Wednesday, August 14, 2013

From the House

Bluffton Today

Thanks to all the people who called about my columns on local business creativity and success. We have managed to find the balance between a good business environment and a great place to live. This summer has not only been the most productive in a very long time but we also included a large number of summer jobs for younger folks, including our children. Many of these summer jobs will morph into part-time employment, as school gets under way.

Speaking of schools, we received the latest school report cards for the various school systems. As chairman of the Jasper County delegation, I am chagrined but not surprised that once again, the Jasper County School District received an “F” for every school and the district as a whole. This was not just a nearly passing grade that fell slightly below the line; it was the lowest in the state.

Admittedly, there were some political problems with the Election Commission that may have been an indirect part of the problem, but the delegation instituted a good reform that should at least allow for a fairer school board election next time around. We also had some unsettling revelations during public comment, concerning the perception of an atmosphere of fear and intimidation within the school district. Given an opportunity to explain, the district superintendent and her crew chose instead to try and make it a racial issue.

Those who know me, know that I grew up in a household with half a dozen brothers, as well as, over the years, at least twenty-five foster brothers and sisters of every size, shape, race or creed. Automatically dropping the race card doesn’t play with me. We simply put it back in the deck and start over. Also, if your intent is to intimidate, you might as well pack a lunch, because you are in for a wait. What cannot wait is for the Jasper County School Board to do what should have been done already, which is to replace Superintendent Vashti Washington.

Two years of excuses do not excuse, or explain such a dramatic, dispiriting and intolerable record of failure. I have heard the dozens of calls and read the emails of frustrated and fed up parents who are simply furious that their children cannot receive a decent education in the public schools their taxes support. Those who can afford private school have long since gone, and grudgingly accept what amounts to double taxation.

Consequently, I am calling on the parents of Jasper County to contact the members of their school board and demand a change. Call the Secretary of Education, Dr. Zais (803-734-5800). Call the governor’s office (803-734-2100). Write letters to the papers that detail the litany of grievances so that every voter will demand reform of this failing school system.

Friends, I talk a lot in this column about the importance of jobs and job creation-- about how good jobs support stable families and wholesome communities. This presupposes that potential workers can read, write a sentence, do basic arithmetic, and have the social skills that will allow them to be trained as productive employees. These are the very skills that are not being successfully taught in Jasper County.

We have a vast, and largely untapped resource in Sun City. The number of folks who are willing to mentor, to tutor, to provide the models for successful livelihoods and lives is virtually unlimited. They need to be welcomed and incorporated by a forward-looking school district. We don’t have a single minute or a single person to waste.

Finally, this legislator challenges any who would accept this failure and its inevitable consequences. Our children look to us for the tools to build a good life. The least useful of tools are excuses. It’s time for change.