Education

Committee to study equity among Rock Hill high schools

Fifteen people – five from each of Rock Hill’s three high schools – will help the school board determine whether students at those schools have access to equal opportunities.

The school improvement councils at Rock Hill, Northwestern and South Pointe high schools will select their representatives to the committee. An independent facilitator will moderate the discussions, which are expected to start this fall. No deadline has been set for the committee to issue recommendations.

The school board approved the committee Monday night.

The committee is being created because of an ongoing debate about whether resources at the three schools are equitable. The discussion, which started when South Pointe opened 10 years ago, resurfaced this summer when district Superintendent Kelly Pew asked the Greene, Finney & Horton accounting firm of Greenville to audit the activity funds at all three schools. The firm was asked to examine activities ranging from athletics to the French Club and high school yearbooks.

The firm’s report found that accounting procedures at the schools were inconsistent. It also found that South Pointe has run deficits in its pupil activity accounts for several years. The school board voted to split South Pointe’s deficit in half, with the district forgiving 50 percent of the deficit and South Pointe paying half over three years.

As of June 1, South Pointe’s deficit was $161,900.

Discussions among board members and school administrators have focused on two efforts to address the equity and deficit issues.

One focus is on athletic costs. District officials and the principals and athletic directors at each school are meeting to determine what athletic costs the school district should fund. In some instances, booster club funds have paid for costs such as traveling to games, providing security and employing officials at home games.

The second effort is the committee formed Monday. The school board did not give it a specific charge, allowing the committee to examine a variety of issues.

“You have your work cut out for you,” South Pointe parent Dan Ballou told the school board Monday.

He said the committee should not shy away from issues such as finances, academics and student enrollment. The enrollment at South Pointe, the smallest of the three high schools, has been cited by some as one of the reasons for its financial problems.

Blue also said the committee needs to carefully look at the relationship between booster clubs and the schools. “You need to respect the differences” between boosters and the schools they support, he said

Butch Bailey, president of the band boosters at Northwestern High School, said booster clubs and the schools need to create partnership agreements. He and others noted that the booster clubs need to remain separate, self-governing organizations that donate to the schools. “You can’t tell the booster clubs what they can (and) can’t do with the money they raise,” he said.

Geoff and Rebecca Gilleland, of the South Pointe School Improvement Council, said adjusting attendance zones should be part of the equity discussions.

She also said she opposed having current students pay for deficits “that were the school district’s responsibilities.” She said the school district did not provide enough start-up money for various student activities when South Pointe opened.

School board members Ann Reid and Mildred Douglas also questioned why current students are being asked to pay past deficits. Reid asked how the deficits happened in the first place.

Board Chairman Jim Vining said the school, the district office and the board are responsible.

“Every high school has had deficiencies,” Vining said. “We are reluctant to have them fixed. We are taking action that should have been done four years ago.”

He said part of the problem is “we are a district that does not follow policies.”

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

Budget approved

The Rock Hill School Board adopted a $138.9 million operating budget for the next school year on Monday night.

The budget does not increase school taxes. It includes raises up to 2 percent for teachers and other staff, consolidates some of the functions of the district’s three alternative education programs, eliminates the horticulture program at the Applied Technology Center and increases the student-teacher ratio to 1-to-24 for kindergarten through third, 1-to-25 for fourth and fifth grade and 1-to-27 in sixth through twelfth.

School administrators said the ratio in the early grades could be as low at 1-to-15 in some classes.

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