April 19, 2015

Jennifer Garner visits SC Statehouse to promote early childhood education


Jennifer Garner and Save the Children Action Network president Mark Shriver speak with South Carolina Radio Network on Thursday

Jennifer Garner and Save the Children Action Network president Mark Shriver speak with South Carolina Radio Network on Thursday

Actress Jennifer Garner — perhaps best known for her starring role in the TV series “Alias” as well as the films “Daredevil,” “Juno,” and “13 Going on 30″ — shed her acting persona this week as she traveled to South Carolina’s Statehouse to promote childhood literacy.

Garner serves on the board of the nonprofit “Save the Children,” an international organization that works on behalf of children’s rights worldwide. While the program is best known for its work fighting hunger and helping orphans in Third World nations, it has also spent the past decade reaching out to help literacy programs in poor, rural American communities.

It was this second purpose that brought Garner and Save the Children Action Network president Mark Shriver to Columbia on Wednesday and Thursday. Garner, a native of West Virgina

“Kids growing up in poverty hear about 30 million fewer words by the time they’re three years old,” Garner said in a sit-down interview with South Carolina Radio Network. “And that matters. That is what gets the synapses to go off in your brain and set you up to be able to speak, to be able to read, to be able to take in verbiage. And go from learning to read to reading to learn.”

AUDIO: Garner speaks about “Save the Children,” and why she became involved (1:10)

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Berkeley County schools chief placed on paid leave after ethics indictment

Dr. Rodney Thompson (Image: Berkeley County Schools)

Dr. Rodney Thompson (Image: Berkeley County Schools)

The schools chief in Berkeley County has been placed on paid leave after his indictment on ethics charges Wednesday.

The State Grand Jury returned an indictment against Berkeley County School District Superintendent Dr. Rodney Thompson. The state Attorney General’s Office announced that Thompson has been indicted on one count of using public funds, property, and time to influence the outcome of an election.

The charge is a misdemeanor and carries a potential sentence of up to one year in prison and/or a substantial fine. The county school board voted to name Deputy Superintendent Archie Franchini as interim superintendent during the legal proceedings.

The indictment stems from a 2012 referendum in which Berkeley County voters were asked to consider raising property taxes to help raise $198 million in bonds towards new school construction and other work. Voters eventually approved the referendum after a long public campaign highlighting overcrowded schools, the lack of technology, and the need for new teachers.

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Coroner: USC frat member died from ‘toxic level’ of alcohol poisoning

Charlie Terreni (Image: Facebook)

Charlie Terreni (Image: Facebook)

A University of South Carolina student found dead in an off-campus Columbia home last month died from an alcohol level in his blood that was “toxic,” according to toxicology test results announced by the Richland County Coroner’s Office on Wednesday.

Toxicology test results showed that the body of 18-year-old Charles Terreni, Jr., had a blood-alcohol content of 0.375, according to Coroner Gary Watts. That is more than four times the 0.08 level that state driving laws consider legally intoxicated.

“This death is going to be listed as acute ethanol toxicity and as an accidental (death),” Watts told South Carolina Radio Network on Wednesday. “Acute ethanol toxicity” is better known by the general public as “alcohol poisoning,” he added.

“This is a toxic level and is ultimately what caused his death,” Watts continued. “This was a tragic and totally preventable death.”

Terreni was a freshman at USC and a member of the Phi Kappa Alpha fraternity when he was found dead in the home on March 18, the day after St. Patrick’s Day. He did not live in the home located off the school’s downtown Columbia campus. Neighbors have told local media outlets that a party was held at the home the previous night, but that has not been confirmed by Columbia Police nor the college.

The fraternity chapter was suspended by both the school and its national organization soon after his body was found. Columbia Police have been investigating the case.

While an autopsy was done on Terreni within a day of his death, toxicology reports can take several weeks to complete.

Terreni’s father is a prominent Columbia attorney who is well-known in South Carolina state government. His firm’s website says Terreni is a former state Public Service commissioner and served on the staff of former Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler. He was also involved in redrawing South Carolina’s congressional and legislative districts in 2011.

The younger Terreni was a graduate of Cardinal Newman High School in Forest Acres. He helped captain the school’s soccer team to a state title his senior season.


SC State University board chairman steps down

Dr. William Small (SC State University portrait)

Dr. William Small, Jr., (SC State University portrait)

The chairman of embattled South Carolina State University’s board of trustees has stepped down from his position, as state lawmakers continue debating the future of that board.

Chairman Dr. William Small, Jr., cited health issues, according to school officials, but plans to remain on the board as a member. He is a retired education from the town of Yemassee in Beaufort County. He has served in the chairman’s position since 2013, when he was elected by fellow board members to replace outgoing chairman Walter Tobin.

The SC State board has been targeted by lawmakers and the public for blame over the school’s ongoing financial struggles. South Carolina’s only public historically-black college is facing a $23.5 million deficit by the end of June, according to an audit released last month. Small has unsuccessfully tried to defend the board as legislators advance proposals that would replace it with a new smaller panel.

Vice Chair Gail Joyner-Fleming will serve as interim board chair until a new one is elected. The next chair will be the fourth in the last four years. Tobin was voted out in 2013 by state legislators upset over the school’s direction. His predecessor Jonathan Pinson resigned from the position in 2012 after his indictment on racketeering and corruption charges. He was found guilty on 29 counts last year and is awaiting sentencing.

Clyburn slams SC State board: ‘People setting policy & they can barely spell policy’

Congressman Jim Clyburn holds copies of a 30-year-old complaint he says documents a lack of funding for SC State

Congressman Jim Clyburn holds copies of a 30-year-old complaint he says documents a lack of funding for SC State

Congressman Jim Clyburn — perhaps South Carolina State University’s most prominent alumnus — slammed the school’s board of trustees on Thursday, saying school policy is being set by some who “can barely spell the word,” and that the decision to hire Thomas Elzey as president in 2013 was among the “worst mistakes” they had ever made.

“That’s what’s wrong at the school,” he said during a semiannual meeting with Columbia reporters last week. “You’ve got a lot of people setting policy and they can barely spell ‘policy.’ And that’s crazy.”

Clyburn made the comments as state lawmakers try to plot the best path for the school facing a $23.5 million deficit by July. There are two competing plans currently in the Statehouse that would each replace the board with a temporary panel (a Senate plan would have the replacements mostly chosen by the legislature, the House wants state financial leaders picking them). Clyburn said he favored keeping the board in place and replacing the members as their terms expire, but he did favor a new three-member management team that would chart the school’s future course.

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