Quarterly Update from Your School Board Representative
Thank you for the opportunity to serve our students and teachers on the Berkeley County School Board. I also want to thank The Daniel Island News for allowing me to provide my first quarterly update as your School Board Representative.
Student Achievement - The Number One Priority
My top priority is student achievement, and I have excellent news to report. On all state assessments given to students in grades 3-11 during the 2015-2016 school year, Berkeley County School District (BCSD) students either outperformed the state average or have shown greater growth than their peers across the state. Our students, parents, teachers, and principals are to be commended for adapting to new state standards and new state assessments so successfully over the past few years.
Daniel Island School is currently one of the “high flying” schools in BCSD and boasts quite a few impressive statistics from the 2015-2016 school year. Out of 672 schools with elementary grade levels in the state, Daniel Island School ranks in the top two percent in terms of students exceeding grade level expectations in English Language Arts. In terms of students being on grade level, the school outperformed the state average by an impressive 33 percent. The students also rank in the top five percent in the state for students qualifying for Gifted and Talented Programs. This data is not yet available for the new Philip Simmons Schools. The first set of data should arrive around October depending on the turn-around time from the State after spring testing.
In addition to high student achievement, the Daniel Island School and Philip Simmons Schools have also been front runners in terms of implementing the use of technology in the classroom.
Fiscal Responsibility - $6,000 to $10,000 Average Monthly Reduction of Legal Fees
I believe our public education funds are best spent in our schools for teachers and students. Before I was elected to the School Board, BCSD led the state in legal fee expenditures. As a lawyer and supporter of public education, I was determined to work to reduce expenditures on legal fees so that those funds could be used in our classrooms. I am happy to report that in the two years that I have served on the School Board, we have successfully reduced legal fees by an average of $6,000 to $10,000 every month, which amounts to $144,000 to $240,000 of funds that will be redirected to the classroom.
Update on FBI Investigation of Former BCSD Chief Financial Officer
I am committed to transparency and will advise the public to the extent I can on information related to the investigation of the former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the School District.
The School Board’s legal counsel was contacted on Sunday, February 5, 2017 regarding a federal investigation. Chairwoman Wofford, Superintendent Blackburn, our counsel and I met with the FBI and representatives of Wells Fargo on the morning of February 6, 2017. That Monday, we were given copies of 10 large refund checks issued to the Berkeley County School District that were converted by the CFO to cashier’s checks and then deposited into his own account at his bank. In total, these checks amount to $382,251.61 and date back to July 12, 2012. We have made copies of these checks available to the public and media pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. As a victim, we were also advised that, as of that very morning, the CFO had admitted to this wrongdoing. At the direction of Board Officers and on advice of counsel, we immediately terminated CFO’s employment and an emergency meeting of the board was called to inform the other board members as to the criminal acts.
We have concerns that there may be further amounts misappropriated and are committed to discover any and all wrongdoing. We want to act swiftly to make decisions to stabilize the financial security of this district, and we acknowledge that our ultimate duty is to the children of our schools and the citizens of Berkeley County. I trust these unprecedented actions of the board – both to cooperate fully with the FBI and to be transparent in disclosing as much as we can to the public – will help build the public’s trust that this Board is committed to righting wrongs. We also understand that this District will have to be diligent to earn the public’s trust regarding the use of public funds going forward.
I appreciate the opportunity to serve, and I will continue to advocate for our students, parents and teachers.
Mac McQuillin is the Vice-Chairman, Berkeley County School Board. He can be reached at McQuillinM@BCSDschools.net and at 843-619-7947. For more updates follow Mac on Twitter: @WeBackMac or like his Facebook Page: “Mac McQuillin for School Board”.