April 21, 2015

Children in rural 4-year-old kindergarten may be dropping behind urban peers

EOC director Melanie Barton  (Image: SCETV)

EOC director Melanie Barton (Image: SCETV)

Education officials say an expansion of four-year-old kindergarten has not seen the desired impact in poor, rural counties so far. They warn the achievement gap even appears to be increasing between students in the relatively new program and their urban counterparts.

Members of the Senate were briefed on the findings last week, according to The State newspaper.

South Carolina lawmakers have significantly expanded 4K in the state as part of a budget deal between Democrats who support the program and Republicans who are hesitant about it. In 2013, senators expanded all-day kindergarten from 8 school districts in 2011 to 57 districts in 2015. Eligible districts must have a poverty index of 70 percent or higher. Approximately 12,000 students are enrolled in the Child Development Education Pilot Program (CDEPP) now,

But a January report by the Education Oversight Committee (EOC) found CDEPP students are not showing the progress seen in other wealthier districts that are not in the CDEPP program. While CDEPP students do better than low-income four-year-olds in their districts who did not participate in the program, they trail the statewide average in percentage of non-CDEPP students who “met or exceeded” state standards in Math and English/Language Arts.

The math and English results are taken from the PASS test that students must take in grades 3-5 several years after their CDEPP experience.

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Officials identify USC student found dead in off-campus home

Officials have now identified an 18-year-old University of South Carolina student who was found dead in an off-campus house Wednesday morning.

The Richland County Coroner’s Office said Thursday it is still waiting for toxicology results before declaring a cause of death for Charles “Charlie” Terreni, Jr. The Columbia native and USC freshman was found dead around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in a home located near the city’s Five Points district. The coroner said there were no signs of traumatic injuries.

The Coroner’s Office said Terrini did not live at the house.

Terreni was a member of the Pi Kapa Alpha fraternity at USC. The national fraternity announced it had suspended the chapter shortly after the death was revealed. “The fraternity’s thoughts and prayers are with the family of this young man and the brothers of Xi Chapter,” the national organization said in a statement.

The freshman was a 2014 graduate of Cardinal Newman High School in Columbia. His father Charles Terrini is a Midlands attorney who specializes in government and utilities law.

The University of South Carolina warned against jumping to conclusions about Terrini’s death. “There are a lot of rumors out there about the circumstances surrounding the death but at this point the matter remains under investigation,” university spokesman Wes Hickman said in a statement. “While we await further information we are focused on helping our community grieve and heal.”

Financial board: Audit findings of SC State worse than thought

Gov. Nikki Haley said Wednesday she is concerned about the school's survival after seeing the audit's preliminary findings (Image: SCETV)

Gov. Nikki Haley said Wednesday she is concerned about the school’s survival after seeing the audit’s preliminary findings (Image: SCETV)

A top financial panel delayed a vote Wednesday on whether to extend a $6 million loan for South Carolina State University as the school struggles with a gradually expanding deficit.

Members of the Budget and Control Board said an audit of the school released Wednesday was even worse than they feared.

“This really is about the survival of the school,” Gov. Nikki Haley said after a briefing by auditors from the Columbia firm Elliott Davis Decosimo, LLC. “I’ve never felt as uncomfortable as I do right now on how we actually get this school to survive. It’s going to have to be a lot of things none of us want, a lot of changes that are not comfortable.”

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SC State board fires President Elzey

S.C. State University president Thomas Elzey (Image: The Citadel)

S.C. State University president Thomas Elzey (Image: The Citadel)

The South Carolina State University board of trustees voted to fire suspended president Thomas Elzey on Monday, three weeks after placing him on administrative leave and just hours after a state judge gave them the legal ability to do so.

Elzey was placed on paid leave by the board last month and said he was told to clean out his office. But he filed a breach-of-contract suit before the board acted further, saying the trustees never gave a cause for firing him. Circuit Judge Edgar Dickson initially ordered a stay in the case but eventually sided with the board on Monday.

Dickson ruled that, while the trustees may have not given cause, Elzey’s contract allows them to terminate his employment so long as the president receives a buyout compensation. The Associated Press reports Elzey would be owed $425,000 if terminated.

WLTX-TV reports the trustees did not give a reason for Elzey’s dismissal, with Chairman William Smalls telling the public that the reasons were outlined in letters to the now-former president. Those letters were not released.

In court last week, his attorney Nancy Bloodgood suggested the board did not honor its contract with Elzey. But school attorney Ken Childs argued in court that the trustees do not have to give cause — so long as they pay a buyout.

The board hired Elzey in a 7-6 vote in the summer of 2013. The school’s finances were already spiraling out of control even before the former Citadel administrator took charge. But state legislators have criticized Elzey, saying he has not done enough the stop the school’s budget deficit from growing to $17 million. Elzey presented documents showing that he submitted proposed budget cuts to the board, but they did not adopt the plan.

Winthrop University names new president

Winthrop University trustees call president-elect Daniel Mahony after Friday's vote (Image: WRHI)

Winthrop University trustees call president-elect Daniel Mahony after Friday’s vote (Image: WRHI)

Nine months to the day since Winthrop University’s tenth president was sent packing, the school’s board of trustees unanimously chose their next leader.

The board tapped Dr. Daniel Mahony as Winthrop’s next president on Friday. He will take over his new office on July 1. Mahony is the Dean of Education at Kent State University in Ohio.

Winthrop is a public liberal arts university located in Rock Hill. It has roughly 6,100 students.

The trustees went into a back room for less than an hour Friday before announcing Mahony was their pick. They then called Mahony to congratulate him. “We found a welcoming community (at Winthrop) and one whose values and aspirations align very closely with ours,” the education dean said during the call. “I was also very impressed by the strength that exists at the university and truly believe that, if we work well together, Winthrop will have a wonderful future.”

Dan Mahony

Dan Mahony

School provost Deborah Boyd had stepped in as acting president after the trustees fired previous president Jamie Comstock Williamson in June. Trustees said they had lost confidence in Williamson’s leadership after they said she had improperly hired her husband and then lied about it to them.

Mahoney was one of three finalists for the post named last month. One candidate, College of Charleston dean Alan Chao withdrew his name earlier in the week. University of Tennessee-Chattanooga dean Jeff Ewell was the other finalist.

Andrew Kiel of Rock Hill station WRHI filed this report