Why can’t the school district be a better community partner?

First, I want to commend your paper for the fine sets of articles on your front page Dec. 12. Every article complemented one another and perfectly showcased the crux of the problems (and the depth) in Darlington County.
Thank you for your unwavering support of the public.

A brief recap of the majority of the articles on Page One of the paper:

1) Darlington County schools are either barely passing or in one case, an abysmal failure according to the state standards. The one shining light was Lamar, now the only area of excellence in the schools despite being perhaps the poorest and most disadvantaged area in the county (showing us that it is not the buildings that show teacher, student and parent character and commitment to their community).

2) A gallant effort at creating a proposal (to upgrade security at county schools) for $4.6 million was made. However, in hindsight, it might have been advisable to engage area companies for help from their professional facilities expertise to assist in the plan. That is, if the (school) district does not have a facilities director.

And while not looking at the specifics, the cost jumps out versus this poor district with declining enrollments and lack of outside business investment. There might be other suitable options such as considering hiring armed guards and/or arming teachers (with training). Potentially offer law enforcement officers space to work from so there is a police presence. Surely we can leverage our current experts and expenditures for the desired outcome.

3) Related to items discussed at the (school) board meeting in the previous section, the well-deserved bonuses of $250 were mentioned. However, why were not part-time employees included? And why only $250? Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, companies have been able to distribute $1,000 bonuses yearly due to a business-friendly environment. Again, money can be found for buildings that do not correlate to student performance, so why not take care of all the caring employees in the district?

4) Why did the courthouse vote fail? Simple. The Darlington County School District previously caught even some elected officials unaware and the measure was moving forward before good information could get out to the community. Shame on us in the grassroots, yes. But no one was thinking that with declining enrollments and business not coming and/or leaving the county, that the school district would not even consider using surplus funds or really evaluating if, rather than (building) new schools, they could repair or lease space.
Remember, we have the Lamar results that show us it is not the buildings that lead to student excellence. It is obvious that the Lamar human resources (directors) need to be allowed to lead some of the county efforts. Taxpayers … simply cannot sustain two major efforts (new schools and a new courthouse). The marginal school district (Lamar excepted) took the perhaps more badly needed courthouse effort off the table.
Darlington County is doomed to repeated failures if the Darlington County School District cannot be a good community partner.

In 2019, County Council and the city councils need to do a better job of standing up and challenging this public institution using tax dollars to lobby and create real estate deals against the community it is supposed to be serving. The state and the elected officials simply must do more in calling in the board and its administration into doing the public good and getting the right information out to the public (will they ever address the surplus fund)?

Wishing County Council, municipal officials and fellow residents a peaceful and restful holiday season and to come back united in 2019!

Diane DeLucia,

Author: Rachel Howell

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