Kevin Boozer Staff Writer
December 18, 2013
WINNSBORO — Fairfield County Superintendent of Schools J.R. Green held another breakfast at the district office Dec. 10 to give an update on the district and to field questions community leaders might have about its mission, direction and successes.
At that time he spoke to the situation of FMS Middle School math teacher David Toney who missed coaching in the state championship game because he was arrested for marijuana possession while en route to the game. Green said the coach was on leave per district policy and as of Dec. 10 he was still gathering facts in the case.
Green said the situation likely would be resolved quickly and called Toney a dynamic math teacher. He said it concerned him that the district might lose such a teacher but said that due process needed to run its course. Green said he would make a recommendation to be voted upon by the school board. The school board meets tonight at 6 p.m.
With that recent news addressed, Green moved into an overview of school report cards and the high school graduation rate. Green also spoke on the effects the situation of poverty has on student learning, a topic that came up and was discussed at length at a town hall meeting moderated by Rep. MaryGail Douglas.
Students working to change culture
Green said teens had been responsible with their off-campus lunch privileges and that he sees the program as an incentive for students to work harder to prepare for HSAP. Students must have no disciplinary infractions, have passed both sections of HSAP and have their graduation credits if they are to receive the off campus lunch privileges.
Students have been responsible with the privilege and are helping change the culture, Green said. Underclassmen with either an 1100 SAT or 24 ACT score also can earn off-campus lunch privileges.
Green said career center construction is on schedule and that in an upcoming board work session they will decide which model to use, a construction manager at risk model or a contractor model.Green encouraged local vendors to contact Greg Twitty or himself to get information about the processes they need to go through to be considered by the district for construction work.
“As a district it is important for us to support local vendors yet be responsible with the taxpayers money,” he said.
Green reported the Bring Your Own Device Policy the district implemented was going well. He said the policy gives another tool to engage students and said that thanks to significant tracking mechanisms, there had been few thefts of electronic devices.
Using the system, a lost device can be pinpointed within the building, and a few were recovered in that fashion. Green said the devices give students less idle time and that is a positive thing with regard to instruction and discipline.
Green also touched on graduation rate and school report cards. The district, he said was two points from a good overall rating and had an excellent growth rating. He said the FCHS graduation rate of over 80 percent is as good as one would find anywhere in South Carolina.
When asked by Douglas about Common Core standards, Green said he favored the standards as a way to not only increase rigor but to compare apples to apples when states are judged on academic achievement. He acknowledged that systemic poverty is something he, his staff and his students must work to overcome and noted how many challenges the children in this district face where seven of 10 children are born to unwed mothers.
“Some kids from those situations are doing tremendous work,” he said and pointed out he was not blaming parents for problems. We have to work on solutions and find a way (to succeed) regardless and our goal is to out perform not only districts like ours but to outperform districts with more affluent students.”
In other business:
• The STEM Early College Academy is recruiting its third cohort of students. Applications are due in January and students will be accepted into the program in February. Green mentioned how favorably the rigorous program met and exceeded coursework from Hammond Academy.
• Jeff Archie, SCANA senior vice president and Chief Nuclear Officer, introduced Elizabeth Salas, a FCHS graduate who completed Winthrop this spring and now is employed at V.C. Summer. She worked there as a high school intern, earned a finance degree and then became part of the team there — a model he wants to see duplicated with other promising local students in the future.
Green and community leaders will meet again for another breakfast and discussion in March.