Beaufort News

Superintendent promises 'end' to financial arrangement with Strive

The arrangement that allows the embattled president and CEO of Strive to Excel to purchase health care coverage through the Beaufort County School District will cease, superintendent Valerie Truesdale told a gathering of Republican women Monday. "That ends very soon," she told a group of about 15 at a lunch meeting of the Republican Women of Southern Beaufort County in Truffles Cafe on Hilton Head Island.

Tim Singleton, who runs the nonprofit mentoring group from an office at Hilton Head Island High School, receives a payroll check from the district and participates in its health insurance plan, according to Phyllis White, the district's chief operational services officer. Strive reimburses the district for those expenses, plus the employer's contribution to any benefits Singleton receives, so that there is little or no net cost to the district, White said last week.

It's not clear when or how that arrangement will end or be changed, or if it will apply also to organizations with similar agreements. Truesdale declined to answer questions during a follow-up interview with The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette later in the day, citing an expected discussion of the district's relationship with Strive at today's Board of Education meeting.

At Monday's Republican gathering, Truesdale said she had just come from a meeting with members of Strive's reconstituted board and district staff to discuss the organization's accountability.She said the Strive board has met all the district's "stern" and "ambitious" financial expectations.

Tom Gardo, the Strive board's secretary, said he, new board president Ike Evans and district staff met with Truesdale. He said accountability was discussed but declined to elaborate, also citing today's meeting.

Gardo also said the meeting also included discussion of a recent survey of Strive participants conducted by the district. The students' feedback was postive, Gardo said.

The district sent an electronic survey to students in the five or six largest mentoring programs at the district's four high schools, district instructional services chief Sean Alford said Friday. Truesdale said about 170 students have answered that survey since it was issued Sept. 14, and results are expected to be presented to the board tonight.

Alford said the survey asked questions to evaluate the students' perception or opinion of the program. It also asks questions about the programs' impact on the students' studying habits, or whether they've discussed post-secondary school plans as part of the program.

Starting with the students is the first step. The district also plans to examine students' grades to determine if the programs have made an impact on student achievement, Alford said. Parents might also be surveyed, he said. No plans have been set in stone, however, he added.

If the district discovers any organization is not meeting its stated mission, it would not likely be allowed back in the schools after this academic year, Truesdale has said.

But Alford said Friday that the results of the district's investigation would be not be used punitively. The data will be discussed with the organizations, he said, so that they can maximize their strengths and "take advantage of areas we see as opportunities."

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content

  1. Salary for nonprofit head comes under scrutiny; Aug. 29, 2011
  2. Singleton says pay did not increase; Aug. 31, 2011
  3. Strive CEO Singleton claimed $25,000 in credit card reimbursements; receipts apparently not reviewed; Aug. 30, 2011
  4. Singleton, Arundell mum following Strive to Excel scrutiny; Sept. 1, 2011
  5. School board, donors still trying to size up Strive; Sept. 2, 2011
  6. District promises scrutiny of Strive as nonprofit group reorganizes; Sept. 12, 2011
  7. SC secretary of state to 'look into' Strive to Excel; Sept. 18, 2011
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