LAKE WYLIE -- Dr. Marc Sosne said it before, and he still believes it: "A better informed public makes better decisions."
So the Clover School District superintendent and district public information officer Greg Reid met informally for two hours March 10 with anyone who wanted to stop by Dilworth Coffee House in Lake Wylie to share a cup of coffee and talk about school concerns.
"We just wanted to hear from the community, what issues are out there," Sosne said. "The feedback I got was very positive."
A dozen people asked the pair about issues from class sizes, teacher evaluation and special-needs education to federal money for schools and the traditional school calendar vs. the year-round approach.
Melanie McClure, a parent of two students in the district, echoed a concern shared by many local residents during the past year to have a Lake Wylie area high school. She said one larger school is likely to have more crime and violence.
"Big schools have those problems, and the teachers can't control and corral that," McClure said.
However, Sosne said he supports the school board's decision made early last year to stay with one high school, saying opening a second high school would cost too much compared to keeping Clover High School -- with currently more than 1,800 students -- as is and expand the campus.
"To build a new high school, you're looking at an additional $2 million a year, minimum," Sosne said. "We can't pass that along to homeowners who are 80 percent of the people within the district."
Those costs, Sosne said, would most impact business owners because of Act 388, state legislation that swaps residential property tax funding for schools for sales tax. He said Act 388 is hurting the district because all districts in the state receive funding based on statewide growth rate (just more than 1 percent last year), meaning schools with decreasing enrollment are receiving more funding while Clover, which grew close to 6 percent last year, received fewer dollars per student.
"It's terrible," Sosne said, explaining retooling the legislation would be difficult because of many areas statewide benefiting from the discrepancy. "What they've done is they've weighted the formula to benefit the poorest districts. Unfortunately there are more poorer areas in the state than areas that are fairly well-off."
While Sosne talked about major issues such as Act 388 and federal stimulus money, other community members wanted updates on specific plans. Steve Warden, a River Hills resident whose wife teaches pre-K at Crowders Creek Elementary School, asked about plans for possibly moving pre-K classes from Crowders Creek to Larne, the district's newest elementary school opening in the fall.
"She'd like to finish out her career at Crowders Creek, and I'd like to see her finish out her career at Crowders Creek," Warden said. "It's very convenient for my wife. If she has to drive farther than she does, she may not teach."
Sosne said no decision to move pre-K has been made, but the issue will come down to dollars and cents. Crowders Creek currently has four classes, while other elementary schools in the district have two. When Larne opens, it will need two pre-K classes and the board will decide whether to spend the money -- an estimated $100,000 in the first year per class -- for two additional classes or to move two from Crowders Creek. Sosne expects a decision in June.
Sosne said he's planning to hold up to four more similar events in Clover and Lake Wylie.
"We're going to look at one in the Clover area," Reid said. "We're seeing what might work for us."