This media outlet has reported on a multitude of questionable leadership decisions made by administrators in charge of Richland County school district one (a.k.a. “Richland One“) in the Midlands region of South Carolina. Yesterday (October 23, 2023), teachers and parents frustrated with the district’s latest “leadership” flub convened at its administrative building to voice their dissatisfaction over a policy that displaced at least a half-dozen teachers midway thorough the school year.
FITSNews reported last week that Richland One had transferred teachers from elementary schools with smaller student populations to schools “in need of staff.” The moves took effect this week.
The district failed to preemptively notify parents and teachers of this change, however, predictably inciting frustration as word of the moves spread organically.
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Richland One communications director Karen York explained the situation to FITSNews.
“As our superintendent said last week, the teacher reassignments are due to overstaffing based upon student-teacher ratios,” York said. “The adjustments are made after the 45th day of school when we have a clearer picture of student enrollment at each of our schools. Staff reassignments are not uncommon. Schools have plans to ensure a smooth transition for students, similar to when adjustments are made due to teacher retirements, resignations, relocations, maternity leave, etc.”
Stakeholders at the rally argued the fact that reassignments being “not uncommon” demonstrated the district’s repeated failures. These reassignments have become perennially necessary after years of the schools having multiple vacant classrooms, meaning administrators have to make tough choices when allocating scarce educators.
One parent called the moves “the worst recruiting tactic they could come up with.”
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Currently the district has an estimated 150 teacher vacancies – down from the more than 200 vacancies it had entering the 2023-2024 school year.
These policies are certainly frustrating for teachers, many of whom didn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye to their students. But they also concern parents of the children who attend schools which have lost teachers. One attendee at the rally pointed to elevated student-teacher ratios at effected schools.
“They’ve just increased numbers of kids in a classroom in these third and fourth grade classrooms, what’s going to happen to test scores?” the parent asked.
I spoke with another parent of three Richland One students who has been engaged in efforts to hold district officials accountable for several years. He told me this issue has brought the latent frustrations of many parents to the surface, evoking the largest public outcry he has seen to date.
“I’m so excited to see how many people are out here, the frustration has been simmering below the surface for a long time with a lot of parents, I think this has been a cause to rally around,” he said. “I expect to see something to get organized out of this, something more long term, a change campaign. I expect to see a lot of people calling for new leadership in the district. I expect to see parents getting involved who maybe were on the sidelines before, saw some stuff and were frustrated or confused, but now are galvanized around this issue.”
Richland One leaders have been running a sinking ship for some time – as evidenced by the many public scandals in which they have become embroiled.
In 2016, superintendent Craig Witherspoon missed a title one funding deadline that cost the district more than $3.1 Million. In 2019, the district was accused of awarding major contracts to businesses connected to school board members. Last year, it was sued for the second time in as many years for allegedly holding secret meetings in violation of the law. That case settled last October.
District board members will meet at Hopkins Middle School at 5:00 p.m EDT tonight (October 24, 2023) for their regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Those who cannot attend physically are invited to watch the meeting here. Many of the parents who marched yesterday made it clear they are planning on attending the meeting so that school board members can hear their frustrations first-hand.
Count on FITSNews to continue to cover issues at Richland One and insist on accountability from school districts across the Palmetto State.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
(Via: Coleman Rojhan)
Dylan Nolan is the director of special projects at FITSNews. He graduated from the Darla Moore school of business in 2021 with an accounting degree. Dylan primarily covers education when he isn’t producing video content. Got a tip or story idea for Dylan? Email him here. You can also engage him socially @DNolan2000.
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