions)
Richland Two district administrators proposed the change to the policy in order to identify the specific “authorities in charge of the premises or property” referenced in South Carolina Code of Law 16-23-420 and “school officials” referenced in South Carolina Code of Law 16-23-430:
SECTION 16-23-420 states in part, “(A) It is unlawful for a person to possess a firearm of any kind on any premises or property owned, operated, or controlled by a private or public school, college, university, technical college, other post-secondary institution, or in any publicly owned building, without the express permission of the authorities in charge of the premises or property…”
SECTION 16-23-430 states in part, “(A) It shall be unlawful for any person, except state, county, or municipal law enforcement officers or personnel authorized by school officials, to carry on his person, while on any elementary or secondary school property, a knife, with a blade over two inches long, a blackjack, a metal pipe or pole, firearms, or any other type of weapon, device, or object which may be used to inflict bodily injury or death.”
The proposed change to district policy GBEB was to add the following bolded information, “…the possessing weapons on district property (unless otherwise authorized by law and the superintendent),” to clarify which authority in the school district could grant permission.
After the first reading, a motion was made and approved to further amend the policy to remove the parenthetical remark completely. The board will have a second reading at the Oct. 29, 2019 meeting.
- Sept. 24 Board of Trustees Meeting — A change to policy GBEB was proposed
- Reading postponed in order to provide board members with additional information on the state law
- Oct. 15 Board of Trustees Meeting — First reading
- Motion made to strike the entire parenthetical clause
- Oct. 29 — Proposed second and final reading
The authority to carry a weapon on school/district property was initially given by the superintendent in 2003 when the district’s first manager of emergency services was hired. That authority has continued to be granted by Richland Two superintendents since that time. The authority was extended to the assistant security manager position when that position was created in 2007.
Q: Were Westwood High students served undercooked or old food?
A: First, food services investigated and there are no safety concerns about the food. The food we serve in the cafe should be nutritious and appealing. We acknowledge that this meal missed the mark, and going forward we’ll work to ensure that our cafe is following best preparation practices. We want our students and staff to want to eat what is served and not have concerns about the quality or safety of the food.
In this instance, the hamburger steaks come from the food vendor fully cooked and need to be heated to brown the outside. Cafeteria staff in our schools do not handle raw meat. The appearance of being undercooked stems from how the food is heated in the cafeteria. If the hamburger steaks are put in the steamer versus the oven or if they are layered on top of each other in a pan in the oven, the meat will appear to be not fully cooked. Again, that is only the appearance as the meat comes fully cooked.
The other picture shows a piece of salami that was in a salad with black olives. The olive juice stained the salami giving it the unpleasant appearance.
The Food Nutrition staff continues to work with cafeteria staff in the schools to address these concerns.
Q: Where can I find information about upcoming school board meetings?
A: We use a variety of avenues to notify the community about school board meetings.
- Notice of upcoming meetings are included in the parent and employee versions of You & Two, our bi-weekly e-newsletter.
- The agenda is always posted at least 24 hours prior to the meeting in accordance to state law. In fact most of the time, excluding emergency situations, the agenda for each school board meeting is posted on the Richland Two BoardDocs site on the Friday prior to the meeting.
- In addition, the district Communications Department sends a release to local media that includes a link to the upcoming meeting agenda on the Friday before the meeting or at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. This notice is then published on the Richland Two website at www.richland2.org.
- Meetings and a link to the agenda are also listed on the district’s Community Calendar, which Gmail users can sync with their own personal calendars.
Q: A newspaper article stated that Dr. Davis was listed on the SC Ethics Commission website as owing a fine. Is that correct?
A: Dr. Davis was never assessed a fine by the ethics commission and was never listed on the website as owing a fine. At the February 12, 2019 School Board meeting, Dr. Davis stated that he was unaware of the requirement of "filing a Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) form within 10 days of officially becoming the superintendent in Richland Two. Instead, Dr. Davis followed the practice of his predecessors and of superintendents across the state by filing the SEI after receiving the annual notification from the Ethics Commission in December.”
When he learned of the requirement, he self-reported this omission to the ethics commission, updated the files submitted for the 2017 calendar year that he submitted in 2018, and voluntarily paid the $100 fine.
Watch a recording of the school board meeting to hear his full comments in full. Dr. Davis' comments start right before the 11:00 minute mark.