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School board should be more concerned with Education

April 26, 2007


By Louis W. Neiger, CLU


South Carolina has increased education spending by 137 % over the past two decades, which ranks 3rd highest in the nation.  ACT & SAT Scores according to the College Board for 2006 in South Carolina continue to be among the lowest in the nation.

Newberry County schools are very close to all these statistics being near the bottom scholastically and near the top in spending increases with Lexington County coming in a little better.

The Newberry administrator states our school system receives around $7500 per student from federal, state and local taxes and more per student for the other programs.  I have many friends in Newberry and Lexington that have graduated from the public school system and have had successes in their endeavors.  We have good teachers and it appears we have hired highly educated administrators.

Speaking to folks over the last few years and more recently, administrators blame the parents for lack parental involvement, not having the highest quality of teachers and as always not enough money. The teachers blame the administrators and parents. The parents blame the schools.  The school board claims they are doing the best they can with the limited money.

I attended two school board meetings in February & March and was dismayed. In the first meeting a good amount of time was taken up with representatives from every school in Newberry honoring our school board members by adding a book to their individual libraries.  Each spoke about how dedicated the board is.  I considered this a great waste of time for our board members and other folks in attendance.

The March 5th 2007 Special school board meeting was about the estimated growth and the need for more classroom space.  I was impressed by how involved and knowledgeable most of the board members were.  Just prior to the start of the March 5th meeting I approached the newly elected school board chairman with all the board members seated. I asked the chairman what was the purpose of the school board.  He answered “for the operation of the school and funding for improvements.” Continuing our discussion, I followed up by asking what the board is planning to do about nearly fifty percent of our students dropping out of Newberry County high schools between 9th and 12 grades for the past several years.  He stated they cannot micro manage the schools, that is why they hired an administrator.  I then asked the administrator, who was seated to his left, and he also said they cannot micro manage the schools.

 At the end of the special school board meeting about adding more classroom space, I was thinking of how many students are NOT getting a quality education and of how much is being wasted in manpower, money and good resources. No sooner had that thought passed when I heard a school board member’s, final comment that we must find money and look to expanding the gym so we can have championship games here in Newberry.  I almost fell off my seat. Nearly fifty percent of our students that are entering 9th grade will drop out before 12th grade.   The ones left are a high percentage of students not proficient in reading, writing, and math. The board members appeared to be more concerned about having championship games in Newberry.  Our school board members, administrators and parents should be more concerned with having championship schools scholastically, not wasting money, manpower and good resources. Get the money to the classroom.

I just read an article from The Wall Street Journal, Rontrell’s Choice, by Brendan Miniter, March 3, 2007.  It speaks of 55-year-old Faye Brown a retired public school teacher who founded Capers Preparatory Academy, in 2003, on Johns Island South Carolina, a rural, poor community. “ She rents out office space for forty-two students, kindergarten through 12th grade, with a yearly budget of – $160,000.  Only five students are from two parent homes. Many kids show up without lunch.   Often parents fail to make their monthly tuition bills. The article states most students are African American.  Mrs. Brown sometimes is forced to dip into her retirement account to keep the school running. The school places heavy emphasis on reading, writing and math.  As a result the schools average combined SAT score is 1150 that is 164 points above the state average. St Johns High School has an average SAT score of 788.  In 2007 the school expects every one of its students to go on to college. Emphasizes is on education NOT MONEY at Capers.

I believe most of our current school board members are fine people and want the best education for our children.  The board should split up and start meeting weekly or bi- weekly with the administrator and representatives from every school to discuss what they have done to make changes, what are the results and what are other possible ways to help the teachers succeed at giving the best education to the children.

There are many private schools that are having great successes.  Many home school parents have teachers’ credentials and have chosen to home school.  They have developed teaching techniques that many have said if they ever go back teaching they would try and implement.  These people should be sought out and contacted by the school administrators to see what is working.

One suggestion would be that if a child is not proficient in the basic skills any one month a certified letter be sent to the parent.  If the child or young adult is not proficient in the basic skill (not just basic level) than the child has no sports or other activity. If at the end of one year the school has not made at least a ten percent improvement than all extra activities, sports and trips stop for one year, or until at least a ten percent improvement per year to at least a 90% level.

Is this tough, NO, not when considering the alternatives, lower grades, high drop out rates, which adversely impacts the state with high incarceration rates and limited earning power. The South Carolina Education Bench Marking Project concluded a 5% increase in South Carolina’s graduation rate would result in $150 million more for the state.   What a shot of money to put back into education.

In conclusion, we voted our school board members in. It is time to stop the busy work and get down to business. Seek to be number ONE. Think outside the box look at and talk to the folks from some of these private schools or look at the global schools and find out why and how they are successful and make changes NOW.  We cannot afford another decade of mediocrity. Require our school administrators and teachers to strive to be number one.  No one remembers number two.

Sir Winston Churchill stated, “It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required.”

Louis W. Neiger, CLU has worked in the Insurance Planning field since 1981.

 Lou has been published in several papers as a guest columnist around South Carolina.  He and his family live in Newberry.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2008 9:42 AM

    OK, let me repeat that… I can get boistrous with my willing menu Do you want a fresh joke from net? Where did King Tut go to ease his back pain? The Cairo-practor!

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