Dear Editor,

Three of my sons attended District 5 schools. They attended Irmo elementary and middle schools, and graduated from Dutch Fork High School. My grandson is a first grader now, and I am holding my breath. Why? Because I’ve watched and been a part of this district for 26 years, and I am saddened to watch the disintegration of its pride.

Sure, people shout we are number one, but are we? Really? The Chapin and Irmo clusters are polarized. The district has spent millions on brick and mortar instead of teachers and students. When we throw up a $32M school where it is not needed while making teachers provide teaching supplies for their classroom. . . when the district forces teachers to work overtime in order to prepare for virtual and hybrid situations and not get paid for it. . . when the district cannot afford a step increase for teachers when they need and earn it most. . . something is terribly wrong.

Other districts fund increases for teachers out of pocket not waiting for the state legislators, and our affluent district not only cannot follow suit but also has to sequester ten percent of supply money (i.e., keep it from the schools) to make sure they do not run out of supplies too early in the year (see several board meeting presentations by Len Richardson, financial officer for the district).

They built the $32M school on Amicks Ferry Road in Chapin where nobody wanted it, neither the Irmo nor the Chapin cluster of residents. Where no population studies justified it, while leaving Irmo schools struggling to keep the lights on. . . schools that had room for more students.

The district paid five figures for an MB Kahn study which noted millions of dollars of repairs needed (with suggestion to tear one school down). Instead, the district, led by the voice of board member Ed White (recorded in a public board meeting), stated they changed their minds and didn’t want to use it.

Our district’s money is slipping away in decisions like the above, while our tax bills are escalating to accommodate the mismanagement.

I say this to emphasize that the old guard really needs to accept the fact they have lost grip on things. We don’t have the funds to pay teachers, repair schools, or provide supplies. During reentry, we became a joke with the press showing how our board (quotes from chairman Michael Cates abound in several papers) abdicated their voice on how to return to school. Superintendent Melton was thrown to the wolves, and our number one status we profess became a joke.

We are not number one. We sound like an ex-beauty queen, twenty years later, still trying to hold onto that crown.

USNew.com is the go-to place for school rankings. Our high schools are #5, 11, 16 and 113 in South Carolina. Only one of those high schools has 50% or more students college ready.

Schooldigger.com ranks 82 South Carolina districts, and at the end of 2019 placed D5 at #9, having dropped four places since 2018. We didn’t even rank five stars like nine of the other districts.

We are not who we pretend to be, but that’s not to say we cannot regain that tarnished crown we keep pretending is ours. But to do so means serious change in leadership.

The old leadership running for reelection is Robert Gantt and Michael Cates. Gentlemen, it’s time to give it a rest.

April Alsup is running alongside these gentlemen with her platform supporting the way things have always been done, and she campaigns for Gantt and Cates.

We have no need of more of the same. Hand over the reins. What you’ve tried has not worked. Your ways are obsolete. This is a new generation with new needs that you are not prepared to meet, and there is fresh blood stepping up wanting to salvage this district.

I will not tell you who to vote for. However, I will tell you who will further damage this district. . . Gantt, Cates and Alsup.

We are damaged, but we are not beyond repair. For the first time in decades, we have a full roster of qualified and highly interested people to replace the old guard. We have options we’ve never had before.

In Lexington (vote for two):

· Catherine Huddle
· Rebecca Blackburn Hines
· JJ Lindler

In Richland (vote for one):

· Matt Hogan
· Jane Westbury

Vote to make a change. Don’t vote to continue the decline.

Cynthia Hope Clark