State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman says she’s focused on ensuring rural students receive the same educational opportunities as those in urban areas of the state.
"It is immoral, some of the things I see when I travel across this state," Spearman said Monday.
"We have been competing with each other way too long," she said. "Competition is a good thing, but when it comes to the opportunities that young people have, it is time we fix it."
Spearman spoke to the approximately 170 people gathered Monday morning at the South Carolina Rural Summit. The two-day summit is being held this year at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.
She challenged adults to work together to do what is right for every child in the state, specifically addressing local school board members and government leaders.
"I believe the state has to come in and build some new facilities for some of our most needy rural areas," Spearman said.
"I am really preaching that. The governor is open to that."
She noted 1 mill in taxes in Allendale is worth $19,000, while in Charleston a mill is worth $3.2 million.
Spearman also said rural counties with multiple school districts should consolidate those districts.
"If you consolidate, we will help you build a new school,” she said.
Spearman said Gov. Henry McMaster has requested $100 million for economic development for the 28 poorest school districts in the state.
She also would like to see more regional career centers, with high schools working together in offering trade courses.
"Our goal, and it is written in our state law now, ... is that we are going to work so that every high school graduate, when they get their high school diploma, will be prepared for success in college, career and in citizenship," she said.
Spearman highlighted some of her goals, including:
• Having a school resource officer is in every school.
• Ensuring every school has a mental health counselor by 2022.
• Getting rid of the state's aging buses. She says the state has about 741 buses older than 30 years. She hopes to have these off state streets in two years.
Some asked Spearman about special needs funding. She noted that the education reform bill before the General Assembly includes screening of children in kindergarten and first grade for dyslexia.
"We are doing some modules of training teachers on how to recognize dyslexia and reading issues so they will be equipped," Spearman said. "Those programs are very expensive. We do watch that very closely and we do assist helping schools apply."
She also talked about teacher recruitment, noting the planned 5 percent pay increase for teachers, more support for young people who want to be teachers, affordable housing for teachers in rural communities and forgiveness of loans for those who teach in rural areas.
S.C. Department of Commerce Director of Targeted Rural Initiatives and Special Projects Maceo Nance, who was born and raised in Orangeburg, said improving education in the state is a priority.
"We are our own worst people," he said. "It is not the kids. It is not the teachers. It boils down to administration but more importantly school board members. Period."
"Everybody wants to see things improve, but nobody wants change. You cannot have both. It is impossible. The day of me and mine can no longer stand,” he said.
South Carolina has 81 school districts scattered among its 46 counties. Nance said that’s too many.
"It can't be efficient. It can't be financially efficient. You can’t achieve what needs to be achieved with the me and mine attitude," Nance said.
The annual summit focuses on rural economic development and revitalization efforts in rural areas.
The Orangeburg event drew representatives from 23 counties. There were also representatives from economic development alliances, city governments and other bodies.
Of the 170 in attendance, about 50 individuals were representing Orangeburg County.
Edisto Memorial Gardens will be filled with family fun and entertainment, including music, sports, arts, crafts and much more, during Orangeburg’s 48th annual Festival of Roses.
Held the weekend before Mother's Day, the Orangeburg Festival of Roses celebrates the beginning of the rose blooming season. This year the festival will be held May 3-5.
Activities are largely centered on the city's Edisto Memorial Gardens, where rows upon rows of roses bloom near the banks of the Edisto River.
Pink, yellow and red are among the sea of colors individuals can enjoy as they walk through the floral displays at the annual event.
There's something for everyone at the free event, which is co-sponsored by the City of Orangeburg and the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce.
Visitors can enjoy entertainment and participate in sports tournaments. Food, jewelry and arts and crafts are sold by a wide variety of vendors.
A road race, Blackwater River Race and softball and golf tournaments are among the staples of the annual event.
The Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center’s Showcase Orangeburg is the official kickoff for the Orangeburg Festival of Roses.
Candice Roberson, executive director of the Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association, said this year's street dance will be held at Memorial Plaza on Friday, May 3.
For more information on the upcoming festival, contact the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce at 803-534-6821.
A 35-year-old Orangeburg man is dead, apparently after being shot in the head early Saturday morning.
The victim has been identified as Joseph Simms Jr. of Weatherford Road, Orangeburg County Coroner Samuetta Marshall said on Monday.
She said his body will undergo an autopsy on Tuesday.
Someone called 911 at 4:20 a.m. Saturday to report a shooting incident at Da Yellow Sto, a nightclub located at 2257 Carver School Road in Cope, according to an Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office incident report.
As deputies arrived, three men flagged them down to show them the location of the victim.
The victim was on his back on the ground, the report said. Deputies weren’t able to locate a pulse and determined that the man had a gunshot wound to his head.
Nine individuals remained at the scene and told deputies they didn’t know what happened, but they each heard multiple shots fired and then saw the man on the ground.
Investigators reviewed surveillance video and found shell casings in the roadway.
The incident remains under investigation.
This is the third shooting death in Orangeburg County in 2019.
If anyone has information about the incident, they are asked to call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.
An Orangeburg County man has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman last month, Sheriff Leroy Ravenell announced Monday.
“This victim had placed trust in a person with whom she knew and was familiar,” Ravenell said. “That trust and friendship was betrayed in the worst way possible.”
Austin Lorick, 22, was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping.
Orangeburg County Sheriff’s investigators were sent to the Regional Medical Center on Feb. 25 after a woman said she had been the victim of a sexual assault.
The woman said the incident happened two days earlier after she and Lorick, a former boyfriend from several years before, had been hanging out and having drinks at a local bar before going to a private party, according to a report from the sheriff’s office.
The woman determined she had had too much to drink and relied on the Neeses man to drive her from the party. She felt comfortable enough to stay at his residence, she said.
However, at some point, she awoke to discover some of her clothing missing and Lorick allegedly touching her in an inappropriate manner.
She told him to stop, but he allegedly continued to the point of sexual battery. When she attempted to fight him, he pinned her down, she said.
Lorick then fell asleep, she said, allowing her a chance to call a relative to pick her up.
The woman said she didn’t call law enforcement earlier out of fear and embarrassment.
During hearing on Monday, bond was denied on Lorick.
He faces up to 30 years in prison if he’s convicted of either charge.