I feel compelled to respond to the misinformation from a committee working to defeat the upcoming bond referendum for the Clover children on March 22.
Having served as a member of the Board of Trustees for 24 years, I can personally attest that board members are dedicated, thoughtful and intelligent people who make their decisions based on what is best educationally for the students, parents and the taxpayers. To imply or allege these public servants are doing anything less is unfair and unjust. They serve unpaid for the children and the public good.
No. 1: Nationally acclaimed studies show optimum high schools are 600 to 800 students. University size high schools are not good for students, teachers or the community.
Response: The studies point out every community is different and one cannot easily generalize that school size negatively impacts the quality of education. Most of the studies were conducted in larger, inner-city schools unlike Clover. Clover has 1,996 students now with an average student-teacher ratio of 1:25.
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In the past four years with Clover’s size as a AAAA high school, here are a few of the achievements: State Department of Education Academic Awards for overall performance - Palmetto Gold (three straight years); Excellent/Excellent State Report Card Rating (three straight years); State Department of Education Academic Awards for performance on SAT and ACT - Cum Laude of Achievement - two awards for overall score and one for improvement; 280 CHS students took Advanced Placement Exams, a 235 percent increase since 2011 when CHS tested 119 on AP exams (ref: 2012 AP Five Year Score Report, The College Board); AP Exam Pass rate of 73 percent – State AP pass rate is 58.9 percent and Global AP pass rate is 60.2 percent (ref: 2012 AP Five Year Score Report, The College Board); state championship in chorus, eight out of 11 years, five state champions in swimming; three region championships in athletics; 34 All-Region athletes; 42 scholar-athletes; five athletes chosen for state All-Star Games; one All-State athlete; 10 athletes sign athletics scholarships; two All State band students; five students accepted to Governor’s School; National and State Awards for FBLA, FFA, FCLA, DECA, and HOSA clubs; placed third at state and regional competitions for Robotics; 100 percent pass rate on CNA and National Health Science exams; Community service awards for Interact Club, Student Council, and ROTC; Moped to Memphis raised and donated $75,000 to St. Jude Children’s Hospital; Distinguished Unit With Merit for ROTC (one of five in South Carolina!); ROTC Cadet selected for Naval Academy summer program; CHS Drumline place 14th at World Competition in Dayton, Ohio; State Teachers of the Year in Family and Consumer Science and Early Childhood; State Paraprofessional of the Year in Special Education; OEC Academic Quiz Team Champions for second straight year; Catapult Club first place at USC engineering competition; world record cardboard boat construction and voyage by physics and calculus students and teachers; and countless other individual student academic and performance awards.
No. 2: Before the 2006 bond referendum, the Clover school board chairman promised the next referendum would include a Lake Wylie high school. Superintendent Marc Sosne said two years ago the school board was not considering a mega high school.
Response: It has always been assumed that discussion about district growth would include the possibility of a second high school at a future time. The history of this idea, as I remember: I was on the board leading the 2006 bond referendum. I did think we were headed that way when Vickie Phelps was superintendent. The idea had been planted during her administration that we needed a new high school.
However the previous plans from Superintendent Betty Riddle included the path this bond referendum would follow as an efficient way to maintain our quality schools and not overwhelm the taxpayer. The current board has studied the issues and has been developing this plan for at least five years.
No. 3: The population center is in Lake Wylie. High schools need to be where the parents and students live.
Response: There are approximately 7,000 children in the Clover School District. It is the school board’s responsibility to plan, budget and pass policies that benefit all 7,000 children regardless of their addresses.
No. 4: The Clover School Board has not been transparent in any of their decision-making process: Unlike other school districts, they have held no public forums and have not sought input from the Clover and Lake Wylie communities before making this decision.
Response: This is not true. A public forum was held in May. All meetings are open to the public. The school board has been discussing this for at least five years in public meetings and work sessions. All of the board’s meetings are open to the public.
At the public forum in May, the district invited more than 100 community members to participate in a planning session. Much input was provided that guided the board’s ultimate decision. Lastly, the district conducted an online survey in the fall that was advertised in the newspaper and open for anyone to participate. More than 1,800 people participated in the survey.
No. 5: The Clover School Board has not redistricted in 30 years. Lake Wylie is not fairly represented on the school board.
Response: Our district has five geographical and two at-large seats, and all eligible voters in the district vote to fill all seven seats. Therefore, board members understand they do not have a limited constituency and represent all voters in the district and all children in the district.
Three of the five seats have a geographic tie to Lake Wylie and Bethel. Sherri Ciurlik, Rob Wallace and Franklin Pendleton hold these seats. Joe Gordon represents Clover. Liz Johnson represents Bethany. The two at-large seats are held by Melanie Wilson of Lake Wylie and Mack McCarter, chairman, who lives in the Bethel area on Paul Boyd Road. If you consider Bethel and Lake Wylie together five of seven members live in that area.
No. 6: The Clover School Board has both the land and money available to take care of the immediate overcrowding needs at Crowders Creek Elementary.
Response: While this is true, this project is part of a package of five projects recommended by the community advisory group to benefit all the children. Just one part provides more room and improvements for the high school with the expanded ninth grade academy. Another part is an aquatic center, which would benefit all the children and the swim team.
Vote yes for the Clover children on the bond referendum on March 22.
Windy Bartee is a Clover resident.