Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 is trying to ensure its schools are safe in the wake of recent violent incidents and ensuing rumors in the community, trustees were told at Tuesday’s meeting.
Bobby Rivers, OCSD5 director of public safety, updated the board on security in the district, referencing a fatal shooting that happened near a fast-food restaurant on Feb. 24.
Raquan Malik Middleton, 17, died after being shot in the parking lot of Cook Out, located at 725 John C. Calhoun Drive.
Trequan Tyreke Stokes, 18, of 219 George St., is facing one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder in connection with that incident.
Social media rumors of violence caused some parents to keep their children out of school.
Rivers said that law enforcement provided an extra patrol at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School beginning Feb. 25 due to the rumors, and there was a “lock-out” at the school, meaning no one could come in or out but normal operations continued.
A few days after the incident, the school districts and law enforcement officials held a round-table discussion, he said.
Rivers also said someone fired shots on a street near a recent soccer match. No one was hurt in the incident, he said.
“We can’t control what happens in our community, but I can guarantee we’re going to do 100 percent to make our schools safe for our students, faculty, staff and visitors,” Rivers said.
He said the district’s Task Force Team is looking hard for signs of possible gang involvement among students. Teachers are being trained to look for signs of gang activity, he said.
Also, the district continues to hold training drills, and all schools now have locking security doors, Rivers said.
Metal detectors are being placed at O-W and a guard shack will be built and manned at the entrance to the school, he said.
“It’s sad that we have to do this, but it’s needed, it’s required to ensure the safety of all who are at our schools,” Chairman Vernon Stephens said.
In other business at the March meeting:
• Trustees voted to enter closed, executive session to discuss personnel matters and recommendations and student matters. After returning to open session, they approved the personnel recommendations of Robert Grant, head of human resources.
• In the absence of Superintendent Dr. Jesse Washington due to illness, Stephens reported that the superintendents of the county’s three current school districts have been meeting with Dr. Zona Jefferson, superintendent of the county’s new consolidated school district, to discuss the merging of the districts.
Jefferson also met with staff of different departments from the districts, Stephens said, and school officials will soon hold a meeting with S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman.
• Stephens gave a legislative update and said that school board trustees from around the state would converge on the State house for two days to lobby legislators for education issues.
He said the education reform bill would give raises to teachers and state employees and provide a reserve officer for every school.
“This is the year of transforming education in South Carolina,” Stephens said.
If the bill is passed, “how we fund education will change,” he said. “So pay close attention.”
• Dedra Felder of the finance and operations department gave the financial report for February.
Local tax revenue totaled about $7.6 million, she said. Interest income was about $13,000, and Education Finance Act funds were about $1.3 million.
Total general fund revenues were about $10.5 million, and expenditures were about $5.1 million for the month, she said.
• Grant reported that fewer than 30 teachers have signaled that they will not return for the next school year. He said he anticipates 38 vacancies.
Officials of the county’s school districts have been present at teacher recruitment fairs in the Southeast, he said. And the districts will hold a joint career fair on Saturday, March 23, at William J. Clark Middle School, he said.
Grant also said that the HR heads of the county’s three districts have been meeting each week to coordinate on issues related to consolidation. They will soon present employee contract recommendations to the consolidated board, he said.
• Dr. Cynthia Cash-Greene, head of instructional services, said that parent conferences will be held March 26, the same day that report cards will be distributed.
Plans for summer school and the district’s strategic plan will be presented at the next meeting, she said.
She said that as part of her department’s “learn walks” at district schools, her staff members use a National Institute for Excellence in Teaching instructional tool to gauge the effectiveness of classroom instruction.
The data gathered from observation is uploaded and shared, she said. Also, the staff coaches principals to work with teachers, she said.
The process is meant to push teachers toward proficiency and to strive to reach exemplary status.
“If the teachers are proficient, students will all meet standards,” Cash-Green said.
• District Teacher of the Year Elizabeth Humphrey said that the district will be holding a food drive for Harvest Hope Food Bank. The drive will kick off in April, she said.