By Elder James Williams
This week we are writing amid “political inundation.” If that needs any explanation, please disregard this communication because we must have sent it to the wrong universe. With all of the nonsensical things coming forth daily, it is becoming difficult to determine why things are happening the way they are. Even though much is attributed to the times we are living in, that alone does not adequately explain what is happening locally and nationally regarding racial polarization, criminal activities, political shenanigans, and even how some in the church find themselves defending the indefensible.
The negatives are expanding precipitously as well as the number of people who are willing not to see what they are seeing or hear what they are hearing. There is kind of a hypocritical irony to the statement, especially when advertisements are bombarding our airways with slogans like, “If you see something, say something.” When will America wake up and recognize people around the world don’t only hear what we are saying, but they see what we are doing? What will be the outcome for a nation that has held itself in such high esteem, now that we have a leader who is promoting isolationism, national bias and bigotry, narcissism, maniacal egotism, ignorance, and a host of other things? We spend enough money on political campaigns to practically eliminate hunger in much of the world, especially in our own country. It shouldn’t be conscionable to allow political campaigns to continue nonstop. There appears to be a deliberate attempt to make the electorate jaded from the saturation of the airwaves with half-truths, boasts, and flat out lies. How can it be that with a self-described nationalist, and a proven racist and sexist in the White House, many Americans are boastfully declaring we have the greatest president ever? Even though the ones boasting the loudest are Conservative Republicans, what does it say about the moral fiber of our nation?
Are there really 40%, or more, Americans who want to see our nation go back through the turmoil of the past? Where many people suffered, bled and died, fighting for civil, voting, fair housing, education, and many other human rights that were denied many Americans in the not so distant past. We honestly believe this election will go a long way in determining the portrait that 21st century America will paint. We call upon every American to realistically consider what direction you would have our nation headed – forward or backward; the choice is ours to make.
By the time you read this article, the dye may have already been cast as far as the role our state will play in determining who may represent the best option for a brighter and better future. It is our position no one individual should ever be allowed to gain the kind of influence, or “raw power” we are currently witnessing in the office of the President. We now have the benefits of recorded history, showing what has happened, and what likely will happen again when men are allowed to inflate their egos and feed their narcissisms. Did we learn nothing from Europe’s past, or are we foolish enough to believe we can do the same things that caused much of Europe, and other countries, to fall under the tyranny of unchecked and unabated power? Is it just us, or is there someone else who recognizes what we see developing all around us? POTUS has begun to operate in ways, making it obvious he does whatever is necessary to remove whomever and whatever might represent a semblance of oversight or restriction to what he wants to do. That flies directly in the face of a system of governance established to call and allow for checks and balances.
We have some of the same things going on in our school district. Based on all that has happened, you would think there were no honest or competent people in our district before the arrival of the present administration. If the last board meeting was indicative of what we can expect in the future, it appears our district is heading for some tough times ahead. We got the strangest feeling what they offered as an audit were weaponized. There seemed to be a little bit of everything that went into establishing a criminal conspiracy against some board members, as well as former and current employees, superintendents, accountants, auditors, managers, and assistant managers. We hope if you are one of those who were so salaciously maligned during the conversations by some board members and the administration, that you would want to come before the board and publicly set the record straight.
There were board members who talked about single units and catering as if they were some criminal enterprises. When, in fact, if the information we were able to acquire is correct, it merely represents the conduit by which food service workers were trained and certified, and how the staff was fed during various school-related functions? Mind you, at that time, the department was fully functional on its own and paid for itself. Since positive audits were done in the past, they must not have done anything illegal. But based on the way the board discussed the findings from the most recent audit, which administration suggests was done at its request, even though we believe the minutes will show some board members had been calling for an audit for various reasons for quite some time.
Speaking of the minutes, that may be an area that needs looking into as well. Especially since it is common practice for the adoption of the minutes to run several months behind. During a February meeting, one board member suggested something be corrected in the minutes. Now you may wonder what would be unusual about that? Well, we would agree with you, recommending a change might not, in and of itself, be considered as austere. Still, when you consider the recommendation for the change in the minutes was from a meeting held in November of the previous year, that adds a little flavor to the request. The change was based on one board member saying his recollection of a statement in the minutes was not attributed to the correct person, but by none other than yours truly, Elder Williams. The board member didn’t have a problem calling my name out in a public meeting. No doubt, I took offense to being disparaged in an open meeting, but the format of the meeting did not allow for those whose name is called out twice, for no logical reason, to participate. But, that will be dealt with in a different venue.
While we are on the subject of the FSD1 Board minutes, it warrants mentioning minutes from another meeting around the purchase of some new school buses. The minutes may enlighten some of us of the possible ways we have come to be under financial watch by the state. During the meeting, board member Pipkins made a motion to force the administration to pay bills and make purchases out of the budget established for that purpose, and accountability. Sadly that motion failed because the administration stated that was not their preferred method. A motion followed from the voting block to allow the superintendent to transfer funds and use the fund balance to make purchases at the administration’s discretion. Those things, and others, might indicate we could be dealing with an out of control board. Some type of intervention might be warranted because it appears as though the board, administration, and those in charge of handling the district’s finances are taking the posture of congratulating one another for the job they are doing.
We don’t see a sensible way forward unless someone accepts responsibility for the situation our district is in presently. It seemed a little odd that what was supposed to be a discussion about the performance and forensic audit turned into “a witch hunt.” The administration boastfully declared why “they” brought in Chartwell. There may have been an insinuation that something nefarious had occurred before that point. But, that would certainly fit with what we know now, that failure in District 1 is often rewarded. Just look around and see who is serving in various upper-level positions. I guess the question now should be, “How well has Chartwell performed, and when will we find out if bringing them in solved the alleged issues?”
Did we vet them, or are they a part of those no-bid contracts we’ve heard so much about? One board member stated, “The board does not have the authority to question individuals from the past, but SLED does.” We suppose this was a thinly veiled reference to some past administrators, board members, directors, employees, etc. Those few board members almost gleefully injected the fact SLED was currently investigating Food Service. They also took the liberty to curtail the discussion stating it was an ongoing investigation which, those present, would not have known about if they had not so brazenly inserted that information into their presentations and questioning of what appeared to be past and present improprieties. Based on what we heard at that February 27, 2020 meeting, if what was said was accurate, we ought to be hearing about someone going to jail soon? That, or there should be some major apologies forthcoming.
Our recommendation for you this week is to order the tape and see what is going on in your name. Since there is a strong five-member voting block that practically approves everything recommended, including closing the Career Center, shouldn’t there be some consideration given to what that does to the rest of the district? Even though a few of those voting don’t seem to realize part of their region is among the most disfranchised in our entire school system. We remember being at a meeting where one board member made a motion to force the administration to pay bills and make purchases out of the budget. What happened was the same voting block caused that motion to fail, setting in motion several things are contained in the present audit, such as weak oversight and poor internal control. In our district block voting has been weaponized to accomplish the will of some, while decimating the ability of the rest to accomplish anything.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT; What happens if you are not represented by a board member who is a part of the voting block? Could you possibly be left with no middle school concept and old mold-infested schools, while others enjoy the benefit of new schools as a result of the consolidated voting power? Getting put on financial watch by the state may be the best thing that could happen for some of us. It might be the only way we are going to get the equity and transparency we so desperately need. What happens when an audit is called for, in such a way that it conflates what has happened in the past with what is happening now? It is interesting and even unusual how an audit that is called for in the 2019 school year gets conflated with so many other years. We, the constituents, are left not knowing from which years the negatives discussed in the audit labeled FSD1 Fiduciary Fund-Agency Fund for the year ending June 30, 2019. Based on the board’s discussion at the most recent board meeting, one could have come away believing the audit for the 2019 calendar year was the result of what happened as far back as the 2016 calendar year when we got good audits.
Our question now is, “Who bears the blame, or carries the responsibility for the WEAK 2019 Performance Audit?” Does the current administration bear any of the blame, or should we go back as far as necessary to find someone else to distribute the blame and causes among? The way things are now done brings to mind, an adage that goes, “Every table or chair must stand on its own legs.” What was presented and discussed by the board on February 27, 2020, represented things that took place as far back as 2016, with some mention being made to 2012, discombobulates things to the extent that one can hardly tell what went wrong to get our current weak performance audit. One thing is for sure; the state didn’t take Timmonsville from under FSD1 financial control because of something that happened in 2016. As far as we know, they were not under our control then. Not to mention they received poor audits under FSD1 supervision. Another question comes to mind, “With all the conflating of issues that occurred in this audit and how they found their way into the discussion centered around this audit, how did the State Superintendent decide to put other districts under the financial supervision of FSD1?
If all of the allegations made at the board meeting on February 27, 2020, are true about how our district did business under past administrations and boards, adding Timmonsville to us represents asking the blind to lead the blind. Will we ever get to the bottom of what’s going on in our school district? Maybe, some board members should allow the SLED investigation to play out instead of using it to try and make others accept responsibility for the mess they’ve made. Just like when the administration and board told us about the possibility of mold being at Williams Middle, the matter is under investigation. Seemingly investigations done in our district take forever.
So, you had better WAKE UP! The funds being talked about are our, and your money.
SINCERELY YOURS, WILL AN AUDIT HAVE TO BE DONE ON THE AUDIT IN ORDER FOR US TO GET ANY CLARITY? THIS ONE MAY HAVE BEEN DONE TO CREATE CONFUSION SINCE IT WAS DONE ON ONLY FIVE OUT OF TWENTY-THREE SCHOOLS. AND WHEN INORDINATE OCCURRENCES WERE FOUND IT DID NOT LEAD TO A DEEPER DIVE. LOOKS LIKE SOMEONE MAY HAVE HAD SOME INFLUENCE IN WHAT COURSE THE AUDIT EVENTUALLY TOOK.
ELDER, JAMES WILLIAMS
CHAIRPERSON, ADVOCACY ORGANIZATION, LIFELINEPLUS
PS. How many lawsuits will be enough to arouse the curiosity of those who will eventually be the ones paying the bills? If you think that excessive and often unnecessary lawsuits won’t inevitably cost you and me, well, I’ve got some more of that lakefront Arizona property to sell you, LOL. Lawsuits brought on by arrogance and poor people skills will eventually lead to higher premiums paid for the insurance needed to settle escalating litigation.