July 23, 2014

Report: SC trails in well-being of children

childrenSouth Carolina remains 45th in the nation in child well-being, according to the annual Children’s Trust “Kids Count” report.

The report also shows that poverty among South Carolina’s children has gotten worse, rising from 23 percent in 2005 to 27 percent in 2012. Melissa Strompolis of Kid’s Count South Carolina said educational achievement continues to lag behind as 72 percent of the state’s 4th-graders are not proficient in reading and 69 percent of 8th-graders are not proficient in math.

She said that does not bode well for the future. “Those are very concerning because with all the new and the economic boost that it seems that South Carolina is seeing, we want our children to be able to fill those jobs and contribute to South Carolina’s economy,” she told South Carolina Radio Network. “But they will need the education to be able to do that.”

Kids Count is a major initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Nationally, the report shows that 23 percent, or 16.4 million U.S. children, are living in poverty. That rate is up from about 19 percent in 2005.

The report reveals that 36 percent of the state’s children lived in homes where their parents lacked secure employment, an increase from 30 percent in 2008. Strompolis says living at or near poverty causes a numbers of stressors on the family and that can lead to child abuse and neglect. Strompolis said South Carolina did show some improvement in the area of health and well-being.

“We’ve had a reduction in the rates of child and teen deaths,” she said. “We’ve also seen a reduction in the number of teens giving birth, which has also been very positive for South Carolina.”

But despite the progress, Strompolis said South Carolina continues to lag near the bottom in the well-being of its children because other states are making just as much or more improvement. Strompolis says Kids Count is sharing information with counties as a call to action so that steps can be taken, at the grassroots level, to improve various environments so children can thrive and achieve.

“What Children’s Trust is working to do is to take all of this information and put it out at the county level,” she said. “So that local communities and stakeholders can take this information back to their respective counties, which will include their county data, and work to make improvements because we may see some regional variation from one county to the next.”

OSHA investigating state school for at-risk youth in McCormick

John de la Howe School (Image: JDLH)

John de la Howe School (Image: JDLH)

Workplace safety officials are now investigating a state-funded school for at-risk youth in McCormick.

The Greenwood Index-Journal reports the state Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is looking into the John de la Howe School aging buildings. The move comes after OSHA said it received a complaint from an anonymous school employee who claimed problems with mold, asbestos, and hazardous chemicals around the school.

The paper reports the complaint describes the administrative building and cafeteria to be in a state of “wanton disrepair,” noting rainwater entering live light fixtures in the cafeteria, large holes inside and out, an outside freezer that can be potentially lock an individual inside, and a lack of a fire suppression system. In the administrative building, the complaint claims there are falling terracotta roof tiles that may contain asbestos

The John de la Howe school has been subject to several probes this year. The state Inspector General issued a report in January that criticized a lack of oversight and controls that led to the school spending almost $87,000 per student enrolled. 65 students are currently enrolled in the school, according to the report. The state Department of Education began temporary oversight of the school this year, in response to the Inspector General’s report and several resignations by school leaders.

The school was established in 1797 according to the will of Dr. John de la Howe. According to the will, de la Howe’s estate of 2000 acres in McCormick County was left to the state to care for 12 poor boys and 12 poor girls in a school based setting with preference to be given to orphans. The school became a state agency in 1918.


Orangeburg-Calhoun Tech reports potential data breach

Image: Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College

Image: Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College

Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College officials say they have notified local law enforcement officials that a laptop computer with sensitive personal information was stolen from a staff member’s office earlier this week.

The college says it is notifying students and faculty whose personally identifiable information was stored on that computer.  In a release, O-C Tech said the computer contained data files that included the names, birth dates, and social security numbers of former and current students and faculty members. The school says the laptop is password-protected and the data was not stored in an easily recognizable format.

The release did not say how many students and faculty were affected.

“College officials were disappointed to learn that someone entered a staff member’s office on campus and removed a computer,” said Kim Huff, Vice President for Business Affairs, said in a statement. “We are evaluating our security controls to prevent further incidents.”

Orangeburg-Calhoun Tech is a comprehensive two-year technical college located in Orangeburg that provides training of persons for jobs in new and expanding industries, upgrading programs for workers already employed and university transfer opportunities.

The college said it has spent two days verifying the information stored on the stolen laptop after realizing it was stolen on Monday. They say there is currently has no indication that any of this data was accessed or used.

As a precautionary measure, the college is advising these individuals to closely monitor their credit reports and reminding them that everyone is entitled to a free credit report each year at www.annualcreditreport.com.

State panel approves Winthrop interim president’s salary

Interim President Debra Boyd (Image: Winthrop University)

Interim President Debra Boyd (Image: Winthrop University)

A state panel decided Wednesday that Winthrop University’s interim president should continue to receive the current salary she was earning before her unexpected promotion last month.

Provost Debra Boyd assumed the position of interim president in June when the Winthrop Board of Trustees suspended, then fired, previous president Jamie Williamson less than a year into her tenure. Williamson was fired for violating the University’s nepotism policy after her husband was paid $27,000 for government relations work at the school, apparently without the board’s knowledge.

The Rock Hill Herald reports the Agency Head Salary Commission unanimously approved the trustees’ request to maintain Boyd’s current salary at nearly $163,000.

If the panel had not approved Boyd’s current salary, Boyd’s pay would have been reduced to nearly $157,000 as acting president– the base pay level for Winthrop’s agency head and a $6,000 pay cut from her provost salary.

Boyd started her career at Winthrop first as an English professor in 1984.  She went on to become chair of the English Department in 1999 and later as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 2003.  In 2011, she was appointed Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty.

Report: SC State “inappropriately” transferred $2.3 million to foundation

SC State logoA new watchdog report slams South Carolina State University, saying school leaders “inappropriately” sent millions to a private foundation that had no public oversight.

The report released by the state Inspector General’s Office Tuesday noted $11 million in rebates that vendors had paid the college from 2010 to 2013. Of that, the report notes $2.3 million was redirected to the school’s SCSU Foundation. From there, it was split into five different accounts.  One was titled, “Institutional Development,” while the other four were “discretionary accounts” assigned to the school’s president, vice president of finance, vice president of institutional advancement, and general counsel. The foundation had no control over these accounts, according to the Inspector General’s office.

The report’s release was first noted by The State newspaper.

The report notes that money was used to pay for travel, an Atlanta Falcons football game, and even country club memberships. Meanwhile, the school slowly built up a deficit, which reached $13.6 million this year.

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