Beaufort News

Another free office space for Strive floated, batted down

A day before announcing the nonprofit mentoring group Strive to Excel would be forced to vacate its free office space at Hilton Head Island High School after Dec. 31, the Beaufort County School District superintendent suggested the embattled organization occupy space free of charge at a neighboring school instead.

However, the proposal to use a portable unit outside Hilton Head Middle School apparently was nixed after parents objected during a meeting Monday of school, Strive and Beaufort County School District officials.

Strive board member Tom Gardo said Wednesday that Superintendent Valerie Truesdale suggested several places -- including the portable and off-campus sites -- where the organization might relocate.

Gardo said Strive's board isn't considering a move to the middle school and thought Truesdale's suggestion was more idea than offer.

Attempts Wednesday to reach Truesdale for comment were unsuccessful. District spokesman Jim Foster said the idea was discussed at the meeting, but no firm offer was made.

However, former Hilton Head High booster club president Mike Manesiotis and PTSO president Anne Bradley, who also attended, said they construed the idea to be an offer. Bradley said she argued during Monday's meeting that Strive should not be allowed to have an office on any school's grounds.

"I didn't feel like there was a place for Strive on the Hilton Head school cluster campus at all," said Bradley, whose two sons, both graduates of the high school, participated in Strive. "It has to do with what we in the community expect from our kids and the examples we set for them. We have to hold the adults to higher standards. ...

"Besides, groups like the Boys & Girls Club do good work, and they don't have offices in the school."

Strive has operated with little financial oversight or board governance in recent years. During that time, president and CEO Tim Singleton, also the Seahawks' football coach, increased his own compensation from Strive without his board's approval, as the organization's bylaws require. He also reimbursed himself for several thousand dollars in credit card charges, apparently with no board review.

In response, Truesdale has offered an agreement, outlined in a written report to the school board Tuesday, by which Strive would be allowed to use school space for meetings but could not have an office in Hilton Head High. The agreement also would take Singleton off the district health care plan, require Strive to carry its own liability insurance, and require the group to provide regular reports demonstrating its effectiveness and financial health.

Gardo said the Strive board met Wednesday to discuss how best to move forward.

"We intend to meet or exceed all of the school district's expectations," he said.

Gardo said Strive has already purchased a liability policy and is shopping for health insurance that could cover Singleton. The organization's only other full-time employee is currently covered on her husband's policy and would not be affected by the district's new policy, Gardo said.

Specific ways to measure Strive's performance have not been discussed by the board, Gardo added, but he doesn't think that will be a problem because the organization has access to the high school records of students who have gone through the program.

Strive to Excel was founded as a nonprofit group and began operating at Hilton Head High in 2001.

Reporters Sam McDowell and Rachel Heaton contributed to this report.

Follow editor Jeff Kidd at twitter.com/InsidePages.

Related content

  1. Salary for nonprofit head comes under scrutiny, Aug. 29, 2011
  2. School board, donors still trying to size up Strive, Sept. 2, 2011
  3. District promises scrutiny of Strive as nonprofit group reorganizes, Sept. 12, 2011
  4. Superintendent announces Strive to Excel changes, Sept. 20, 2011
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