As Board chairman for School District Five of Lexington & Richland Counties, it is my responsibility to speak on behalf of the School Board. So, when an open letter authored by our Board member Ken Loveless was published and circulated to several media outlets, I knew it was important to correct the many inaccuracies and misconceptions that Mr. Loveless’ letter spread to our community.
First, School District Five has always placed a high priority on safety. That is why we were one of the first districts in the state of South Carolina to ensure at least one School Resource Officer (SRO) in every school, well before the state and national push for this safety measure. We’ve increased resources and staff in the areas of safety, security and mental health for several years because we know it’s the right thing to do. Any assertion that our schools are unsafe or that we need to “renew thoughts” about safety is dangerous and unequivocally incorrect. Safety is a year-round, continuous focus of this Board.
In the letter, Mr. Loveless questioned the need and validity of a recent district facilities study by M.B. Kahn, a company with over nine decades of experience. While the district continuously assesses its facilities and addresses some needs through its capital budget, the purpose of the facilities study was to receive a comprehensive, independent report of the needs district-wide. The assertion that the report was a compilation of “wish list” items undermines the hours of work that went into the report and insults the school leaders, engineers, construction managers and other experts who carefully and appropriately reported this information. We would implore the community to review the full report first-hand: www.lexrich5.org/facilitiesstudy
Mr. Loveless erroneously wrote that there “is a movement afoot within the Board to start construction on the Amicks Ferry Elementary School (Elementary School #13) before a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) is produced.” This is another dangerous misrepresentation, and the truth is that the School Board will receive and vote on the final Guaranteed Maximum Price before construction. We do intend to have an early site package GMP to take advantage of gaining three months on the overall construction schedule and the drier months of the year in the fall.
I also must correct Mr. Loveless’ charges that Board construction spending is out of control and that the method the district chose to develop and construct the new elementary school on Amick’s Ferry Road (Construction Manager at Risk) is questionable.
Mr. Loveless draws comparisons to North Carolina schools in his assertions regarding spending for and size of our new elementary school. First, I would like to emphasize that district staff and experts have worked diligently to maximize project value. When comparing Elementary School 13 to North Carolina schools of similar sizes, we see that both cost per square foot and size are within a few percentage points. Much has also been said about the two-story design of our new elementary school, but we know that the per square foot cost of constructing a two-story school is about 10-15 percent less than the cost of a one-story school.
Construction Manager at Risk (CM at Risk) allows an owner to select a designer and then select a Contractor as the CM at Risk. This method is designed to lead to more efficient and cost-effective construction projects. It delivers a great product at great value. More information on CM at Risk can be found on the district website at www.lexrich5.org/elementaryschool13.
Finally, I also want to clarify that Board Officers are elected annually by the School Board through a vote. It is their role to create agendas, among other duties, and from that agenda-setting meeting, the Board secretary sends every Board member a synopsis of the agenda for the upcoming meeting and oftentimes, notices about agenda items to be considered in future meetings.
We can all agree with one assertion in the letter by Mr. Loveless: Our most precious resources are “the children of our community.”
Mr. Loveless joined the School Board nine months ago. I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t yet understand that an effective school board operates as a team. I have repeatedly offered to meet with Mr. Loveless to hear his concerns and answer questions, and I have yet to get a response. In order to work together, we need to have a dialogue with each other, as opposed to making erroneous statements to the public.
Our district recently was ranked in first place among districts in the state. We were also ranked among the top for being one of the best places to teach in South Carolina. Excellent rankings and the success of our students are collaborative efforts. As a School Board, we need to provide positive leadership to set the tone for the entire district and ensure that the type of inflammatory, unchecked rhetoric that permeates our society remains out of public education.
Chairman, Board of Trustees
School District Five of Lexington & Richland Counties