August 21, 2014

Freshman collapses, dies on Broome High School track

A high school student in Spartanburg County has died after collapsing on the track at the school.

Spartanburg County School District 3 confirmed in a statement that a ninth-grader, later identified as 14-year-old Chaquantei Fowler of Cowpens, had suffered a medical emergency while on the track at Broome High School. The county coroner’s office said Fowler was pronounced dead at around 3:30 Wednesday afternoon at Mary Black Hospital in Spartanburg.

District officials say school personnel and emergency medical service workers tried unsuccessfully to revive the teen.

“We offer our deepest prayers and sympathies to this student, his family, and Broome students and faculty,” the school district said in the statement.

An autopsy is been scheduled to determine the cause of death. Officials say there is no indication of foul play.

34 sailors kicked out of Navy after cheating scandal at Charleston sub school


Image: Department of Defense

Chief of Naval Operations Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert and Navy Adm. John Richardson, director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, brief reporters about the scandal back in February (Image: Department of Defense)

At least 34 sailors are being kicked out of the Navy for their roles in a cheating ring at a nuclear submarine school outside Charleston. Meanwhile, another 10 are under criminal investigation.

The Associated Press reports that the scandal at the Naval Weapons Station in Goose Creek was more extensive than the Navy realized when it first revealed the cheating in February. The investigation centered on exams that senior sailors needed to pass in order to become instructors at the Nuclear Power Training Unit.

In all, 78 enlisted sailors were implicated. Investigators said the cheating appeared to have been happening for at least seven years but has only been discovered in a single unit and was not known by commanding officers. Adm. John Richardson, director of naval reactors. told the AP that 34 sailors were removed from the submarine program and administratively discharged from the Navy. Two more were punished for minimal involvement but will remain in the service. 32 other implicated students and staff were exonerated by Richardson.

However, an additional 10 sailors are now under criminal investigation. Adm. Richardson told the AP those 10 were “ringleaders,” who provided exam answers in advance to others taking the test and tipped the students off about which test would be given.

The investigation found that a master file of tests and answers was illegally taken from a computer prior to 2007. The file contained all five sets of tests that were rotated among students. Emails containing the answer keys were then circulated between students, along with a number denoting which test they would be given.

An unidentified officer was also given a verbal warning for “deficiencies” with oversight of the test. That officer was not identified and Richardson said investigators do not believe the officer knew about the cheating.

ACT scores hold steady as more students take test in SC

The average composite scores among high school seniors taking the ACT college placement exam in South Carolina held steady in 2014, although they did drop slightly further behind the national average.

The average composite score of 20.4 (out of 36) remained unchanged from the 2012-2013 school year, according to data released by the South Carolina Department of Education on Wednesday. South Carolina’s public school students did increase their mean composite score by 0.1 points to 20.2.

However, South Carolina gave up ground to the nationwide average, which increased from 20.9 to 21.0.

The ACT standardized test is given to high school students to assess their college readiness. It’s scores are often considered by colleges in addition to results from the more popular SAT test. The ACT includes science questions, however, while the SAT does not. The composite score is the total average for a student’s performance in the English, Math, Reading, and Science sections.

The Education Department said more South Carolina students took the ACT in 2014 than ever before. There was a 12.7 percent increase in the number of public school students who took the test in 2014 from a year earlier. There was an 11.3 percent increase in the number of overall students who took the test in 2014.

“South Carolina students are to be commended for their performance on the 2014 ACT test,” State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said in a statement. “While South Carolina’s average ACT composite score was slightly under the national average, its proximity proves that we are making progress.  These are positive results that we can build on for the future.”

The ACT tests students in four subject areas: .  While composite statewide students’ scores for English and math showed no change from 2013, there was a 0.1 point increase in both reading and science for 2014.

The Governor’s Schools, as is usual, saw the highest composite scores with 27.8. York County School District 4 had the highest among traditional public schools at a 23.3 average. Allendale County School District and Bamberg County District 2 had the lowest scores with 14.4.


Corps of Engineers going after tree-clearing along Lake Hartwell

Lake Hartwell (SCDNR)

Lake Hartwell (SCDNR)

Some property owners who live along Lake Hartwell have been told they could lose the ability to keep docks on the property if they don’t stop illegally clearing brush and trees on the shore.

The Army Corps of Engineers maintains the large lake along South Carolina’s northwest border with Georgia and owns a thin “collar” of land that rings the water’s edge. The public land goes about 50-100 feet inland from the shoreline. Lakefront property must obtain a permit before clearing brush inside that collar.

But Corps spokesman Billy Birdwell said there has been an “unprecedented” increase this summer of landowners either going beyond the scope of their permit or removing brush and trees without approval.

“They wouldn’t think about going over to their neighbor on the left or the right and cutting down tree or brush on their property,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “But they think nothing about going onto public property that they do not own and doing the same thing.”

He said the natural growth along the lake is there for several reasons: it helps keep runoff from flowing freely into the water, can slow erosion, and creates a natural habitat for animals.

“We have the trees and brush going there for a reason,” he said.

Birdwell said property owners who did not realize their mistake usually agree to voluntary compliance, meaning they must allow the brush to grow back. However, repeat or particular severe offenders risk having their permits revoked, including a separate permit that allows them to keep a boat dock along the lake. They could also face stiff fines.

Birdwell said the Corps has only revoked six permits in the 50 years the agency has maintained the lake. but adds up to seven landowners are currently under investigation and could lose the permits this summer. A majority are on the South Carolina side, which is more developed than Georgia’s end of the lake.

Lake Hartwell has the largest shoreline management program of any Corps of Engineers’ lake in the nation. Fifty percent of its shoreline is zoned for limited private development, such as a boat dock or access walkway.

Report: South Carolina collected $266 million surplus past fiscal year

South Carolina ended the 2014-2015 fiscal year in June with a $266 million surplus, $32 million more than budget analysts had expected.

In its closing report issued Wednesday, the state Comptroller General’s Office said that surplus is being deposited into a reserve fund to be applied towards next fiscal year. The news also allows state government to cover every item on a priority list that was only to be funded with surplus revenue.

However, the Comptroller General’s report also warned that the 2.5 percent increase in revenue this past year had slowed from the 9.1 percent growth in Fiscal Year 2012-2013.

In all, general fund revenues grew by $163 million over prior year’s revenues. It is the second consecutive year that the surplus exceeded estimates.

The $235 million in legislative priorities list includes more than $48 million towards debt service and reserve funds, an additional $23 million for the Department of Education, more than $14.5 million for various technical colleges, $12.4 million towards the Department of Commerce’s Deal Closing Fund, and $5 million for the future African-American History Museum in Charleston.

State Comptroller Richard Eckstrom warned that South Carolina still faces more than $25 billion in unfunded liabilities for state employees retirement benefits that will come due in the future.