SC

Midlands SC School District Misleading The Public … Again

It’s been a little while since we last trained our fire on Lexington-Richland (S.C.) School District Five. That’s partly because we’re lazy, but it’s also partly because we trusted that the district’s new leaders were going to start telling parents, teachers and taxpayers the truth for a change. Boy, were…

chapin high school

It’s been a little while since we last trained our fire on Lexington-Richland (S.C.) School District Five.

That’s partly because we’re lazy, but it’s also partly because we trusted that the district’s new leaders were going to start telling parents, teachers and taxpayers the truth for a change.

Boy, were we wrong.

For those of you unfamiliar with the “district that can’t shoot straight,” Lexington-Richland Five administrators (both past and present) have been caught misleading their constituents about literally everything under the sun – i.e. the district’s budget size, reserve fund balances, student population growth (or more accurately, lack thereof), school capacity figures and, most recently, a “wetlands problem” with a proposed high school “expansion” plan.

Invariably, these deceptions have been used to justify massive funding increases and infrastructure enhancements that the district doesn’t need – and that taxpayers can’t afford.

On top of its gross fiscal misrepresentation (and mismanagement), Lexington-Richland Five is also a hotbed of questionable personal conduct. We’ve already blown up two major sex scandals at the district (here and here), but we’re told there’s plenty more where those came from.

So stay tuned …

Anyway, like we said, we had hoped that a recent change in leadership would have resulted in a corresponding change of culture at this scandal-plagued district, but it turns out we were sadly mistaken. Lexington-Richland Five is shooting “crookeder” than ever … and not only with parents and teachers, but also with its own board members and … most recently … the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Let’s start from the top of the latest scam, shall we?

According to a published agenda for Monday night’s school board meeting (January 11), district administrators are trying to push their elected bosses to approve new construction plans for the “expansion” of Chapin High School.

What’s the big deal? Plans are plans, right?

Not with these masters of manipulation.  As district officials are pushing forward with this so-called “expansion,” they have been quietly reducing capacity at Chapin High so they can justify the construction of … wait for it … a new high school in another part of the district.

Turns out you can have your cake and eat it too, at least if you’re willing to lie a little bit … or in the case of Lexington-Richland Five, a lot.

In fact, the architectural plans for Chapin High which were first submitted in 2007 as part of a multimillion-dollar bond referendum proposal have been dramatically altered, even as district officials are claiming that capacity at the 1,300-student school will grow by more than 400 students over the next few years.

While touting this “expansion” in public, the latest architectural documents for the school (which district administrators want the school board to approve Monday) tell a different story … one of “contraction.”

Specifically, floor plans for the new Chapin High show fewer classrooms (thanks to some creative reshuffling of science labs and by removing a full story of classrooms from a new wing). Also, the school’s proposed cafeteria is designed for a campus with a core capacity of only 1,080 students – not the 1,300 students who currently attend the school or the 1,700-student capacity the district asserted in its bond referendum

In fact, here’s a blueprint for the new cafeteria obtained by FITS that clearly shows 60 tables – or just enough to seat approximately 1,100 students in three standard lunch shifts.

Chapin high cafeteria

To seat 1,700 students in three standard lunch shifts, 35 additional tables would have to be crammed into the cafeteria, which simply isn’t possible unless you’re willing to ignore things like, say, fire codes. Or walking.

These blueprints would certainly seem to indicate that district officials expect Chapin High to shrink – not grow – in the coming years, which would be consistent with students being rezoned for a new high school.

Sadly, playing fast and loose with zoning lines and capacity numbers is nothing new for Lexington-Richland Five.  What’s unique about the Chapin High situation, though, is just how far the administration of Superintendent Herb Berg has gone to mislead the public, the school board and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers about a “wetlands problem” tied to the project.

No one is sure exactly when the issue was first brought to the district’s attention, but what’s clear is that it hasn’t been resolved – and officials continue to mislead everyone involved as to what’s really going on.

“There aren’t any protected wetlands, not like you’re thinking,” Berg told school board member Jan Hammond, who asked about Chapin High’s wetlands issue at a public meeting held on September 14, 2009.

But the truth is that there are protected wetlands, nearly an acre’s worth of them, in fact.  There’s also 1,500 feet of linear creek that the district wants to fill in as part of its plans – which means additional red tape and more environmental hoops to jump through.

Berg, of course, knew this because three weeks before making his “there aren’t any protected wetlands” comment he was at a meeting at which the district’s director of new design and construction, Keith McAlister, told him about it.

“We’ve got an issue with wetlands,” McAlister revealed at an August 25, 2009 administrative meeting attended by Berg. “We’re probably six months out finalizing mitigation.”

Or so they thought.  The Corps of Engineers has stuck to its guns on the issue, prompting frustration on the part of district leaders.

“Somebody’s got to get these jacklegs,” McAlister said at a November 2009 meeting, referring to the Corps. “They’re about to cost us a chunk of change.”

Hmmm … “jacklegs?”

But how much “change,” exactly?

Some estimates range anywhere from $4-6 million – costs which the district is trying to avoid by claiming that the Chapin High project is $6 million over budget. In fact, this is the precise figure that district officials are said to have formally communicated to the Corps of Engineers.

As of this writing, however, the district has provided no documentation for its claim that the project is over budget by that amount. In fact, the Chapin High construction budget was mysteriously reduced by $4 million last year when the district altered a figure on a tracking document – something which probably would have never been caught were it not for the tireless efforts of a zealous district watchdog.

If the project is in fact over-budget, though, then taxpayers should look no further than the inclusion of three new athletic fields, a new “field house” and an unnecessary arena-style basketball facility into the “expansion” plans.

Bottom line, this is a project that is literally littered with questions … questions which the district isn’t answering honestly, either to board members or to officials at the Corps of Engineers.

That’s unfortunate, particularly given this district’s preexisting credibility problem.

If Lexington-Richland Five wants to avoid the sort of trust issues that have dogged it in the past, we suggest that its leaders start telling the truth about this project … and all of its dealings with taxpayer dollars.

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26 comments

Ynotfirst January 11, 2010 at 6:54 am

“poop” rolls downhill, everytime

2DUMB2NO January 11, 2010 at 11:12 am

District 5 should be renamed Stalag 5. In this death camp taxpayers are held up their heels until they are bled dry, one dollar at a time. Voters time after time have re-elected the same group to the school board even after being lied to, manipulated and literally bull dozed into programs and projects that offer little if nothing toward the education of children. Stalag 5 administrators are among the best paid in the state. Administrative staff are among the rudest in the world even outdistancing French Waiters. Teachers are among the best in the State doing a fantastic job with little or no support or materials. In addition to the “up yours” actions cited by Sic Willie you have Stalag 5’s latest attempt to move in a new direction. Now that the school board has laid waste to any sincere effort to promote academic programs they have hired a retired “coach” to the tune of over $100,000. Since the principal of the school has to earn more than the highest paid staff member he/she will be making over $100,000 as well, if not making that already. Is there any doubt that the remaining non-teaching staff will have to receive additional compensation to stay up with the pack. Apparently the new “Jewel of Stalag 5” will be a State Championship Football Team. Condolences to the death of the academic classroom of the former Lexington-Richland School District Five.

herb berg January 11, 2010 at 11:13 am

Will: she gave you bad info. We are oblgate to actually tell the truth.

Sunny January 11, 2010 at 1:43 pm

herb berg – You don’t write like a superintendent. BTW – Thumbs up to the teachers of Lexington-Richland 5.

silverfox January 11, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Herb probably has forgotten how to write. He is one old dude. Old dudes tend to have poor memories. District Five should be renamed “As the District Turns”. There is more shullduggery than in the current White House.

James the Foot Soldier January 11, 2010 at 9:45 pm

I’m shocked…about as shocked as I was when the enrollment figures published by Dr. AndersEn had no basis in reality.

The voters were dumb enough to believe the student’s population was increasing when it was in fact declining…sorry….the gray beards in all those new patio homes in Irmoland weren’t fathering children anymore…despite the mass quantities of viagra sold at the Kroger on Woodrow.

speaking of viagra – I’m still loving my missive from September 7, 2008:
“We’ve gone from having a Superindentent acting virile to a Superintendent acting senile.”

The more things change the more they stay the same….

District 5 mom February 3, 2010 at 11:56 am

There’s more to the story…Go to: thenerve.org – District 5 Can’t Quench Thirst for Growth

http://thenerve.org/Comments/10-02-01/District_5_Can_t_Quench_Thirst_for_Growth.aspx?searchid=22423040-629e-4d48-80f4-f17ad9feb265

Wayne February 4, 2010 at 2:27 pm

How much longer are these Lexington Richland 5 board members going to sit there like bumps on logs and tolerate this administration’s corrupt behavior? Kinda beginning to look like they support it. Shame, shame. Herb Berg left Kershaw County in a financial mess. Guess this district is next.

ES February 15, 2010 at 5:46 pm

And Lee Bollman is currently drawing a salary of $136,000 as a classroom teacher. And Mike Satterfield has been reassigned in the District, from Principal at Chapin High, to who knows and at what salary? Why???. Then the old story about Scott Andersen, former Superintendant, seems his wife Bernice has an interesting past. First, her first child was born out of wedlock to a Mexican drug dealer. She was an “exotic” dancer with other activities, etc. This story is getting bigger. What sort of credibility looms here?????

A. Kerry February 16, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Does this mean that the Mexican drug dealer, father of Bernice’s first born, was serving as a means for her to make money on sexual favors. Was this before she joined the Mormon Church???

Mormon to Mormon February 17, 2010 at 6:55 pm

To A Kerry. No she left that life style, and relationship with the married drug dealer, when she came into the Mormon Church. After coming into the Mormon Church she married her current husband, Scott Andersen, also a Mormon, and they married and had the other children.I believe he adopted the child born out of wedlock to the Mexican, married drug dealer.

Susan Paige February 18, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Not only is Herb senile, he’s gradually hiring all of his former cohorts from Kershaw into newly created administrative positions in Lex 5. These are the same positions that were eliminated last year due to “budget problems” but apparantly, these budget woes no longer exist, at least when it comes to hiring administrators. Does it seem odd to anyone that neither the current superintendent (Berg) or the assosciate superintendent, Helen Anderson, were hired through the normal advertise the position – interview – then hire method. Both of these individuals were appointed as “interim” but remain, and, in closed session board meetings, they are no longer “interim” status. Hmmmmm….something is definately rotten in this district!

Teacher in Lexington Five February 20, 2010 at 12:33 am

FYI-Mr. Satterfield ASKED to be reassigned because of his disabled son who needs his time and attention at this point in his life…something very admirable and selfless. Get your facts straight. And while your at it, leave Dr. Bollman alone for goodness sake and quit beating a dead horse…Dr. AndersEn is long gone.

Ryan R. February 20, 2010 at 7:43 pm

To teacher in Lexington Five. I think you have your facts wrong. And this situation has nothing to do with Andersen. It is just a known fact that when the District doesn’t want to tell the “truth” they say someone wants to be “reassigned.” It is more then UNUSUAL that Lee Bollman, classroom teacher, is making $136,000 a year. Let’s see what the reassigned Mr. Satterfield makes??? Public information on WLTX-19. I could care less about Andersen. Why did you bring that up. What is is in this district. And emloyees’ jobs are threatened if they talk about any of this?????

Erica S. February 20, 2010 at 7:51 pm

To teacher in Lexington V. It was well known that Mike Satterfield had numerous affairs. He was once moved from one school to another because of an affair with a teacher. And Lee Bollman. There are a lot of questions here. There are some of us here in the District who want to appear at a Board meeting soon and raise questions about this. Get your facts straight.

Susan K. February 20, 2010 at 8:16 pm

To Teacher at Lex. V. You know many are questioning these “requests to be reassigned” notices in this district. That’s what Lee Bollman’s resignation read. However, according to WLTX, Channel 19’s Data Center on school district salaries, he is still making $136,000 as a classroom teacher. That is the second highest earning individual in the district, behind Berg himself. So what do you mean saying leave him alone.

Ryan C. February 20, 2010 at 8:47 pm

What does this mean. Mike Satterfield asked to be “reassigned.” That is what Lee Bollman said. Go to WLTX Channel 19 and you click on their
Data Center, School District Salaries and plug in Lee Bollman and find that he is making $136,000 a year as a classroom teacher. That appears strange.

KS February 21, 2010 at 7:02 am

To Susan Paige: You raise some interesting points about Berg hiring people from his old district to fill administrative positions. Also about the “interim” positions becoming permanent. I was hoping Berg would leave and the district would start fresh with seeking and interviewing a new and more qualified candidate. Morale in this district is sinking.

Teacher in Lexington Five February 21, 2010 at 1:30 pm

According to an email sent to CHS staff, Mr. Satterfield explained his request for a reassignment. It was based on his need to spend more time with his handicapped son. Have you ever dealt with an adult, handicapped child? There are tremendous needs. End of story, no conspiracies. Why all the attacks on others? Do not lump Dr. Bollman’s situation with Mr. Satterfield’s. By the way, both are fine educators for our district. Small minds can’t help but make up big stories. Morale is sinking in D5 but I think more can be attributed to negative bloggers and community members.

Louise B February 21, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Well actually I heard from someone who has connections in the District Office that first the chief financial officer was fired, and then there was a lot of activity in the District Office with slaming doors, etc. Then Lee Bollman and his secretary were both reassigned. Why were they both reassigned??? Then I was told Mike Satterfield would be next. I expected to see him resign before the start of the school year based on this information. Guess they didn’t want to throw too much at the public at once. Would be really nice if the tax payers were informed as to what is going on. They might find that the tax payers could handle the “news” whether good or bad rather than the deception of knowing they aren’t telling the truth.

Louise B February 21, 2010 at 3:31 pm

To teacher in Lexington V. And similarly, the former Principal at Harbison West Elementary, sent a message to his staff at Harbison that he had requested he be ‘REASSIGNED” from a principal to an administrative assistant at another elementary school. Everyone who knew him knew that wasn’t the whole story. Actually, he found another job as a Principal in another part of the state. So we are quite aware of these reassignment messages. It is so unfortunate.

Lola G February 21, 2010 at 4:24 pm

And Lee Bollman’s counterpart, Jim Shirley, Director of Elementay Education, whose position was eliminated a month or two after Bollman was reassigned, married the woman he had an extramartial affair with. Now they are both Principals in Beaufort County.

Fred February 26, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Berg and a couple of political members of the Board are the worst things that have happened in this District. As will be forthcoming, Berg and a couple of the Board members have been totally dishonest, or at least that is the way it currently appears. I don’t mind being proven wrong but the evidence is strong at this juncture.

MBA March 5, 2010 at 7:34 pm

I am not sure Berg started this whole mess; but perhaps went along with it. I think it was the School Board, led by Ed White and his wife Bea, who wanted their children to receive preferential treatment at the schools they attended. Most of the teachers at our school feel this is what happened???? Perhaps this will come out in the future. Also maybe it shoud be a requitement that school board members don’t have children in the schools at question so administrators and teachers aren’t under this kind of pressure. Might be difficult to get this but certainly would have advantages. Also this should be extended to real estate ventures and profits as well.

ZAREMA March 19, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Thanks the author for article. The main thing do not forget about users, and continue in the same spirit.

Bill B. March 31, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Susan Paige,
You’re absolutely right! The most recent hire is Reggie Dean, one of Berg’s good ol’ boys from Camden High School in Kershaw County. Word is that he left CHS because of budget cuts and has landed a nice, cushy job in Lex. 5, making $50,000 more than he was making (and for doing less work, of course). He can thank the overburdened taxpayers.

Comments are closed.