Blogger runs for school board

Among the e-mails awaiting me upon my return today was this one:

Happy New

You know me from my writing and
protesting about the Confederate flag: I write the blog takedowntheflag.  Some of you
also know me as an active volunteer for Barack Obama and for Anton

I’m writing to tell you that I’m
running for the vacant seat on the Richland Two School Board.  There are nine
candidates, and whoever gets the most votes gets elected (no runoff).  The
election is on Tuesday, Jan 20, and in-person absentee voting is
going on now.  One of the major tasks of the school board will be the oversight
of the building of new schools.  The voters passed a $306 million bond
referendum for new schools in November.

In Richland District Two, we need to

  • build new,
    well-designed schools to accommodate the amazing growth in our
  • provide more technology
    for students and more ways for students to be engaged in both curricular and
    extracurricular activities.
  • develop strategies to
    address No Child Left Behind and Act 388 so that we’re serving all students,
    teachers, parents, and everyone in our community.

I'm a public school teacher, and I
have a PhD in engineering from Northwestern University.  I teach math in Sumter
(we have a carpool); my sister Tracy teaches math in Hilton Head; my sister
Kelly teaches math in Atlanta; and my brother Kevin also teaches math in
Atlanta.  My wife Amy and I have two children. Our son Aidan is 6 years old and
is a first-grader at Polo Road Elementary School (we like the Spanish program
there). Our daughter Kate is 2½, and we plan to enroll her in one of Richland
Two’s child development programs this fall.

What I’m saying is: I'm a public
school teacher and a well-qualified candidate. I've got a huge amount of
interest in the position, and I will do an awesome job.  Please check out the
attached flyer “A Step Ahead” and my candidate website for more information
about me and about the issues.  Also, I invite you to the Candidate Forum on
Tuesday, Jan 6 at 6pm in the District Auditorium at Richland Northeast High
School.  Please spread the word about my candidacy to any voters you know in
Richland Two.  I could use all the help I can get between now and Jan 20! 



Michael Rodgers,

Maybe Doug Ross could offer him some advice, having also run for that board, if I recall…

By the way, here's the attachment
to which Michael referred.

41 thoughts on “Blogger runs for school board

  1. Doug Ross

    My advice:
    Don’t expect to win unless you are willing to compromise your principles to become a rubber stamp for the administration.
    The deck is stacked against anyone who does not meet the administration’s approval.
    FYI, I got the same email and forwarded it on to all my Richland 2 neighbors. I’d love to see some fresh faces on the school board. Several have been on there for more than a decade, a couple for nearly two decades.

  2. Doug Ross

    Remember, Richland Two has approved three bond referendums in this decade totaling a half BILLION dollars.
    Not once has any school board member said no to the spending. New administration building for $18M? Sure. New football stadium which will be used 20 days a year? Sure. Five new elementary schools in a couple mile radius? Sure. Do something to lower the dropout rate? Uh, we’ll get back to you on that one. Pay for performance for teachers? Let’s table that one. Strict discipline standards? Let’s form a fact finding committee and report back in 18 months.

  3. martin

    isn’t this dual office holding and against SC law? we have a lot of that where i live and i’m pretty sick of it. why should i respect someone who’s breaking the law, especially if they want to hold public office?

  4. p.m.

    Speaking as a school board member in another county, Michael, if it’s legal for you to teach public school in Sumter and serve on the school board in Richland 2, it shouldn’t be, or at least the DOE shouldn’t tolerate it.
    Personally, I think you should be required to live in the county where you teach, just like you have to live in the county where you seek office. I’d also go so far as to say that principle is one heck of a lot more important than whether there’s a Confederate flag at the State House. Commuting teachers and administrators rob poor districts’ schools of some precious part of what little community identity they have, and then they spend their paychecks somewhere else, and of course their children attend schools in that same somewhere else, which makes those teachers and administrators virtually anonymous within the community they serve. That’s far from the best scenario. In fact, it stinks.

  5. Michael Rodgers

    Thanks for your comments. I would love to hear more about your experiences and get any advice from you as a school board member. I’m going to be a wonderful school board member in Richland Two. I have a lot of knowledge, experience, and ideas about education. I live in Richland Two, and I am very active in my community.
    “Blogger” is just one of the many things I do, and the takdowntheflag blog is both an advocacy blog for the House Bill H-3588 and an awareness blog about the lack of transparency and accountability at the State House.
    Finally, yes, when a school district chooses to hire teachers and administrators from outside their district, they have made a trade-off. Restricting school districts so they cannot do so would be possible (we’d need a bill), but would that restrict a school district’s pool of applicants too much? It’s an interesting question.
    As it is now, school districts hire a mix of teachers from SC, other states, and from foreign countries. Most teachers choose to live in the district in which they are hired. Having a few teachers who live outside of the district has advantages as well as disadvantages. Many students are interested in the colleges here in Columbia, and I can tell them about the professors I play racquetball with, etc.
    Best Regards,

  6. Rich

    Teachers and administrators below the rank of superintendent cannot legally be required to live in the district where they work in S.C. There would only be a conflict of interest with regard to the school board if a teacher were both an employee and a board member in the same district. That is illegal.
    As for the Confederate battle flag, it is important to remember that fully 1/3 of this state is African American and their view of the battle flag is, as you might well imagine, rather negative. While many S.C. whites believe it to be a part of their heritage (and it arguably is), that does not negate the fact that the flag stood for rebellion against the Union and the preservation of slavery. As most Confederates stated at the time of secession, they were determined to preserve slavery and simply did not believe Lincoln when he stated that the preservation of the Union was his top priority, with or without slavery.
    I would ask, is it a good idea to have a flag atop the State House that does not represent all of us? If the battle flag does not represent rebellion, secession, and the preservation of slavery, then what does it represent??

  7. p.m.

    Please explain this to me, Rich: If a newspaper can require not only that I live in the county that newspaper serves, but also join a service organization (Rotary, etc.) within that county in order to work for that newspaper, why can’t the DOE require teachers to live where they work?

  8. Rich

    Private firms can make any requirement that is non-discriminatory and does not otherwise violate existing law a condition of employment.
    Public agencies have far fewer rights over the lives, working conditions, and terms of compensation for civil servants.
    It has always been the case that private firms can be more restrictive of their employees than public agencies.

  9. Brad Warthen

    What newspaper does that? I mean, as a practical matter, it would be pretty hard to work for a newspaper if you didn’t live close by — unless you were in a remote bureau, in which case practicality would demand that you live close to THAT office — but I hadn’t heard about that as a requirement.
    Of course, I DID originally join Rotary because my publisher wanted me to. But the paper pays the dues.

  10. SpencerGantt

    Good for you. At least you’re somebody new and, hopefully, not affiliated with a political party. NEW is what we need, not just at the school board and local level, but county, state and national as well.
    On “the flag”, it and all other statehouse grounds momentos and memorabilia are pretty much locked in unless you can get 2/3 of each house to do away with the current bill which controls them. Personally, I’d like to see every single item … statues, flags, plaques, whatever … removed from the grounds and placed in a People’s Park down toward the river. Anyone who sponsors any such remembrance could do so at the Park, pay for it themselves and provide upkeep. This includes the US flag which should only fly atop any state building on specified Federal holidays without the SC flag being there. After all, it’s the property of the People of South Carolina, not the Federal government. JMHO, of course.

  11. Lee Muller

    Rotary went downhill when it expanded its membership from business owners only to include managers, editors, administrators and public bureaucrats.
    Lee Muller
    former President of Rotary International

  12. p.m.

    Cheraw, Brad, almost your old stomping grounds. They wanted me to move into Chesterfield County from a neighboring locale. I didn’t. No one offered to pay my Rotary dues. The newspaper was a part of Community Newspapers Inc. then. I don’t know if it still is, and after a little research online, I still don’t.
    Rich, thanks, but your answer doesn’t really tell me much. Why superintendents and teachers might differ under the law, when both are contractual employees, and whether they must differ under the law for some reason — that’s what I want to know.

  13. Workin' Tommy C

    Another Yankee carpetbagger telling us how to live? No thanks!
    The Confederate flag is about self-determination and consent of the governed according to the U.S. Constitution–something most folks seem to find too radical nowadays. Fighting the flag and attempting to erase all tributes to those who fought is cowardice. It’s a lot easier for most to denigrate dead soldiers and one’s heritage than to tackle the really tough issues we face.

  14. p.m.

    Furthermore, Rich, when I say a teacher in one county shouldn’t serve on the school board in another, I’m not concerned about a conflict of interest. It’s just too much presence at the public trough at too many levels for one person. Would it make sense (cents?) (scents?) for a professor at Clemson to sit on the USC Board of Trustees?

  15. Lee Muller

    One perk of being a public school teacher is being able to teach in a better school than the ones where you live, so your children can go to those better schools.
    Public school teachers, as an occupation, are right there with doctors in the percentage of them sending their children to private schools, over 30% of them in Chicago and Washington, DC.
    When the people cooking your food are not eating what they serve, it should tell you that they know something about the quality.

  16. Randy E

    Michael, writing as a long time SC teacher who is working on a PhD in education, I’ve liked your reasoning exhibited on this blog. I think your insight as a teacher could be invaluable.
    Given this, I am disappointed with your three bullet points for reform listed above. While schools can be better designed, I don’t see this as a pressing issue. R2 is on the forefront of technology in SC schools. NCLB redesigned is not going to have a meaningful effect.
    Why do you not make the achievement gap between white and minority students a major or even the highest priority? Here are district results showing the extent of the chasm.
    2008 End of Course Exams, C or higher
    algebra 1 – 84% of white vs 61% of black
    English 1 – 75% white vs 46% black
    physical science – 68% white vs 37% black
    2007 End of Course Exams, passing rate all tests
    92% white vs 70% black
    2007 graduation rates
    84% white vs 72% black
    2007 HSAP passing
    98% white vs 92% black
    (This last one is deceiving because passing doesn’t indicate level of mastery. For example, in 2006 at Blythewood HS 79% of white students scored proficient or advanced on the English section compared to 50% of black students.)
    When you make this the foundation of your platform, I’ll be convinced you have something profound to offer.

  17. Michael Rodgers

    You raise an important point. I am going to bring the teacher’s perspective to the board in ways that will help the school district, the schools, and the community address this situation. I’ve described, albeit too briefly, in the second and third bullets what the problems and the solutions are.
    The second bullet is about student engagement with learning and with the schools. Many students are not engaged in the classroom activities, and they then perform poorly on tests, cause classroom disruption problems, and drop out. Increasing technology is one of our strengths in Richland Two, and we need to continue to build on that strength as well as find other ways.
    The third bullet is about funding. It’s easy for a group of (or several individual) students in a class to consistently rebuff a teacher’s insistence on their doing their work at the proper concentration level. Why? Because the class sizes are too high, there are too few adults / children, and the amount of time for individual instruction with students is too low.
    Michael Rodgers

  18. Doug Ross

    I have to disagree with you regarding class size having much of an impact on dealing with students who have “concentration level” issues. I’ve had three kids go through K-high school in Richland 2. There have been behavior issues that impacted my kids’ classes even when there were only 12-14 kids in a class.
    The problem in my view is the difficulty the administration has in supporting teachers when enforcing discipline in the classroom. Respect for teachers and rules is sorely lacking. Fear of litigation drives some behavior.
    I recall my youngest son’s experience in first grade. Not a single student in the class ended up eligible for the ALERT program. Why? Because the teacher had to deal every single day with a kid whose behavior was off the charts and yet the boy’s mother (a lawyer) threatened lawsuits if any punishment was imposed.
    Then there is the transition of education to a Burger King mentality (Have It Your Way!) over the years. Whoever got the bright idea that teachers need to treat students and their parents like individual customers started the ball rolling in the wrong direction.
    Class size is a red herring. Class discipline is the issue.

  19. Lee Muller

    There is no school solution to the achievement differences between white students and black students. Let’s stop wasting tax money on it.
    The problem is the degraded subculture where 70% of black children are born outside marriage, 90% spend at least some of their lives with only one parent or no parent, 50% drop out of school, and 25% of black men are convicted of some crime.

  20. Doug Ross

    Some factual information to clarify Lee’s percentages:
    From National Review Online:
    “As mentioned yesterday, the National Center for Health Statistics came out with its latest numbers yesterday (final data for 2006), and they aren’t good. By population subgroup, the percentage of children born out of wedlock is 70.7 percent for non-Hispanic blacks, 64.6 percent for American Indians/Alaska Natives, 49.9 percent for Hispanics, 26.6 percent for non-Hispanic whites, and 16.5 percent for Asians/Pacific Islanders. Illegitimacy correlates with just about any social problem you can name (poverty, crime, dropping out of school, substance abuse, etc.), and it — not discrimination — is the principal cause of racial disparities in all these areas. But NRO readers know all that.”

    Fix the family, fix the schools. It doesn’t work in reverse.

  21. Randy E

    So, Randy, what you’re saying is, all that really matters to you is race? – pm
    I post hard statistics reflecting a major deficiency in our educational system and that’s all you can offer?
    Doug, we’re not going to fix families. We can mitigate some of the problems either with social programs and have Sanford, pm, and other every man for himself ideologues demagogue endlessly or we can cross our fingers that people will be good parents like you.
    Given this, we have to play the cards as dealt. This means we intervene to the best of our ability because large numbers of students receiving a poor education or dropping out affects all of us – even if we turn a blind eye to the achievement gap.

  22. Randy E

    Michael, I have to agree with Doug about class size and suggest the same applies to technology. There are fundamental problems that educators and lay people do not address.
    As a teacher, are you suggesting that you are not reaching many kids because they don’t have enough technology? Are you suggesting that when your classes had less students every single kid was academically successful?
    I have had students achieve academically in large classes or without sufficient technology and I have had kids in AP with a small class size and lots of technology underperform terribly.
    Here’s a challenge for you. Identify a reform Richland 2 has undertaken that targets the achievement gap and that was a major priority. In the 10 years I spent in that district, I remember one. In the mid 90s they were focusing on black males because that was the lowest performing subgroup. The initiative was superficial and disipated in a couple years. It’s time a board member set this as a priority.

  23. Michael Rodgers

    You’re exactly right. As I wrote in an email to one of your Richland Two neighbors who contacted me:
    “Discipline is indeed now the biggest problem in the schools. As a teacher, I know how tough it is for teachers and for the students who consistently demonstrate their good values. We need to help teachers in their efforts to require students to comply with teacher authority. Too many students are defiant and disruptive, and the system isn’t reacting fast enough and isn’t empowering teachers enough to deal with these students directly. The vast majority of these defiant and disruptive students will comply with teacher authority (and thereby become well-behaved and educated) if we empower teachers. As an analogy, flight attendants have an easier time kicking unruly passengers off a plane than teachers have sending an unruly student out of class.”
    I’m starting to frame the discipline/class size issue as an instructional time issue. And you’re right, if there’s even just one continuously disruptive student, it almost doesn’t matter how many other well-behaved students are in the class, because the disruptive student gets practically all of the teacher’s time.
    Veteran teachers can often handle the disruptive student situation and nip it in the bud, regardless of the amount of support that the administration gives. New teachers typically cannot unless the administration is super-supportive. I’d like to greatly expand the mentoring programs for new teachers so that the veterans can show the new teachers how to demand and receive student compliance with teacher authority.
    We’ve got to figure out how to (1) make students hate to not comply with teacher authority and (2) make it easy for them to comply. We teachers focus a lot on (2) and we create lots of interesting lessons that are at their level. But we’re putting the cart before the horse! Without discipline (and you’re right, a lot of that comes from the parents) in the schools, there can be no education.
    Having exciting extracurricular activities that students and teachers are involved in helps class discipline. I can tell the coaches when student-athletes are disruptive in my class, and the coaches let the students know (by making them run and run and run) that they will not tolerate poor behavior by their players. We can have similar teamwork for every extracurricular activity (chorale, math team, etc.).
    Finally, technology can and should be used so that every student gets their own randomized drills and tests, so that cheating is eliminated. And as they master the drills, we must have the students move on towards applying what they’ve learned with projects that require higher-level (critical) thinking. When we move away from a seat-time model and towards a knowledge/work model, we will vastly improve education. Too many kids have figured out how to get the highest grade they possibly can without learning anything (and sometimes they pass, and sometimes they graduate, and that’s scary.).

  24. Doug Ross

    Perhaps Michael can ask Melinda Anderson who has been on the R2 school board for 16+ years what she has done to address the achievement gap issue.

  25. Doug Ross

    Also, the same source (Education Week) that Brad used to tout the virtues of Inez Tenenbaum because they gave the state high grades for “standards” has released its full report card for South Carolina public education:
    “South Carolina public schools earned a “D” for student achievement (again)
    and a “D-” for spending practices (despite over $11,480 in per student allocation)
    also a “D-” for college readiness
    and worst of all, an “F” for the absolute status of K-12 Achievement”
    Maybe that’s why Obama went in another direction, eh? All the window dressing and public relations can’t cover up the actual results.

  26. Doug Ross

    I hope Michael will let us know about his experience running for the school board. I was out of town last week so I missed the candidate’s forum but happened to catch part of it on cable tv.
    The old “voucher” red herring was thrown in as one of the questions to the candidates (just as it was back in 2002 when I ran).
    Vouchers are not and will not be an issue in Richland 2.

  27. Palmetto22

    Often board members are in attendance at events during the school day. For example, the RSD2 Board of Trustee members visit every school during the first week of each school year and attend several functions/performances throughout the year. Since you are a teacher in Sumter, how do you plan to be available during the school day for Richland Two events? Will you be securing a substitute teacher for you students in Sumter or will you not attend school-day events in RSD2?

  28. Lee Muller

    No, the taxpayers do not have to “play the cards dealt”, in the form of students from no homes and criminal parents, who have little chance of finishing school or getting much out of it.
    The schools are involved in dealing those cards, by providing school nurses for pregnant students, amoral sex education which is merely how-to instruction, school lunches, school breakfast, etc.
    Schools claim to be returning to ‘character education’. Well, you can’t teach much character when you are subsidizing and endorsing illegitimate childbearing.
    Moral, married, working taxpayers have no obligation to provide one cent to immoral, freeloading dope addicts and drunks who abuse their unwanted children by using them as a source of government cash. We have been overly nice, and it has backfired, by producing more and more people who are incapable of taking care of themselves, instead of helping them out of poverty.

  29. BouseLede

    nuhv please visit cialis <a href=>cialis</a> ql991

  30. Phermemem

    How Celebrity Sex Tapes Ruined America, One Thrust At A Time

    The Three Fates are almost done spinning the American narrative, Atropos readying her scissors to deliver one final snip. When the story is done the great heralding beacon of the end of days will burn brightly, in the form of a Britney Spears sex tape. Yes indeed the misbegotten pop star apparently filmed herself in flagrante delicto with her old creepy paparazzo boyfriend Adnan Ghalib, and no

Comments are closed.