RIDGEWAY — A circulating document and the expressed concern of a parent put a small damper on what was an overwhelmingly positive town hall meeting with Fairfield County School District Superintendent J.R. Green on Wednesday.
The document, written by James Vanderhall, was subsequently obtained by The Herald Independent and outlined matters involving the school district with the intention of being disseminated to the citizen’s group, Saving Fairfield.
“The purpose of this outline is to shed light on the outrageous actions of the Fairfield County School Board, its corrupt decisions, abusive neglect and the extreme denial they are exerting on the taxpayers of this county,” Vanderhall wrote.
Green referenced the document just five minutes into the town hall meeting in regards to his recommendations to the school board to help fund student field trips.
The Fairfield Middle School chorus was the benefactor of $10,000 to help fund their trip to compete at Disney Sings-Young Performers. The drama class received $12,000 to assist in the financing of their trip to New York.
Both totals were nearly 50 percent of the total cost.
Green said he is happy to help students if they will show effort to have fundraisers and help raise money as well.
In the face of opposition, Green insisted he would continue to help fund student activities by recommending to the board that the Fairfield Central High School robotics team take a field trip to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to compete in a regional competition.
“I’m going to continue to make recommendations to support the students of Fairfield County,” Green emphasized. “If somebody is going to be mad at me about that, then they’re going to stay mad.”
Vanderhall believes that a majority of the school board has undeservedly given board-power and authority to the superintendent.
“Mr. Green is an inexperienced superintendent with full control of decisions and finances in this district,” he stated.
School board Vice Chair Andrea Harrison was mentioned in the document in regard to her concerns of Green having too much control.
Vanderhall wrote that Harrison advised him she has been denied information she has requested and issues that she has witnessed have been dismissed and disregarded by both the superintendent and board chairwoman Beth Reid.
“If there is only a need for the superintendent, board chair and one other board member to be able to make decisions or decide which board members are entitled to represent the citizens of this county, then there is no need for a board to even exist,” Harrison’s response was quoted in the document.
Vanderhall also alleges that Thomas Armstrong received an independent contract for his interest in the Bow Tie Club, which is a mentoring program for middle school aged boys.
The club operates under the five points of young men who should be well read, well spoken, well traveled, well dressed and well balanced.
Armstrong denied any existing contract between him and the school district.
Green admits that Armstrong approached him about creating a bow tie club and publicly thanked Armstrong and Vernon Kennedy Sr. for seeing a need in the community and reaching out to impact the lives of young boys.
“Who would have any issue with the people of this community wanting to change the lives of young men?” Green asked. “We should celebrate that and too often people want to talk about young men. We need more people to step up to the plate and stop throwing rocks.”
One parent also expressed concern with the police presence at the high school and middle school.
However, after a show of hands in a room of 100-plus not one other hand was held up to support the concerns of police presence on school campuses.
The School Resource Officer report for the 2013-2014 school year’s first semester showed a total of 30 incidents reported ranging from a stolen item to vehicle vandalism. There was one incarceration for the entire district during that time.
According to Green, the total amount of incidents is down 52 percent.
“Anyone who wants to perpetuate that our schools are unsafe or we have students that are being locked up every week, then they’re telling an untruth,” he insisted.
During a time for the public to speak, Fairfield County liaison Jackie Workman expressed her support for Green and scolded his opposition.
“We have new beginnings with Mr. Green. We have new ideas, new programs in place for our children, new opportunities for our children. Why would we not want opportunities for our children,” she asked. “Shame on us for coming out with a document that is trying to create chaos in the school district. We appointed him to be superintendent, so let’s let him be superintendent.”
Community member and former educator Dr. Janet Mason spent 40 years working in education, with 14 of those years teaching teachers how to teach at the University of South Carolina.
Mason believes the community should continue its support of Green as superintendent.
“Please folks, stick to your guns,” she said. “Let’s have the bow tie club, let’s have STEM, let’s have the athletics and let’s have the academics.”
Mason noted that Fairfield County School District’s three previous superintendents (Samantha Ingram, Rose Wilder and Patrice Robinson) are all serving as a superintendent somewhere else and pointed out that Wilder was named South Carolina’s 2013-14 State Superintendent of the Year.
“It is time for us to keep our good superintendent and stop this foolishness,” she insisted. “It is better to have continuity than to keep changing and changing and changing. We’ve got good people here. Mr. Green, you hang in there.”
Green said he wasn’t going anywhere and plans to stay in Fairfield until his daughters, who are currently in seventh grade, graduate high school.