October 23, 2014

Superintendent explains why Academic Magnet coach was fired over postgame celebrations

Charleston County School District Image

Bud Walpole (Image: Charleston County School District)

The varsity football coach at Academic Magnet High School in Charleston County has been relieved from his coaching duties because of postgame victory celebrations a school board member says involved players smashing watermelons and making ape-like sounds, according to the Charleston County School District superintendent.

But some parents were livid with the decision, saying the celebrations had no racial intent at all.

Superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley said that Academic Magnet High School football coach Eugene “Bud” Walpole will no longer coach the Raptors because of what some in the district felt were inappropriate postgame celebrations that could be seen as having racial overtones.

“This is not an employee who has been fired for the district, he is still a teacher in the district,” she said. “This relieving of the duties was related to the coaching position only.”

McGinley said activities that were part of the celebrations were something the adults should have not let happen. “Therefore we took action to relieve the head coach of his responsibilities.” McGinley said.

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SC State president says school needs additional $12 million loan to pay vendors

SC State logoThe president of South Carolina State University told a state financial panel that his school needs an additional $12 million loan over the next three years to successfully dig out from its budget woes.

President Thomas Elzey told members of the Budget & Control Board on Tuesday that a previous $6 million loan they approved this spring went towards payroll, debt service, and past-due vendor payments. But he noted the school still has an additional $6.5 million it must meet, even after trustees approved a balanced budget this summer.

“We are working with our vendors to try and make sure they will be paid,” he said. “But we do not have those resources at this point in time,” he said.

Elzey, who was hired by the school’s board of trustees last year to get S.C. State’s finances in shape, warned many vendors and suppliers are threatening to stop work if they don’t get paid. “When I have vendors who are telling me they may not provide services, I have entities that may suggest that they are not going to be there when we need them, that’s a real challenge,” he said.

The $12 million loan was proposed at the recommendation of a blue ribbon committee appointed by the state legislature. The new proposed three-year loan would include $6 million by summer 2015, $4 million during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, and $2 million the third year. Elzey said spreading out the loan would also help ease the concerns of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accrediting group, which placed SC State on probation partly due to budget concerns.

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University of South Carolina-Beaufort to go tobacco free


USCBExactly one year after the University of South Carolina went tobacco-free, its Beaufort branch will follow suit.

Starting January 1, USCB no longer will allow the use of any tobacco products, including chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes, on either its Beaufort or Hilton Head Gateway campuses.

The news was first reported by the Beaufort Gazette.

The university’s current policy bans the use of tobacco products only in campus buildings and within 25 feet of building entrances, as well as at several designated outdoor seating areas.

“All of our buildings on campus already have a no smoking policy in effect. So really the only thing that changes is you can’t smoke on the grounds of our campus.” University spokeswoman Candace Brasseur told South Carolina Radio Network.

USCB joins at least 10 other schools in South Carolina — the nation’s fifth-largest tobacco-growing state — that already ban smoking or tobacco products. USC Sumter and USC Upstate also have gone tobacco-free. USC Aiken plans to do so in July 2015.

As of Oct. 1, 975 colleges and university around the country are tobacco-free, according to vice chancellor for student development Doug Oblander. USCB is following the national trend, he said, to protect students’ health and well-being.

SC Board of Education OK’s selling of unhealthy snacks in fundraisers


The state Board of Education voted Wednesday to give schools exemptions to sell unhealthy snacks during in-school fundraisers during 90 of 180 school days each year.

According to The Herald newspaper of Rock Hill the issue came about when the federal Smart Snacks in Schools regulations banned the selling of unhealthy food through in-school fundraisers if that food was to be consumed on the school campus during school hours. That includes morning Chick-fil-A biscuit sales by the PTO or Daddies and Donuts drop-ins to help pay for school improvements, but not take-home cookie dough or concession stands at sporting events.

Those federal regulations, however, allowed states to grant exemptions for fundraising programs. As of late July, 33 states had indicated they wouldn’t seek exemptions.

South Carolina originally was in that list, but the Department of Education decided to exempt up to 30 fundraisers, lasting up to 30 days each.

The S.C. Medical Association, Eat Smart Move More SC and several other groups led letter-writing campaigns against the exemptions. Those health advocates point out that the current S.C. exemption would be one of the most lenient in the country.

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia grant no exemptions. Another nine grant fewer than 10 exemption days. The most exemptions allowed currently are in Georgia (90 days), Pennsylvania (50 days), Wyoming (50 days), Illinois (36 days for high schools, nine for grades K-8) and Tennessee (30 days).

South Carolina sees slight gains on AP exams and SAT scores

South Carolina high school students saw slight improvements on Advanced Placement (AP) and SAT scores this last school year, but still lag behind the national average. That’s according to new data released by the South Carolina Department of Education on Tuesday.

“We must build upon these gains as we prepare students for life after high school, whether they’re joining the military, entering the workforce, or seeking higher education at one of our state’s superb technical colleges, or a four-year degree,” State Superintendent of Education Dr. Mick Zais said in a statement. “While these are positive gains, we must do more to ensure the college- and career-readiness of South Carolina students.”

South Carolina public school students increased the state’s average SAT score six points from the 2012-2013 school year to 1429 (out of 2400) in 2013-2014. The national average was 1471, a noticeable drop from 1498 in 2013.

The test’s critical reading score rose slightly from 479 in 2013 to 483 in 2014. Math scores increased from 484 in 2013 to 487 in 2014. The writing score decreased by one point from 460 to 459. Last year, 42.6 percent of SAT test takers nationwide met the SAT college- and career -readiness benchmark. In South Carolina, 35 percent of test takers met the benchmark.

SAT scores are used in the college admissions process to gauge high school graduates’ readiness for higher education. AP tests allow high school students to get college credit for some of their classes, if they get above the qualifying score.

The data also show more students taking the AP courses and more scoring the 3-5 points necessary to pass. In the past year, the number of AP exams taken by public school students in the state increased by 7.8 percent and the number of students earning scores of three or higher increased by 7.3 percent. While the number of students taking the tests is increasing, the pass rate remains around the national average of 57 percent.