Mia McLeod says it’s the WHITES injecting race in District 2

I really, really hated to see the first sentence of this story about the Richland School District 2 election:

Race has become the defining issue in the Richland 2 school board election, as rumors circulate of a shift in power from a white-majority to a black-majority board.

Fueled by the activism of an African-American parents’ advocacy organization and a separate white group called the Bi-Partisan Committee, the usually placid election in the Midlands’ largest district has spawned heightened interest and dueling visions for the future of the 27,300-student district….

Appalling. And here’s where I stand on this: I’m opposed to anyone who cares whether the board is majority-white or majority-black. I have no patience with Identity Politics. I wouldn’t lift a finger to affect the racial balance one way or the other.

By contrast, Rep. Mia McLeod is taking a side, labeling the “white” group as a latter-day “White Citizens’ Council.” Which is a pretty heavy-duty accusation. Here’s what she says:

Sadly, race has taken center-stage in Richland Two (R2), thanks to a modern-day White Citizens’ Council (WCC),” disguised as a bipartisan committee. But this WCC isn’t about students, academics, best practices or strengthening and improving public education in the District.

No…this “whites-only” advocacy group has rebranded itself for the sole purpose of interjecting race, racist rhetoric, lies and fear into a school board contest, so that R2’s power and control remains with those who’ve always had it.

It’s no secret that whites are now the minority in R2, but still very much in control. This election could change that, so the WCC was revived to protect the status quo and ensure that no real diversity or talent is elected.

Like you, I would much rather have qualified, competent board members who truly care about our students, parents, teachers and communities. Service with vision, integrity, transparency and accountability should be the benchmarks—not race.

I don’t care whether you’re (former) Elections Director, Lillian McBride, or (current) R2 Superintendent, Debbie Hamm. Incompetence in any “color” is equally offensive and those who condone it based on race, gender, party or friendship are equally wrong.

Realizing that change is imminent, former R2 leaders have joined forces with current R2 leaders to create this unholy alliance and ironically, it’s this White Citizens’ Council—not the Black Parents’ Association, that has strategically placed the issue of race front and center.

By purposely disseminating false, misleading, deliberately divisive rhetoric, R2’s WCC attempts to marginalize and discredit anyone who challenges the status quo. According to one WCC member, “it’s the last stand for a good school district.”

And yet, hiring and electing candidates based on race, not merit, is precisely what they’ve accused the R2 BPA of doing.

Isn’t that “the pot calling the kettle black?”

And because they’ve identified their “picks,” we now know who not to vote for, if we ever wanna see any positive, progressive change in R2.

Let’s start with the WCC’s only African-American endorsee, Cheryl Washington Caution-Parker, a retired R2 Deputy Superintendent who was repeatedly passed over for the top gig.

According to the WCC, she’s aptly qualified. Perhaps she was consistently not promoted because she is black, since current District leaders have secretly opined that R2 isn’t ready for a black Superintendent and “the reason we got rid of (former Superintendent) Katie” is because she promoted too many qualified African-Americans to Administrative positions, making it harder to keep R2 from “looking Black like Richland One.”

Amazingly, Washington Caution-Parker is now conspiring with the same racist operatives who’ve worked against her for years. Clearly qualified, but obviously not the brightest candle in the bunch…

Since the BPA allegedly works so hard to ensure that R2 hires and promotes African-Americans, whether qualified or not…maybe it was actually trying to help by listing her as “white” on it’s website—in keeping with the District’s “whites-only” Superintendent policy.

Perhaps, if the BPA had come to her aid sooner, Washington Caution-Parker might not have gotten bumped out of the Superintendent spot by a white IT Director with only a fraction of the qualifications and experience.

And White Citizens’ Council endorsee #2, James Manning, has proven yet again that he’ll align himself with anyone who’ll help him get re-elected.

Even after admitting that the WCC’s newsletter was chock full of lies, Manning happily accepted the endorsement—proof that he too, is fully supportive of the WCC’s mission and aligned with its values–while latching onto every black church, black parent, black anybody, who’ll help him hoodwink us out of four more years.

But the WCC’s radically racist crusade doesn’t stop there. It also attempts to defame and discredit one of the most qualified, capable, committed candidates, who happens to be African-American.

Why? Because if Amelia McKie (or as the WCC refers to her…the one with “the green signs”) is elected, we’ll have a strong voice on R2’s school board who’ll fight for students, communicate with parents and demand real transparency and accountability.

Contrary to what you’ve heard or read, I’m not a member of the R2 BPA. Neither is she. And if the school board and DO were truly representative of all of the people of R2, there would be no need for a Black Parents’ Association, White Citizens’ Council or this email.

Amelia McKie is a dynamic parent advocate, State SIC Board Member, R2 Ambassador, District spokesperson and SC Education Policy Fellow, who’s maliciously maligned because she poses the biggest threat to the OG’s precious status quo. And unlike the WCC’s “picks,” McKie is a change agent who’s qualified and in this race for the right reasons.

Her candidacy appeals to a vast cross-section of R2 residents because she understands that equity, parity and diversity are key to our individual and collective success.

Since we’re obviously not beyond tactics used during the Civil Rights Movement, ask R2’s WCC why it deliberately distributed false, deceptive, race-based propaganda, touting a predominately white slate to a “whites-only” audience—proving that District leaders still aren’t interested in engaging all of the people of Richland Two.

But as fate would have it, I just did. And now you too, get to see their true colors…

Not sure what to think of all that. But I imagine that some of the white folks who were so tickled that Mia was taking on Lillian McBride and her supporters among the other black members of the county legislative delegation are probably going to be less enchanted now.

114 thoughts on “Mia McLeod says it’s the WHITES injecting race in District 2

  1. Doug Ross

    “I don’t care whether you’re (former) Elections Director, Lillian McBride, or (current) R2 Superintendent, Debbie Hamm”

    Wow. That’s a comparison I hope to never see my name a part of… and very unfair to Ms. Hamm who actually worked to attain her position.

    We got the 4 page color flyer last week from the bi-partisan committee. The front page is devoted to a reprint of the story about 20 year R2 board member Melinda Anderson’s censure for threatening the life of her grandson’s football coach. If she gets re-elected, it says a lot about just how far R2 has fallen — and as a 24 year resident of the district who sent 3 kids through 13 years of school, I know of what I speak. I ran for school board in 2002 and lost badly. But it taught me a great lesson about what really goes on under the covers in a school district.

    The reality is that when the demographics reach a certain tipping point (we may be close), many white families will move on to Lexington and Chapin. Richland 2 will then become Richland 1 with a bunch of lousy schools and a few good ones. The true cause isn’t racism – it’s the overbuilding of cheap homes in the Northeast.

    I hope Mia gets what she wants.

    1. Doug Ross

      If you’ve driven along Two Notch Rd and I77 north of Two Notch, you will see that several school board candidates have billboards (electronic and regular). I am baffled why anyone would spend that much money to win a part time job. Well, I used to be baffled til I saw how much money was spent on building schools and going on “educational” junkets to Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head.

      Cynical me thinks it’s not a leap of imagination to consider kickbacks from construction companies to be a possible perk.

      1. Barry

        It’s not that Doug. I understand why you say that – but I know enough about things to say that’s not it.

        I think it’s more basic. They want to change things and want the power to do so. That’s true of anyone in such a position to some extent.

        The Richland Two things is now mostly about race – sad but true.

        I also believe some of the new folks want to tie the hands of administrators and teachers EVEN FURTHER so to make it almost impossible to remove an unruly student from a school. (It’s already close to impossible)

        The current situation in the district is that many children don’t have intact families- and the teachers and schools are paying the price. Kids don’t care. Some parents care a lot but are ill-equipped to change things. Then there are those parents that don’t care at all.

        1. Norm Ivey

          I’m not sure it’s about “tying the hands” of administrators and teachers. Instead, we have a segment of society that has a feeling of powerlessness. Wanting a seat at the table in order have a voice–not to restrict what’s being done, but to be able to speak for those who feel disenfranchised. Harmon and McKie both spoke eloquently about the issue of discipline at the forum.

          It’s not “nearly impossible” to remove an unruly student from school. Instead, the district’s goal is (as it should be) to do everything possible to keep students in school and to find a way to help them be successful.

          I have never met a parent yet who did not want the best for his or her child. I’ve met parents who don’t have the skills needed to make decisions in the best interest of the child, and I’ve met parents whose circumstances make it difficult to give students all the support they need, but I have never met a parent who doesn’t care.

          1. Norm Ivey

            They want a seat at the table in order have a voice–not to restrict what’s being done, but to be able to speak for those who feel disenfranchised.

            1. Barry

              And I’m still waiting on what a teacher is supposed to do when a disruptive student repeatedly flaunts classroom rules, won’t follow rules, and ignores any correction given by the teacher, or administration- and the parents aren’t willing to help or simply are unable to help.

            2. Norm Ivey


              The only thing a teacher or administrator can do is continue to follow through. The worst cases are eventually expelled or sent to the alternative schools. I am glad that the process is difficult and takes time. Tossing young kids out of school is beneath us as a society.

              Doug has suggested before, and I agree with him, that there should be alternative tracks or programs for students who are unable to behave or learn in a typical classroom setting. I would argue that the typical classroom setting itself should be re-thought, and the use of technology is at least making that more of a possibility.

            3. barry


              I don’t want kids tossed out easily. I doubt that happens anywhere except in some private schools.

              But I know of situations this year where kids are repeatedly fighting – that parents conferences don’t seem to change anything at all- and my wife is forced to try to deal with that student when they are keeping other kids from learning in her class-room.

              That should be unacceptable – but it isn’t.

          2. Barry

            I’ve met parents that don’t care about their children. My wife begs them to come to conferences, schedules them around the parent’s schedule only to have them either not show or cancel.

            Also disagree with you about tying the hands of administrators. I won’t get into the specific examples I could give you on here though as it’s much to close to home.

            1. Norm Ivey

              And still I insist they care. They may not have learned what’s needed to advocate for and educate their child, but they do care. Parenting skills don’t come naturally, and if your own parents did not have those skills, there may not be a role model available for them to emulate.

            2. barry

              “And still I insist they care. They may not have learned what’s needed to advocate for and educate their child”

              my wife has children in her classroom that don’t even know the name of their father- and some that do know their father know that he has 5 kids from 5 different mothers.

              Sorry- but that’s not caring no matter how much spin or feel good thoughts you have on the subject.

            3. Doug Ross

              On the Lonnie B. Nelson Elementary School report card for 2013, it claimed that 100% of the parents had attended a teacher conference. As a parent and former PTO President at that school, I don’t believe that number is close to the truth.

            4. barry


              Based on my experience this year with my wife- I’d say they counted some telephone communication or email communication as a “parent conference.”

              Let me add- in some cases with a child doing fine in school, that would be fine in some situations.

              Some numbers can always be made to work.

          3. Barry

            “Instead, the district’s goal is (as it should be) to do everything possible to keep students in school and to find a way to help them be successful.”

            The black parents group would disagree with you as they state too many are being sent to the alternative school.

            You should never keep kids in a school that pose significant barriers to other kids being able to learn.

            1. Norm Ivey

              “You should never keep kids in a school that pose significant barriers to other kids being able to learn.”

              I understand your point, and it’s a view many share. You should also never give up on a child who is struggling. Whether that means an alternative school, or maybe an alternative track or program, I don’t know, but that disruptive child deserves, and has a right to, an education as well. He matters as much as the other kids.

            2. barry

              “I don’t know, but that disruptive child deserves, and has a right to, an education as well. He matters as much as the other kids.”

              I didn’t say kick him to the curb. They don’t belong in a traditional classroom where kids are trying to learn but are being prevented by someone that can’t control himself/doesn’t know how to control himself/doesn’t want to control himself.

              That’s not fair to anyone.

            3. Doug Ross

              Unfortunately, Barry and Norm, the pendulum has swung to the other side in terms of parents expecting their children to behave in class. Now, any attempts to discipline are frequently met with the parent defending the child, the child claiming to be persecuted, and minor issues being escalated to the principal and district office. And the district doesn’t help matters by instituting a “customer based” approach to dealing with parents where parents are treated like a consumer at a specialty store.

            4. barry

              I agree Doug.

              At my wife’s school, the teachers are “unofficially” encouraged to try to handle things themselves with discipline – this of course while they are trying to teach 30 kids.

              My wife is able to handle most issues- but she has kids in her class that don’t respond to any disciplinary measures. They don’t care – or at least act that way 100% of the time. Send them to lunch detention? That’s a joke. They don’t care. All that does is require my wife to have to sit with them at lunch and ruin her lunch.

              After school suspension? It’s mildly aggravating- but it’s not a big deal.

              Now I will say most of the parents do tell my wife they are sorry and they will get the issue worked out. But most of the time the parents (many are single) don’t know how to correct the problem. They might swat the child or tell them to clean up their act- but they don’t equip the child to correct their behavior. IN fact, they don’t know how to do that- of they don’t have the time.

              and yes- there is great pressure on the school by the district to handle things and be customer service focused in many respects. That’s not true all the time- but it is true many times.

              A teacher at my wife’s school with almost 28 years experience told her last week it was as bad *and she meant the kids) as she’s ever seen it and this will be her last year.

              I am sure it’s not true in all schools- but it is true in the challenged schools.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      I think Doug is right about the cheap housing and about the likely white flight. People who moved once to avoid integration are likely to do so again.
      I think it is a bit more complex than just race, though. It can be scary to be in the minority when you were in the majority and scary to lose power. In my bleeding heart liberal experience, howvever, I have found that many black educators are promoted beyond their level of competence because of their skin color, just as many whites were in the past and still are.
      The State article on this made me very sad, in 2014, that both sides are taking the positions they are.

      1. Doug Ross

        When I ran the school board 2002, one of my main points was that uncontrolled growth in the Northeast was going to end up hurting the district. But school administrators love growing districts and growing budgets more than they love quality education. It’s time to pay the piper.

        1. Barry

          The school district didn’t build the houses. You can thank HBA policies, and private contractors that wanted to build 300 homes where only 100 should have been built for that.

          1. Mark Stewart

            The houses sold didn’t they? And probably for the maximum price that could be achieved in the market.

            Don’t like cheap houses? There are two options to that: Be a NIMBY who believe the moat bridge can be raised once they themselves are securely settled in their chosen situation, or support progressive policies (I don’t mean liberal here) that engender growth. That means quality education first and foremost.

            1. Doug Ross

              @Mark – all the building depressed the resale value of existing homes. My home in the Northeast saw only 9% increase in value in 12 years. I would guess the homes in Spring Valley are now below what their market value was ten years ago. Why buy a twenty year old house when you can buy a brand new one for less?

            2. Kathryn Fenner

              I’d buy a Spring Valley house over a new crackerbox because it was likely built better. Maybe a thirty year old one, though.

            3. Mark Stewart

              Thirty year old houses are the worst. Cheap, yes, because all the major things are at life’s end. Better to buy a 50 year old house. The depreciation curve is likely more favorable…

            4. Doug Ross

              @Kathryn – we looked at Spring Valley houses before we bought ours. Every house in our price range would have required 20K or more of work. Roof, HVAC, outdated kitchens, carpet, etc.

              Instead we got exactly what we wanted when we built for slightly less than the Spring Valley houses cost — and avoided the traffic mess that Two Notch Rd has become over the past decade.

          2. Doug Ross

            The school district and the board could have said at any time “We need to slow down growth.” They never did. They were more interested in building a new school every year for the past decade and a half. It was all great when the hundreds of millions of bond money was being spent on unnecessary projects like world class football stadiums and brick facades and miles of fences.

        2. Norm Ivey

          “But school administrators love growing districts and growing budgets more than they love quality education.” [emphasis mine]

          No, they don’t. Nobody gets into education in order to grow a district or build buildings. We chose this profession because we felt called, because we wanted to have an impact, or because we were inspired. All of us care about a quality education, but we have to deal with the world as it is, and if your district is growing (whether you want it to or not), you have to build schools.

          1. Doug Ross

            If just once, one school board member or district office employee said “You know, it might be a good idea to find ways to control growth”, I’d believe you. I have paid attention for more than twenty years as a parent, PTO President, school board candidate, and spouse of a district employee. All I saw was constant P.R. about test scores and growing student populations. Now that things have turned in another direction, the P.R. has stopped.

            The growth around the Summit area was too fast. I’m not opposed to growth. I am opposed to uncontrolled growth without allowing the infrastructure to catch up.

            How much appreciation has your home seen, Norm?

            1. Norm Ivey

              My home is in a similar boat as your situation, but not underwater. I expect to be here a while yet, so I am taking the long view.

              I agree that the northeast did not handle growth well, and there are consequences for that. I don’t understand how you can put the blame for the growth on the district. If there’s any correlation, it was the district’s success and reputation that helped fuel the growth. Were they expected to somehow tamp that down?

            2. Doug Ross

              “Were they expected to somehow tamp that down?”

              I don’t blame them for the growth. I blame for not using the power of their positions to work with the local government to express any concern over the growth. The board is supposed to represent the best interests of the students and residents. I never heard a single one of them say “We’re growing too fast.” It was always treated as a good thing. Well, you can’t maintain excellence when you are growing so fast. It was predictable that the district performance would head down as the growth occurred. You can’t find 60 great teachers and admiinistrators every year for 15 years. We saw it when Blythewood H.S. opened and they couldn’t find science teachers so they hired a couple who barely spoke English.

            3. Norm Ivey

              Their ability to speak English would certainly be a challenge, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they were poor teachers.

      2. Barry

        Agree-many are promoted beyond their skill level- both races. Nothing new about that.

        I wouldn’t be scared of the race of the board member. I am nervous of agendas though.

        I also don’t like seeing elected representatives ( Rep McLeod) misrepresent the resume and qualifications of the current super. That is not helpful and is irresponsible.

      3. Norm Ivey

        In a public school system like RSD2, it’s difficult to promote a teacher beyond their skill level as the next step up from teacher is administrator, and my experience tells me that it’s the stronger teachers who move out of the classroom (if they choose to). Teachers are one of the few professions in which the employee is placed–on the first day of their career–into a situation nearly identical to what the 25-year veteran next door is expected to handle.

        If you are referring to other institutions–like colleges–I trust your observations.

        1. Mark Stewart

          Thanks for your commitment to the kids, Norm. Your efforts are much appreciated in my eyes – and I have never had kids in RSD2. Teaching is a calling. A profession.

          People do tell me I would make a good teacher; but what you describe is just what gave me pause – year one is just like year 25 (though I hope the kids do benefit from the experience gained from time in service). For me, I need a more competitive environment and a more unknowable and at risk life trajectory. PS – I have got that. In spades…

          1. Norm Ivey

            Thanks for the kind words.

            Certainly kids benefit from having veteran teachers. My point is that the expectations placed on a first-year teacher are the same. When I think too long about it, I start wanting to find the kids from my first year of teaching and apologize to them.

            “a more unknowable and at risk life trajectory” sounds a lot like a single day of teaching. Maybe you should think about it. 😉

            1. Mark Stewart

              Ha! Truth be told, I am a teacher – of adults. But also an administrator, a cop, a prosecutor, and a judge (I don’t make the rules, however). In between I have to earn a living.

              I agree, I hate that my learning has negative impacts on my charges. For school teachers though, kids are resilient. Even imperfectly conveyed, kids sense commitment and effort. That itself means much to them – and to us, parents or not.

        2. Barry

          “my experience tells me that it’s the stronger teachers who move out of the classroom (if they choose to).”

          Your experience is much different than mine.

  2. Barry

    Ms. McLeod seems quite angry- and incorrect.

    Dr. Debbie Hamm an IT director? I don’t know Dr. Hamm from Joe Montana- but one quick look at her resume and experience quickly reveals Ms. McLeod’s description to be false.

    Therefore, when something that basic is so patently incorrect, it’s safe to assume that other allegations in her posting are also less than trustworthy.

    The “Black” parents group (self identified as Black) are concerned that too many black boys are put in the alternative school. Considering the district is majority black, what else would you expect?

    What do teachers and administrators do with young students that don’t respond to teacher discipline? What do you do when the parents don’t care what their child does?

    Should kids that care about learning pay the price when other kids don’t care?

    Can someone answer that?

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      The *percentage* of black boys suspended, expelled or incarcerated greatly exceeds the percentage of all other groups. When I represented juvies, the public defender would very rarely be able to identify my client to me solely by his race. I believe in hundreds of cases, not counting drug court, I represented two white kids.
      Some of this is because more blacks are poor or live in tiny over-crowded housing so the kids misbehave on the streets instead os the bonus room. Some is thug culture. Some is racism. It has repeatedly been demonstrated that people of all races will identify a “perpetrator” as black, although in these studies, the identity is cloaked or the race varied. We see what we expect to see.

      1. Barry

        I don’t discount that in our criminal justice system – but at schools with black principals? How does that explanation work there?

        RCSD2 is not lilly white from an administrator or principal point of view and hasn’t been for a long time.

        One of the complaints from this black parent group is not enough black kids in the magnet programs. Well, magnet program entrance requirements are not based on race. They are based on test scores, etc. Magnet programs require a VERY high level of parental support because of the increased coursework load, homework load, and parent engagement that is required. You face problems with those factors when there are broken homes, or dysfunctional homes. So obviously kids in those situations aren’t going to be the majority in magnet programs.

        The fact is- a very high percentage of black kids grow up without intact family units. There is a high price to pay for that situation for those kids- and society overall regardless of race.

        Again, what do you do with kids that don’t respond to teacher or administrator discipline?

        1. Norm Ivey

          Some magnet programs do look at achievement. Others however, do not–Center for Inquiry and Two Academies are both lottery-based.

          I am glad we have magnet programs and school choice in our district. The problem with magnets and choice (and vouchers) is they only benefit those who can afford to provide the daily transportation needed to get the students to the magnet program.

          1. Doug Ross

            Two of my kids went through R2 magnet programs. The youngest missed on one of the exams by a single point. And to this day we know it was because the first year first grade teacher he had was unable to control a disruptive student the entire year — a student whose mother threatened to sue the school if her son (one of three by different fathers) was punished. Not a single student in the class qualified for a magnet program.

            1. Norm Ivey

              My children went through magnet programs as well, and I am sorry one of yours had a negative experience that prevented him/her from getting into a program. That said, you and I had the wherewithal to be able to send our students to those programs. There are families in our district for whom school choice or a magnet is a Hobson’s Choice.

              A few comments above I mentioned the expectations for a first-year teacher. They are the same as they are for a 25-year veteran. First year teachers do not get the support they need in learning how to manage a classroom. A few weeks of student teaching is all the experience they’ve had, and kids tend to respond well to a student teacher because they’re a break from their regular teacher. It would be a wonderful help to them if they could team-teach with a veteran for a full year before receiving their own classroom, but the cost of staffing would increase significantly as you try to anticipate the openings you will have for the next year.

            2. Doug Ross

              It was a combination of factors – an inexperienced teacher, an off the charts disruptive student (who dropped out by high school), and a principal who was there on the TERI program and couldn’t care less about what was going on (she still hadn’t learned all the teachers names by the time the school year ended). My wife worked in the school at the time and it was common knowledge about the whole situation.

  3. Mark Stewart

    Mia needs to tack toward tact. And lower the volume.

    It is difficult to figure out where she stands on principle; other than to be one most likely to hurl political Molotov cocktails – in any direction.

  4. Norm Ivey

    This post could keep me busy all evening. Full disclosure: I have been an RSD2 educator for 25 years. I reside in RSD2, and this race is pretty much the only one that offers me true choices.

    Comparing the incompetence of Lillian McBride to the leadership the Dr. Hamm has provided is grossly unjust, and that comparison alone is enough to make me discount McLeod’s entire rant. Dr. Hamm has filled several roles in the district for 30+ years and has shone at all of them, including superintendent. (She was at one time involved in the expansion of technology in the district, though I can’t say what her title was at that time.) I don’t know anything about the process that led to the board hiring her, but they made a good decision when they did.

    Cheryl (Washington) Caution-Parker has been with the district probably as long as Dr. Hamm, if not longer. I had the privilege of working with her as my principal for a few years at Dent Middle School in the mid-90s. She is a professional who is sincerely dedicated to the students of our district. As far as her being “repeatedly passed over,” that’s not even possible. We replaced our superintendent in 1994 (when she was an assistant administrator), in 2010 when the board was determined to bring in an outsider (all candidates were outsiders, so ALL district employees were “passed over”). and again last year when Dr. Brochu resigned. At most, she was passed over once.

    Melinda Anderson has been on the board as long as I have been teaching, and she has always been a strong supporter of the schools and staff. If circumstances were different, I would vote for her again (as I have many times in the past). Unfortunately, the threat she made against Coach Rodney Summers prevents me from being able to do that.

    Dinner’s calling, but I’ll comment more later.

  5. Norm Ivey

    I watched the RSD2 candidates forum in its entirety (about 2 hours) a few nights ago. I am thankful to have a difficult choice to make. It’s easy to eliminate a few of the weaker candidates, and it’s easier to pick out a couple of the strongest (Caution-Parker and Manning), but that still leaves me with two votes to cast among a half-dozen strong candidates, Amelia McKie among them. I am unsure what the Bi-Partisan Committee has against her (as their flyer seemed to target her a bit). She speaks as one who has thoughtfully considered her positions on the issues, and as one who understands that the board is a group that must work together–a realist. Hugh Harmon also impressed me. I am also considering Barbara Spector and Paul Manville. It’s a good problem to have.

    (Full disclosure: I THINK I taught one of Ms. McKie’s kids years ago.)

    1. Doug Ross

      @Norm – Barbara Spector first joined the board in 2002 when I ran. There is so much that could be said but I cannot. This is not rumor, it is what I experienced.

      A vote for incumbents on the board is affirmation that the district is and has been on the right path. I will not vote for a single incumbent.

      1. Norm Ivey

        I suppose that’s where we differ so. I always see room for improvement, but I don’t see that we are on the wrong path.

        1. Doug Ross

          The school and district report cards say otherwise… and have said so for quite awhile. As do the general feedback I hear from parents who have also been in the district for a dozen years or more.

          1. Barry

            I agree Doug. As a relative of a handful of current R2 teachers, you are basically saying the same thing they have told me this year.

          2. Kathryn Fenner

            The report cards reflect the population taking the test as much as anything. More challenged student homes mean lower scores.

            1. Doug Ross

              Right..and I really hate to get on this topic because then I start looking at the report card data on the Department of Education website. And it tells me what I already knew: one third of the kids coming out of 8th grade in Richland 2 did not meet the standard test score for English. 40% did not meet the objective at Dent Middle School. How can this be considered anything but unacceptable? The elementary school my kids attended back in the early 2000’s was rated excellent then. It has been rated average for three years in a row.

              The data is all there. Despite significant investment in technology..Despite all sorts of new programs and new teaching styles and character education, the results are no better and could be argued are worse.

              And this all happened on the watch of several incumbent board members.

            2. Mark Stewart

              Doug, not all parents are like you.

              We can either have a system that recreates parents, or we can have schools that give children a chance to earn an education. It’s that stark a choice.

            3. Doug Ross

              Or we can drastically change the system. Students who cannot read by 8th grade shouldn’t be doing anything else BUT literacy. If you can’t read, you aren’t likely to do well in science or social studies.

              The same 30-40% that didn’t meet the standards in 5th grade are passed along to do the same in 6th, 7th, and 8th. Then they hit high school and struggle.. then drop out.

              We know who these kids are TODAY. We know when they are 10 years old what path they are on. I would bet few track out of that path. Why not do something radically different for these kids? Total immersion in literacy, 100% of the time. Read, write, speak, Transcribe passages from books. Write every single day. Read aloud and be read to as they read along. All day, every day until they pass the test.

              And when they hit high school, give them options to learn a trade and be productive member of society.

            4. Barry

              I agree with you Doug about resources and tick in R2.

              The resources are there. The Tech is there. Heck, my 5th grader is using a laptop in class. His new school is beautiful.

              But resources and tech don’t replace parents that are not adequately supportive, or kids that can’t be disciplined at all, or parents that don’t care enough to APPLY for free lunches for their kids ( yes, this happens and has happened at my son’s school this year.

            5. Silence

              Kathryn you are correct. In this case, the demographics of the district have changed dramatically, which is resulting in lower test scores. I’m sure that there’s improvements that can be made, but I don’t think that it’s likely that the district could maintain high performance with the influx of “challenged student homes” as you put it.

            6. Kathryn Fenner

              I think literacy needs to be job one starting by third grade. Eighth grade is far too late.

              How about quality preschool, and even early childhood ed?

            7. Doug Ross

              Sadly, kids are promoted based on age, not ability. Otherwise our elementary schools would get backed up with 30% of the third graders who can’t read at grade level. Just move them along…

              Parents also don’t want little Johnny to be held back. He’ll miss his friends. Or he’ll be stigmatized as being “dumb”. We don’t want him to feel badly about himself — until he drops out of high school.

            8. Kathryn Fenner

              Maybe you don’t hold them back, but you schedule in some intensive literacy tutoring, with quality experts in dealing with these problems. Maybe the child has a learning disability, maybe just needs some hands on. Expensive? Sure, but cheaper than a wasted life.

  6. O

    Norm Thanks so much for your insightful, experienced and caring comments and for your dedicated service.

    1. Norm Ivey

      Education has been good to my family (my bride is an Occupational Therapist for RSD2; kids both did well and went on to graduate from college). I know I get a bit defensive and vehement at times, but the public perception of what happens in a school, even from a parent’s point of view, and what really happens on a daily basis are worlds apart. Since leaving the classroom, I’m even more convinced of this because I am able to visit so many classrooms and see so many great things happening. I’d like to one day see webcams in every classroom so parents could peek in and see what’s going on anytime they want. That would even allow those disruptive kids we’re all so concerned about to continue to participate in the lesson from home. I believe we come closer to living up to the credo all men are created equal in a school setting than in any other aspect of our society, (though still imperfect).

      From WaPo: You think you know what teachers do. Right? Wrong.

      1. barry

        My wife had a parent blow her top yesterday with her (and the administrator) because her child was written up for breaking a clear rule at school.

        The parent repeatedly suggested that her son didn’t deserve any punishment- even though it was a clear violation of class-room rules. (The student has been in repeated trouble with numerous teachers this year).

        The parent was adamant that such an act by her child wasn’t in need of punishment.

        The mom won’t hear it though. Her precious flower is above reproach and shouldn’t be punished for actions that other kids would be punished for at school. (That’s my opinion, my wife didn’t give hers)

        I wish this episode that my wife told me about last night was the exception. The reality is she has a story like this almost every single day of the week.

        The message that the teachers get – unofficially- is to handle these situations in the classroom- not to send them to an administrator. But the teachers are trying to teach with 28-34 students and taking time out of their instruction time to try to handle a child that doesn’t want to listen to anyone is disheartening not for just my wife but for other teachers.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Incidentally, I ran into one of the candidates this morning on an elevator — James Manning. We didn’t have time to talk before he got off, except for him to marvel at being “front-page” news — a situation to which school board candidates are unaccustomed…

        1. Mark Stewart

          Now the uncle I have an issue with – I’m glad that the nephew seems cut from different cloth.

    2. Barry

      My wife is a public school teacher. Her experience is much different than Norms – in fact- it couldn’t be more different.

      I value and thank him for his experience too- but it’s defintely different

      1. Doug Ross

        I want to vote for a school board candidate who will say “If we don’t reduce the percentage of 5th and 8th grade students who fail to meet the PASS English and Math standards from 35% to 20%, I will not run for rel-election”.

        It would be great to find anyone willing to be accountable for the results.

        I would run again if I didn’t spend the majority of my work week out of state. But I’d also lose because I wouldn’t spend $10,000 dollars on signs.

        1. barry

          I’ve worked in state government before.

          That would be a foreign concept for most school board members to consider.

      2. Norm Ivey

        I’m not trying to claim everything is peaches and cream, but it’s not all thorns and thistles, either.

  7. Brad Warthen Post author

    This is so weird…

    You know how if you think you know something, you never bother to check it out?

    I had thought I knew Mia’s district was in Richland One. For some reason I imagined it contained bits of Shandon, the Rosewood area and points south.

    Which made me wonder why she was injecting herself into this.

    But I looked, and in fact — this is embarrassing — it’s way up in the Northeast, far above I-20.

    Somehow, I had imagined it was wedged between Kirkman Finlay’s and Jimmy Bales’ districts. I don’t know why…

      1. Barry

        Had no problem with her commenting on it either way.

        Just surprised that she commented in the fashion she did about the current super (she has promoted folks across the board) – and dismissed her entire career and labeled her experience as simply an “IT DIRECTOR.”

        That was silly.

    1. Norm Ivey

      Probably shouldn’t confess this, but here goes….

      Mia was my representative, but when they redrew the lines in 2011, they moved me out of her district. I went to the polls and was surprised to see a completely different race. The house catty corner to us is still in her district.

      I didn’t cast a vote in that race.

      1. Barry

        THE STATE has a story up now saying they tried to contact her about her comments and she did not respond to them.

        She flew off the handle and didn’t do anything constructive.

          1. barry

            Joel took the easy way out.

            Leave it to Joel not to have any real comment to add to a situation in his own district.

            But he’ll talk for hours on Nikki Haley – which is fine. But the last time I checked, a supposed leader can do both at the same time.

  8. Bob Amundson

    Just as the Columbia MSA needs a non-fragmented, metropolitan government, it needs a non-fragmented, single school district. However, it is unlikely to happen anytime soon. But then again, I never thought the Berlin Wall would fall or the Soviet Union would dissolve in my lifetime.

    1. Doug Ross

      If you think the racial battle WITHIN Richland 2 is getting ugly, it would be much worse if they attempted to merge with Richland 1 — even though that is the right thing to do. It would be a bloodbath of infighting. It’s too bad none of our local representatives have the guts to take on this issue. I’d love to hear any one of them defend the rationale for one county having two school districts.

        1. Silence

          Amen, now you are speaking my language. There’s no need to have 3 districts! Especially given that there’s not really a “white district” and a “black district” anymore. Why won’t anyone think of the children? Let’s do what’s best for the kids, not for protecting a bunch of power-hungry adult’s turfs.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, but this might be harder. Basically, both of those things resulted from one factor — the weakness of the Soviet Union.

      A LOT of unlikely things would have to happen to have a consolidated metropolitan school district, almost all of them involving different groups independently giving up power.

      What’s more achievable — but the barriers are still huge — would be reducing each county to one district apiece. So then you’d just have two in the metro area. I’m all for it.

      The last place I lived before I moved home to South Carolina was Wichita, Kansas. I’m very glad I’m not in Wichita, but ever since I arrived here in 1987, I’ve thought how great it would be if the economic community of Columbia were as unified as Wichita, in terms of jurisdictions.

      Wichita is at the confluence of two rivers, just like Columbia. The river is the heart of the city, and was long ago developed in thoughtful ways that made the most of that resource. Both sides of the river (and the triangle formed by the confluence) are in the city, which is in the middle of one county. That makes things so much easier.

      Despite that, though, Wichita did have a couple of quirky things in common with us. First, even though the city was united across the rivers, there actually was a separate municipality surrounded by the bigger city, just a few blocks from where we lived. Like Arcadia Lakes and Forest Acres. It was like one subdivision, separate and apart. It’s called Eastborough, population 773.

      Also, despite the convenient political unity, there is a sharp cultural divide between people on the east and west sides of the rivers. People on the east side are the toffs, the alleged sophisticates, the self-appointed cool people, and look down on the plain folk of the west side. One editor at the paper lived on the west side, and his colleagues were always ragging him about it.

      Sound familiar?

      But at least there’s a very easy-to-understand reason why that happened in Wichita, a place with a shorter and simpler history than ours. Back when it started as a cowtown — a railroad terminus where cattle drives ended, which meant the town was often filled with cowboys with money in their pockets, all of the saloons and brothels, plus the feedlots and other things associated with the cattle, were on the west side of the rivers.

      All the bankers and lawyers and respectable folk, some of whom OWNED some of the businesses on the west side, lived on the east side…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        The history of places like that is fascinating. Note this item from the Wikipedia entry on Wyatt Earp — a more interesting character, with a greater variety of life experiences, than anyone I know today. It was so easy then to move from town to town and reinvent yourself. This is from before he went to Dodge City and later Tombstone:

        After Wyatt moved to the growing cow town of Whichita in early 1874, local arrest records show that a prostitute named Sally Earp operated a brothel with the wife of his brother James from early 1874 to the middle of 1876.[18] Wyatt may have been a pimp, but historian Robert Gary L. Roberts believes it is more likely that he was an enforcer, or a bouncer for the brothel.[11] It is possible he hunted buffalo during 1873 – 74 before he went to Wichita.[17] When the Kansas state census was completed in June 1875, Sally was no longer living with Wyatt, James and Bessie.[19]:14

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I got to browsing the web reading about the Earps, Doc Holliday, Johnny Ringo, Curly Bill Brosius, Ike Clanton and the rest while watching “Tombstone” recently.

          I enjoyed Val Kilmer’s hammy performance as Doc: “I’m your huckleberry!”

        2. Norm Ivey

          I grew up about 30 miles from Tombstone. Used to love driving over there (passing through the ghost town of Charleston) when I was in high school. I shook hands with the grandsons of Wyatt Earp, Cochise, and an original Buffalo Soldier. History out west was close, time-wise.

      2. Kathryn Fenner

        and West Columbia was the mill town, populated by wild mountain folk, while Columbians all hail from Charleston and buried their sulvah when Shuhman came. At least that’s what I’m told….the accent divide supports this. Longtime westies have that twang, while Old Columbia has that marblemouth Lowcountry drawl.

        1. Lynn T

          Someday when you’re feeling negative about Lexington, read the comments of Rev. Bolzius of the German Lutheran settlement Ebenezer on the Savannah. “Horse thieves” is the nice part.

  9. Doug Ross

    According to today’s article in The State, the two incumbent board candidates – Melinda Anderson and Barbara Spector – have each received $500 campaign contributions from M.B. Kahn Construction, the builder who has been one of if not the largest recipient of the half BILLION dollars in school construction bond revenue funds over the past 20 years.

    While these donations may not be illegal, they are certainly unethical in my view since M.B. Kahn depends on the school board to approve construction plans.

    When I ran for school board in 2002, I found out that Richland 2 paid Kahn $50K to develop the construction plan for the next decade. In my view, that gave Kahn an inside edge on the projects. I felt that the plan should have been contracted with a company with no ties to the ongoing expenditures of millions of dollars.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Interesting thing about that story in the paper today…

      While it had some additional details in it, the thrust of the story — what you found in the top grafs — was essentially what I reported here two days ago. Mia’s eruption is what moved the needle beyond where it had been on the previous story.

      And yet, this was the lede story in the paper. While the really startling news of the day — Ervin dropping out and endorsing Sheheen — was on the Metro front.

      That puzzles me…

      1. Doug Ross

        “That puzzles me…”

        Why? The school board race impacts a large percentage of people in The State’s subscriber base in the Midlands. Ervin dropping out doesn’t mean anything except to the single digit percentage of voters he might have attracted.

        Would a libertarian candidate dropping out and supporting Haley make front page news? Because that’s about the equivalent impact of mostly unknown Tom Ervin dropping out.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author


          My reaction is partly because I hadn’t heard about the Ervin endorsement until I saw it in the paper (or rather, on my iPad) this morning. I had the Bernardin lecture over at USC last night and then came straight home to watch some of the World Series, so I was out of the loop there for awhile. (These days, it’s pretty unusual for me to see political news first in the paper.)

          Whereas, as I said, the only thing new about the Richland 2 thing in the first few grafs was the Mia diatribe, which naturally caused the reaction, “I had this on the blog two days ago.”

          That said, I really appreciate Carolyn’s enterprise on the school board story. I had expressed doubts earlier whether you’d see anything else on the story after her first piece. I was wrong. So good for Carolyn, and good for The State. This is a story that deserved further elaboration, and they’re getting the job done.

      2. Kathryn Fenner

        It was the top viewed article, The State reported on Facebook.
        Race and education are vastly more important than a never-gonna win candidate throwing his support to another one…

        1. barry

          Agree. I have to wonder what planet Brad is living on.

          Tom Ervin dropping out wasn’t a big deal. Hardly anyone cares. Tom Ervin staying in wouldn’t be a big deal to anyone. Tom Ervin endorsing Santa wouldn’t be a big deal.

          Everyone knows Haley will easily win. Everyone has known that for months. It’s really a non story.

          Most folks wouldn’t know Tom Ervin if he walked up on their porch and bit them.

    2. Silence

      Sounds like the Kahns got off cheaply then. If I was a betting man and felt like doing the research, I’d bet that MB Kahn wasn’t the only commercial construction firm to donate to school board candidates… (For further reading, see who bid for the Richland County Penny Tax work).

Comments are closed.