June 2017 - One of the groups I meet with regularly is Student Cabinet, which is made up of student council officers from every grade from each of our high schools. I get very (very, very) honest feedback and a lot of extremely useful information and perspective from this group. At the last meeting of the year, I always ask the seniors in the group to talk about their plans and their favorite teachers and memories from their school careers. I’m always touched by what they have to say because it’s all so genuine. I’m also always struck by the fact that what kids find as memorable and important doesn’t really change even as the world has changed a lot. I find this comforting.
May 2017 - At the end of this month, our high school seniors will be walking across the stage to receive their diplomas. High school graduation is a big accomplishment and one to be proud of. It’s an occasion to celebrate the accomplishments of 13 years of school and to remember all the important experiences of these years.
April 2017 - In addition to other weighty issues, this year’s General Assembly is discussing whether or not the state superintendent of education should be appointed by the governor and what the qualifications for the superintendent should be. It appears that in 2018, citizens will be asked to vote on whether or not to appoint the state superintendent of education.
March 2017 - Kershaw County is growing, to be sure. The County’s “Vision 2030” Plan, a very thorough and visionary document, contains a projection that the population of Kershaw County will increase to 72,000 people by 13 years from now. Most of this growth is expected to occur along the I-20 corridor between Elgin and Cassatt, although there is also indication of unforeseen growth in the North Central area.
February 2017 - I feel like a broken record (there’s an archaic cultural reference for you) every year when I say this, but what happens in the domed building in Columbia every year when the South Carolina General Assembly convenes has tremendous impact on the quality of education we can provide for our children. Funding, curriculum, calendar, personnel law and discipline policy are just a few of the educational areas that the General Assembly can and does control. Several areas in particular bear watching this year.
January 2017 - With the start of the new General Assembly session here in South Carolina and the beginning of a new administration in Washington, public education will, as usual, be a subject of debate for our state and national leaders. These debates tend to both amuse and irritate me because they end up being more oriented to sound bites, tweets, political posturing and quick fixes than to actual solutions.
December 2016 - On November 8, the voters of Kershaw County overwhelmingly approved a bond referendum to complete $129 million in construction and renovation projects in our district. Since Election Day, many people have expressed their excitement to me about what this will mean for our students and our community as a whole. I am deeply grateful for the community’s support of the referendum and look forward to using this opportunity to make Kershaw County an even better place to live and raise a family.With the vote over, what happens next?
November 2016 - Of late, I’ve been thinking a lot about how things have gotten to be the way they are. I read something recently about the United States Education Department reaching its 37th anniversary. President Jimmy Carter signed the legislation creating this cabinet level department in October of 1979. At the time, I can’t say I really noticed this event. I was teaching and coaching and trying to finish my master’s degree. The intricacies of national education policy weren’t much on my radar just then.
October 2016 - A community member recently remarked to me that there are a lot of things that can be done to help our students, our teachers and our schools that don’t cost money or require additional resources. I absolutely agree. That got me to thinking about ways that people in the community could give of their time and talent to help our children learn, grow and succeed.
September 2016 - Over much of the past year, the Kershaw County School Board has worked very diligently on the development of a referendum proposal to address the school district’s most critical facility needs. This referendum proposal will be on the Nov. 8 ballot. The process to finalize the proposal included 13 public feedback meetings and 16 other public discussions during regularly-scheduled school board meetings.
August 2016 - During my third year in college way back in 1974, I had the opportunity to do an overseas study semester in France. I lived in Nantes, a port city on the Loire River in the northwest of France. I boarded with a family in an attic room that featured a very low ceiling and a minimum of heat and hot water. I studied at the local university, and subsisted mostly on a diet of bread, cheese, jam, chocolate and strong coffee. I set up my class and study schedule so that I could travel on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. On those days, I hitchhiked throughout France (it was safe to do then) to see the sites and learn about the culture first-hand.
July 2016 - After the school year ends and the dust settles, it’s always fun and gratifying for me to look at the accomplishments of our students and staff over the past year. As I frequently say, the Kershaw County School District (KCSD) consistently outperforms its resources. The 2015-16 school year was certainly a year of noteworthy achievement.
June 2016 - Throughout the school year, I meet with student government leaders from our three high schools. At the last meeting, I ask the seniors in the group to talk about their plans, their favorite teachers and memories from their school careers. I’m always both touched and inspired by what they say. I think what these young people shared with me is worth sharing with the entire community.
May 2016 - Shortly after I presented a proposed budget to the School Board in April, a community member sent me a graph developed by the Cato Institute, an inside the D.C. Beltway think tank. The graph shows the huge increase in education spending since 1970 as compared to significantly lower increases in test scores during the same period. I have been seen this graph on multiple occasions over the past several years, and it’s definitely a perennial with social media types.
April 2016 - Watching this year’s presidential campaign has been interesting, to say the least. There’s obviously a lot of pent-up citizen anger about “Washington” and “the Establishment.” A 2105 study by the Pew Research Center indicated that only 19 percent of those surveyed indicated trust in the federal government. There was a lot of the same kind of anger about when I voted in my first Presidential election back in 1972. The famous humorist Will Rogers made a career out of poking fun at Washington, even back in the 1930s. The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess.
March 2016 - Parents talk with me about a variety of concerns during the course of a normal school year. A lot of these conversations (and for that matter, a lot of social media patter) relate in one way or another to perceived teacher quality. Every parent wants his or her child to have an excellent teacher, and rightfully so. The research is very clear that teacher quality is the most significant factor in student achievement.
February 2016 - A few weeks back, superintendents in our state were invited by Governor Haley to hear a briefing on her education budget initiatives, which she will ask the General Assembly to consider during its current session. Over the past couple of years, Governor Haley has taken an increasingly “hands-on” approach to education. This is certainly a positive change from her predecessor.
January 2016 - After several years of what has become typical partisan haggling, Congress has finally reworked its foundation education legislation. “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) has been replaced by the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA). NCLB, which basically reduced educational accountability to standardized test results, had pretty much overstayed its welcome. The law’s rigid “beat’em with a two-by-four” approach to educational improvement ended up creating more confusion and conflict than promoting actual progress.
November 2015 - Time flies…School starts in August and you blink a couple of times and it’s Thanksgiving and then we’re in the Christmas season. I had a conversation recently with a long-time member of the local business community, and he suggested I write something about how shopping locally benefits our schools and the community as a whole.
June 2015 - It’s hard to believe that the 2014-15 school year is over. The longer I work in this profession, the faster the school years seem to go. June is a month that I try to both reflect on the past year and set my sights on everything that needs to be done during the coming school year. [ Read more ]
April 2015 - I was extremely pleased earlier this year to be invited with School Board Chairman Ron Blackmon to participate in the County Council planning retreat. It was a very informative experience for both of us. At the retreat, I was asked to outline what I see as the school district’s most critical challenges. [ Read more ]