Tag: Horry County Schools

DiSabato Comments on School Overcrowding Raise Anger Among Citrizens and Elected Officials

It was a banner night for Horry County Council member Dennis DiSabato at last night’s regular meeting of county council. During discussions about proposed rezonings in the Postal Way corridor of Carolina Forest, DiSabato managed to anger virtually everyone in attendance with his comments on school overcrowding.
During public input on the proposed rezonings, citizens raised questions about supporting infrastructure, such as roads, schools and public safety. Several citizens commented on the already overcrowded schools in Carolina Forest and called for “pumping the brakes” on development for a while as schools and infrastructure catch up.
Schools and Horry County School Board members have been a punching bag for DiSabato throughout the process. During a meeting of the Carolina Forest Civic Association in March when discussions of Postal Way and other developments were discussed, DiSabato was asked, “What consideration does the Zoning Board and Horry County Council give to the capacity of the schools?”
DiSabato answered, “If you have concerns about the capacity of your schools, you should direct them to your school board member. I’ll be completely honest, none, I don’t consider it at all.”
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School Board to Hear Suspended Facilities Director Grievance

Horry County Board of Education members are scheduled, at the regular board meeting Monday night, to hear a grievance filed by Mark Wolfe, Executive Director of Facilities for the school district.

Wolfe has been on paid administrative leave since late August 2018. Wolfe filed a grievance challenging the suspension to be heard in closed session by board members.

Wolfe first came to Horry County Schools in January 2014 after 23 years with the local architectural firm of Usry, Wolfe, Peterson, Doyle Architecture. He was promoted to his current position in March 2015.

According to several sources familiar with the issue, Wolfe was placed on leave by Horry County Schools Superintendent Rick Maxey after questions arose regarding how and why a contract for work on school facilities had been awarded to Wolfe’s stepson.

According to those sources, the contract was for the application of ballistic film on the windows of schools recently built by First Floor Energy Positive.

According to information provided to Grand Strand Daily, ballistic film was one of the items on a list of allowances provided for the new schools. Choices could be made from the list up to a maximum allowed budget similar to a budget provided for items such as types of appliances, counter tops, cabinets and the like to be chosen when building a new home.

According to those sources, the HCS Facilities department chose not to have ballistic film on the windows when choices from the allowances list were made for the new schools.

According to the sources, at a later date, First Floor Energy Positive, the general contractor for the new schools, was allegedly approached and asked to hire Wolfe’s stepson to apply ballistic film to the windows of the new schools with Horry County Schools paying First Floor Energy Positive for the work.

The request was allegedly made in this fashion so a contract for the ballistic film application would not have to go through the normal procurement process, according to those sources. Wolfe’s signature is reportedly on the documents approving the ballistic film application.

Concerns Abound Over Operation of Bucksport Marina

More than three months after a racially charged incident marred a Memorial Day Weekend festival at Bucksport Marina, questions about the future direction of the publicly owned facility remain unanswered.

The Bucksport Marina incident has remained under the radar as the more well-known incident involving former Conway High School football coach Chuck Jordan grabbed local headlines.

But, in many ways, the incident at the Bucksport Marina was more blatant involving physical injuries, financial suffering and the hurling of racial epithets at a man just doing his job.

On May 28, 2017, Curtis Hendrix was working for the “Waccamaw Getaway Music Festival” hosted by the restaurant on the Bucksport Marina property. One of his duties was to shuttle visitors to the festival to their cars or campsite at the RV resort on the marina property.

While performing those duties, a cart in which Hendrix was riding was forced off the road and into a ditch by Jeffrey Weeks. Weeks was operating the marina and RV resort under a sub-lease with E.D. LLC, the lessee of the marina, resort and restaurant property. E.D. LLC was leasing the property from Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority.

After forcing the cart off the road, Weeks stopped his vehicle and began yelling at the occupants of the cart, using racial epithets such as “f—–g niggers”, according to the police report of the incident.

Weeks was arrested and charged with 2nd Degree Assault. According to the 15th Circuit Court Index, the charges were brought before a Grand Jury and a True Bill Indictment was found against Weeks by the Grand Jury on August 9, 2017.

Hendrix suffered injuries that resulted in him not being able to work, thereby suffering financial loss and the loss of personal property as a result, according a lawsuit Hendrix has brought against Weeks personally and E.D. LLC.

USDOJ Auditing Horry County Schools

Grand Strand Daily has learned that the US Department of Justice is sending an auditor to Horry County next week to audit the student to teacher ratios in English as a Second Language courses in Horry County Schools.

Why is the Department of Justice auditing student to teacher ratios in an education course?

This reporter spent nearly an hour on the phone with various individuals at the USDOJ headquarters trying to get an answer to that question.

I did find out that the audit is coming through the Civil Rights Division and I did briefly speak to an attorney, described to me as “on the case,” but the attorney would not answer any questions.

(How many times have you heard representatives of federal, state or local government decrying the supposed inaccuracies of stories in the media? What they never tell you is our collective governments do their very best to keep everything they are doing secret from the media.)

Failing to get an answer to my question from DOJ representatives and considering the Civil Rights Division is involved, I am going to hazard a guess the upcoming audit has more behind it than just English as a Second Language student to teacher ratios.

My guess is it also includes the fact that Horry County Schools is at least on the periphery of the transgender bathroom use issue that has the USDOJ so active in Virginia and North Carolina at this time.

Is this a warning shot across the bow that the USDOJ is looking closely at Horry County Schools?

This strikes me as a huge overreach by the federal government.

Consider this, tax dollars paid partially by citizens of Horry County are being used to audit courses in Horry County public schools, paid for by more tax dollars from citizens of Horry County, to determine whether the civil rights of illegal immigrants, many of whom pay no taxes at all, are being violated?

The Social Issue of Transgender Bathrooms

Any time a controversial social issue comes to the fore, it brings along with it a variety of opinions that become so heated that rational thought becomes blurred.

The question of transgender bathrooms in Horry County schools has exploded into such an issue. The debate on this potent issue includes public fears, religious morality and political involvement.

At one time, this type of dilemma would not have been on anyone’s agenda as to many it is a non-issue. However, right now it is a hot topic as the controversial transgender bathroom is getting public and media attention no one thought possible.

Two days ago the Horry County School Board passed a resolution to say the administration would follow the law as it now stands (allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify or a private bathroom, whichever they prefer).

The school board also passed a motion to file an amicus curiae brief in support of the Gloucester (VA) County School Board, the agency in the middle of a lawsuit on transgender bathroom use.

Parents of non-transgender students continue to question the morality and safety of the decision. Parents of transgender students worry about the safety and stigmatization of their children.

For the reader…If you want to be a compassionate individual, try having a person’s anxiety who has a transgender body and their torment. Imagine the turmoil of how they feel trapped within a body they don’t want to have, but are not able to fully be the one they want to be. It is a self-torturing conundrum to have, trying to break loose from a feeling of frustration to one of freedom. For them it must be a joy to be able to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.

On the other side of the coin, is the moral consciousness of people who believe such a decision is immoral and sacrilegious to the core of morality. To them, crossing over from one gender to another is blasphemous.

In the Center of the Transgender Storm – Update

The Horry County School Board is trying to work its way out of the center of a transgender storm regarding bathroom usage in schools.

After the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recorded a 2-1 decision in the case of G.G. v. Gloucester (VA) County recently, a student who had been suspended for one day for using a school bathroom not of the student’s “birth-assigned sex” threatened to sue Horry County Schools.

The student is represented by the Transgender Law Center of California, which sent a letter to the school district threatening the law suit.

Just in the last several days, Horry County School Board members and Superintendent Rick Maxey received an email with two attachments from an attorney of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Scottsdale, Arizona headquartered organization with a branch in Georgia.

The subject of the email is: “Schools Are Not Legally Required to Allow Students to Use Opposite-Sex Restrooms, Showers, and Changing Rooms.”

One of the email attachments “explains the recent decision in the case of G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board and dispels the myth that, following the decision, schools are required to allow students to use the restrooms of the opposite sex,” according to the email.

My first thought was why do a law center based in California and a non-profit organization headquartered in Arizona want to get involved in Horry County?

My second thought, an answer to the first, was so that these two organizations can bring their causes into the national spotlight, using Horry County to test the Fourth Circuit ruling. You know, the old 15 minutes of fame or, in this case, maybe 15 years of fame for these organizations.

Do we want our school board to get in the middle of a national legal fight over transgender rights, equal protection, Title IX, discrimination and the like or do we want them concentrating on educating our children?

Remember, any public money spent on fighting lawsuits is money taken away from our children’s education. And we certainly don’t want to have to raise taxes just to be the center of national media attention.

Horry County Schools New Construction Update

A plan to spend an additional three to four million dollars on school construction was nixed by the Horry County Schools Facility Committee last week.

The committee said no to a recommendation by Facilities Director Mark Wolfe that the district hire a construction management firm to oversee construction of five new schools being built by First Floor Energy Positive.

Committee chairman Neil James reportedly told Wolfe the committee was not going to vote to approve the hiring of a construction management firm.

Instead, the committee directed Wolfe to continue with the current plan of interviewing potential candidates for a construction manager position that would be added to the school district payroll.

Construction managers or management firms are traditionally hired by public bodies to act as their representative on construction projects looking out for the best interests of the body they work for.

To me, it has always seemed as another level of bureaucracy added to the cost of a project. I believe a construction manager hired by and added to the district payroll is in the best interests of the citizens.

And it may not really be necessary in the case of the five schools that First Floor Energy Positive has been contracted to build.

A review of progress to date was presented at a board meeting held almost immediately after the committee meeting. The presentation was made by First Floor Energy Positive representative Robbie Ferris.

During the presentation, Ferris noted that approximately 10,000 sq. ft. of building space had been added to the Carolina Forest Middle School project at the request of the school facilities staff. Ferris told the board no change order would be forthcoming as the addition could be absorbed in the cost of the project.

An additional approximately 2,000 sq. ft. of space was also added to the Socastee Elementary School design at no extra cost, according to Ferris.

HCGOP Hears Details on Horry County Schools Building Projects

Four members of the Horry County Schools Board of Education were present at a special meeting of the Horry County Republican Party last week to provide information on the recent awarding of five contracts to First Floor Energy Positive for new, energy positive schools.

This is an issue that still resonates in local media because First Floor Energy Positive had the highest total cost for their proposals for the five schools.

What seems to be missing from the local conversation is that the process used to select First Floor Energy Positive focused on building energy positive schools. This means energy savings in future years must be factored into the equation.

Will there be significant energy savings? There have been from schools built by First Floor in North Carolina.

Several days after the meeting, I heard an interview with HCGOP member who, several times, referred to the contracts going to the “highest bid.”

First of all, these were not bids, they were proposals.

Later in the interview, it was correctly stated that the school board basically got three conceptual proposals that were presented by the three finalist contractors. He correctly stated that the three contractors were not bidding on a design submitted by the school district.

These are key points that have been missed often in the ongoing discussion about these contract awards.

These were not design-bid-build contracts where the school district develops a design that is then bid on with the contract generally going to the lowest bidder.

These were design-build proposals that were developed by the individual contractors within overall specifications and requirements of the school district.

Several members of the selection committee for HCS said First Floor Energy Positive was the only one of the three finalist contractors to meet all of the requirements in their designs.

Orchestrated Attack on Horry County School Board

Since early last month when the Horry County Schools Board of Education picked First Floor Energy Positive to build five new schools, there has been an orchestrated attack to denigrate that decision.

Much has been made of the fact that the First Floor proposals were over the initial budget while little has been said about all three finalists submitting proposals over budget.

Several news articles have said that the school board ignored the advice of a paid consultant, but never mentioned that consultant was hired by the board’s attorneys to answer technical questions only and not to make recommendations about the awarding of the contracts.

Those articles were quick to point out that M.B. Kahn was the only one of the three finalists whose proposal was ‘within striking range’ of the initial budget.

The news media basically got fed part of the story and ran with it.

These were not design-bid-build projects where the contract design generally goes to the lowest bidder. These were design-build proposals where the best, most complete proposal gets the contract as long as the cost is in the ballpark of the others.

Many other allegations of ‘misinformation’ are being circulated, even though those circulating them can be seen to have some ties, past and/or present, to one of the unsuccessful proposers.

However, First Floor Energy Positive was the only proposer who demonstrated the ability to deliver the schools on time.

In addition, several sources familiar with the selection committee process said there are things First Floor included in their proposals, that the others did not, which helped the selection committee understand what they were getting and, more importantly, were requirements of the Request for Proposal and SC law.

And, First Floor Energy Positive is the only proposer of the three finalists to have successfully built energy positive schools that are raved about by the North Carolina school districts in which they are located.

Horry County Schools Picks First Floor Energy Positive

The Horry County Schools Board of Education voted last night to award construction of five new schools to First Floor Energy Positive.

Included in the motion to award contracts for all five schools in this round of building projects to First Floor Energy Positive, was the raising of the budget for construction from approximately $167 million to approximately $225 million.

Proposals from all three finalist construction teams exceeded the initial budget by a considerable margin, according to sources familiar with the process.

The vote effectively ends a selection process that began in early 2014. The school district will now file a Notice of Intent to award contracts and there will be a 14 day protest period in which one of the other two finalist construction teams may challenge the award if they so desire.

A protest is expected and sources within the school district say there has already been Freedom of Information Act requests for large numbers of documents associated with the selection process.

Be that as it may, the Horry County Schools Board of Education made the correct choice.

First Floor Energy Positive has constructed three state of the art schools in North Carolina, all of which generate more energy than they consume. Excess energy is sold back to the local power grid.